1.   Historical note

2.   Scope and content

3.   Provenance

4.   Inventory

5.   Subjects

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 Church Women United Records

 Church organization, Rhode Island

 Records, 1946-1987

 Size: 1.5 linear feet

 Catalog number: MSS 992

 Processed by: Lori Salotto, August 1999

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            The Church Women United (CWU) has had several names over time, though their purpose has been constant - to promote Christian unity among women and acting, in society, upon their Christian principles and beliefs.

            In 1906, several Rhode Island church women formed the Federation of Women's Church Societies of Rhode Island. At this time there was no other known group of united church women in the country. Throughout the first half of the century these church women worked on "pastor receptions," missionary work, increase in membership, and involvement in various social issues connecting church and civic issues. As the number of church women increased and as the number of local federations increased in the 1940s, a state organization was formed, which then came to belong to a national organization. At this point they changed their name to The State Council of United Church Women.

            The national organization (The United Councils of Church Women), in which the Rhode Island federation came to belong, was set up to be a national, ecumenical movement of autonomous Christian women. The movement would be involved in three major activities - World Prayer Day (March), World Community Day (November) and May Fellowship Day which was to coincide with annual meetings. In the 1960s the name changed to Church Women United. The change was enacted to include more women outside of Protestant denominations. By 1970, the national organization no longer had an administrative connection to the National Council of Churches; they were completely autonomous. By the 1980s, the organization was increasing their emphasis on involvement in various social issues, such as peace and justice, urban concerns, racial issues, and the advancement of women. Their goals and objectives caused questioning by affiliated organizations and even extended, somewhat, to the local Rhode Island groups. According to Edythe Aldrich, the Church Women United of Rhode Island disbanded in 1988.


Eldridge, Mary M. "The Federation of Church Societies of Rhode Island Now the Rhode Island Church Women " (circa 1947). Manuscript in this collection found in box 1, folder 10.

Sayer, Ruth. "Beginnings" (October 1980). Manuscript in this collection found in box 1, folder 3.

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Scope and content:

            This collection contains material from as early as 1948 to as late as 1987, with the bulk of the information from the mid 1960s to the mid 1980s. However, the information is not complete and there are gaps in years.

            Found in this material is information on the national organization, the State of Rhode Island organization, and the local units of Greater Providence and Woonsocket. The material includes: minutes, reports, financial transactions, correspondence, constitutions and bylaws, newsletters, pamphlets, and World Day of Prayer information.

            There were also several interesting items found within this collection: Work with the Sojourner House (see box 2, folder 7); A booklet on setting up an emergency shelter (see box 2, folder 12); Documentary proposal on two blind religious streetsinging women in New York City (see box 2, folder 11); Survey on racism developed by the national CWU in the 1980s.(see box 2, folder 1); Material on ERA in 1975 (see Box 1, folder 9); Letter from the Salvationists, in 1984, concerned over the involvement of the national organization in racial and feminist concerns and political partisanship. They felt they may have to withdraw their affiliation (see box 2, folder 1); Memo dated 1984 discussing two CWU national staff members (who were nuns) that were facing ouster from the nunnery due to their signature on a statement calling for discussion on abortion by Catholics (see box 2, folder 1); Letter written, in January 1986, to the President of the State Council from a Ugandan priest studying for his doctorate in Europe. He details the situation of his family in Uganda in the mid 1980s and his difficulty in finishing his doctorate. (see Box 2, folder 1).

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These records were donated in 1996 by Edythe Aldrich who was the long time treasurer of the Church Women United in Rhode Island.

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Subgroup 1: CWU - State

Box 1, folder 1. Addresses

Box 1, folder 2. Master List of Women in the Ministry, 1985

Box 1, folder 3. "Beginning" - History by Ruth Sayer, 1980

Box 1, folder 4. Checkbook, 1979-1984

Box 1, folder 5. Disbursement/Receipt Journal, 1967-1984

Box 1, folder 6. 1985 Constituent Survey

Box 1, folder 7. Constitution and various bylaws, 1948-1984

Box 1, folder 8. Correspondence, 1984-1986

Box 1, folder 9. ERA, 1975

Box 1, folder 10. Minutes, 1948-1953 * Volume also includes a history covering 1906-1946

Box 1, folder 11. Minutes/Reports, 1968-1975

Box 1, folder 12. Minutes, 1976-1977

Box 1, folder 13. Minutes, 1979-1986

Box 1, folder 14. Miscellaneous notes, undated

Box 1, folder 15. Miscellaneous:

            SERRV (1980) Self Help Handcrafts Brochure

            Pamphlet: Blackstone Valley Emergency Shelter for Abused Children, Inc., 1983-1984

            Smithfield Friends Meeting Card, undated

            Litany of Thanksgiving and Prayer, undated

            Worship Booklet for Hillsgrove United Methodist Church, August 7, 1977

Box 1, folder 16. Newsletter (Newscope) 1975-86, incomplete

Box 1, folder 17. Newspaper clippings

Box 1, folder 18. 1985 Planning notes

Box 1, folder 19. Political Action Involvement, 1975, 1986, rest undated

Box 1, folder 20. Reports 1952-1959

Box 1, folder 21. Reports 1971-1987

Box 1, folder 22. World Day of Prayer, 1946-64

Box 1, folder 23. World Day of Prayer, history and miscellaneous, 1968-1975, rest undated

Subgroup 2: CWU - Providence

Box 1, folder 24. Constitution, 1968

Box 1, folder 25. Correspondences, 1977- 1981

Box 1, folder 26. Minutes/Memos, 1961-1971

Box 1, folder 27. Minutes/Memos, 1972-1979

Box 1, folder 28. World Community Day, 1963-1978

Box 1, folder 29. World Day of Prayer, 1961-1964

Box 1, folder 30. World Day of Prayer, 1965-1979

Subgroup 3: CWU - National

Box 2, folder 1. Correspondences, 1979-1984

Box 2, folder 2. Minutes/Memos, 1976-1979

Box 2, folder 3. Miscellaneous Booklets/Pamphlets/Newsletters

Subgroup 4: CWU - Woonsocket

Box 2, folder 4. Checkbooks, 1963-1985

Box 2, folder 5. Disbursement/receipt journal, 1970- 1986

Box 2, folder 6. Constitution, 1977

Box 2, folder 7. Correspondence, 1984-1985

Box 2, folder 8. Minutes/Memos/Reports, 1976 -1985

Box 2, folder 9. Mount Hope Day Care Center, 1980-1981

Box 2, folder 10. Newspaper Clippings, 1973-1985

Subgroup 5: CWU- Miscellaneous


Box 2, folder 11. Martha Sandlin, "A Lady Named Baybie,"proposal for a documentary film on two blind religious streetsingers in New York City, 1979.

Box 2, folder 12. Dianne Laplante, "Establishing An Emergency Shelter: A Guidebook," Council for Community Services, Providence, Rhode Island, 1982.

Box 2, folder 13. Other local units, 1980-1986

            Newport County - two pamphlets, 1985 Annual Report

            South County - two 25th anniversary documents

            Blackstone Valley - 1985-86 Annual Report

Box 2, folder 14. Rhode Island Council of Churches, 1975-1976, 1983, 1985

Box 2, folder 15. United Methodist Church, 1975, rest undated

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Aldrich, Edythe

DesMaisons, Kathleen

Feminism - religious aspects

Garland, Betsy

Rhode Island Council of Churches

Salvationists - national

United Methodist Church

Women - Society and Clubs - R.I.

Woonsocket, R.I. - Society and Clubs

World Day of Prayer

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