Women’s History Month in the History Room

March is Women’s History Month! We shared items and collections from the History Room that illuminate women’s history in our communities in each issue of the library’s email newsletter (sign up here). See each week’s story below!

Old Ladies’ Home

Group of twelve Old Ladies' Home residents seated on a porch

Rollins, F.J. Residents at the Old Ladies Home, Bath, Maine (2006.10.1.16). c. 1900-1907. Otis N. E. Card photograph collection. Sagadahoc History & Genealogy Room.

The Old Ladies’ Home collection (MC 009), includes information about how the charitable institution was founded in the 1870s, how it ran until the 1970s, and the many women who retired to the home at 800 High Street after careers as housekeepers, cooks, seamstresses, teachers, and librarians. The collection also includes the papers of Mabel Cushing Rouse, a seamstress who lived at the home from 1892 to 1905. Watch our History Room Live presentation about the collection here.
 
F.J. Rollins photographed 12 unidentified “old ladies” sometime between 1900 and 1907. Do any of these faces look familiar to you?
 

Woman’s Christian Temperance Union

Handwritten account of the first meeting of the Bath Woman's Christian Temperance Union

2020.003 Book of minutes from the Bath Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, ca. 1883-1896

“The Bath Women’s Christian Temperance Union was organized on the first Monday in March 1881 Mrs. Lillian M. N. Stevens officiating from the State Union. Place, Central Vestry, at 4 o’clock.”
 
So begins the Bath WCTU record book recently donated to the History Room by Maine Maritime Museum, which includes minutes of meetings from 1883 to 1896.
 
In addition to temperance, the WCTU’s political goals included labor rights, public health, and suffrage. Bath poet Alice May Douglas (1865-1943) was a WCTU peace activist. Other members, listed in the image shown here, were: Helen S. Delano, Mrs. Edwin Campbell, Susan N. Philbrook, Fannie A. Weeks, and Abbie Field. In 1883, membership dues increased from 25¢ to 30¢ per year.
 

Women at Work

List of music teachers in Bath in 1922

The Bath, Maine City Directory: A General Directory of the City and the Towns of Arrowsic, Georgetown, Phippsburg, Richmond, West Bath and Woolwich, Vol. II, 1922-’23. “Bath Business Directory, 1922”, (Beverly, Mass. : Crowley & Lunt, 1922), 474.

Our collection of city directories holds specific annual data about women in the workforce, like this list of Bath music teachers in 1922.
 
Women who worked as dressmakers, nurses, milliners, music teachers, and boarding house matrons are listed in the business directory section, while housekeepers, cooks, maids, cashiers, school teachers, and librarians are identified in the name directory. Contrast this local data with the national reports and studies featured in the Library of Congress research guide, Women in Business and the Workforce. Many Bath directories are available online though Ancestry Library.
 

Emma Eames and Matilda Elizabeth Frelinghuysen

Emma Eames and Matilda Elizabeth Frelinghuysen standing in front of a Packard car

Emma Eames and Matilda Elizabeth Frelinghuysen in Whitefield, NH (PC-57, 12). 1938. Matilda Elizabeth Frelinghuysen collection.

Our collection of Emma Eames material is one of the more significant collections that the History Room received in it’s early days. The collection includes photographs of the famous opera singer and programs from her many performances. Jerusha Neely, an intern from Simmons University, is currently researching the provenance of the materials in the collection. She learned that most of the collection came to us via Matilda Elizabeth Frelinghuysen (1887-1969), Eames’ longtime friend and the executor of her estate. The collection includes a photo of the two together in Whitefield, New Hampshire in 1938.
 
The existence of these materials in the History Room is a result of the close friendship between the two women and the Frelinghuysen family’s careful stewardship of the materials.

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