Basket Club Records, 1873–1963

Administrative Information

Historical Sketch


Related Collections

Scope and Content Note

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Series Description and Folder Listing


Records: 1873 –1963 (Bulk: 1873-1953)
1 and 1/2 file boxes
Processor: Margaret Crilly
.63 linear feet
Date: November 18, 2008

Acquisition: The Basket Club disbanded on February 12, 1963. Although no formal acquisition records have been located, it is assumed their records were donated to the Cambridge Historical Society after that date.

Access: There are no restrictions on items in this collection.

Permission to Publish: Requests for permission to publish from the collection should be made to the Executive Director.

Copyright: The Cambridge Historical Society does not hold copyright on the materials in the collection.

Historical Sketch:

The Basket Club was founded by a group of Cambridge women in 1873 with the intention of sewing clothing and other items for the “sick and homeless.” Emily Elizabeth Parsons, a former Civil War nurse and a founder of the short-lived Cambridge Hospital on Prospect Street, was a key organizer and founding member of the club. The Basket Club’s first meeting, on February 12, 1873, took place at the home of Parson’s parents, Professor and Mrs. Theophilus Parsons. The founding members were: Miss K. Parsons, Mrs. C F. Dunbar, Mrs. Sarah Swan, Miss. A. Needham, Mrs. John Ware, Mrs. E. Abbot, Mrs. John Wells, Mrs. C.C. Everett, Mrs. C. C. Taggard, and Mrs. F. Perrin. During its early years, the club met at homes of members in order to sew and socialize. Members often listened to some sort of planned entertainment, such as reading or music, while sewing. Members also took part in social activities together, such as sleigh rides and star- gazing.

In the 1880s, the Basket Club began raising money and support for the building of the Cambridge Hospital (now Mt. Auburn Hospital) by visiting local churches, selling articles they had sewn, arranging fairs, and organizing benefit lectures. The construction of the hospital began in 1884 and at its dedication in 1886, the Basket Club sent a basket of flowers in memory of Emily Elizabeth Parsons. The Basket Club continued to raise funds and manufacture items such as towels, nightgowns, and blankets for the Cambridge Hospital throughout its career. Beginning in 1896, the Basket Club regularly recorded making items for The Avon Home (a children’s home) and other charitable institutions in addition to the hospital. Despite this, the club continued to focus on medical and hospital needs and began regularly sewing items for the District Nurses’ Association and the Visiting Nurse’s Association in the early 1900s. In 1915, the club began to sew articles for “Belgian Children,” who had likely been displaced as a result of World War I. This was the Basket Club’s first charity project outside the Cambridge area. The Basket Club did not construct items to send outside of Cambridge again until 1931, when it sent items to a “drought region” in West Virginia. After this period, the Club appears to have sent items outside of Cambridge on a fairly regular basis – although the Club maintained its focus on serving Cambridge needs first. By late 1940, the Basket Club had begun regularly sewing items for the Red Cross.

By the early 1900s, club meetings had became a forum for political discussions as well as charitable work. Club members regularly discussed women’s suffrage, politicians, elections, and other current events. Discussions of political and current events fade from the record books by 1920. It is possible that these discussions continued, but were simply not recorded by changing club secretaries. Political discussion resurfaced again in late 1940, and became more vigorous with the entrance of the United States into World War II. After the ending of the war, political discussion fades from the club’s record books, although occasional entries mention political debate.

In October 1953, the Basket Club decided to reduce the number of its meetings and to cease sewing, due to the age and infirmity of many of its members. In March 1961, Mt. Auburn Hospital requested that the Basket Club sew some items for their Social Services Department, but the club declined to fill the request. The club continued to support charitable causes through financial gifts, including the purchase of a wheelchair and a defibrillator for the Mt. Auburn Hospital in 1963. The club disbanded in 1963, holding its last meeting on its ninetieth birthday, February 12, 1963


Ames, James B. “The Founding of the Mount Auburn Hospital” in Cambridge Historical Society Proceedings, vol. 39, pages 39-49.

Related Collections:

The Hodges-Swan Family Papers at CHS include the diaries of Sarah Swan which may contain references to her work with the Basket Club.

CHS holds the papers of the Cambridge Branch of the Massachusetts Indian Association. The Basket Club’s interest in American Indian affairs during 1896-97 may have been influenced by this organization.

Scope and Content Note:

Series I

Series II

The Basket Club Records consists of two series. Series I. contains eight record books dating from 1873 to 1963, loose material removed from these books, and three receipt books dating from 1914 to 1963. Record books contain entries for each meeting of the Basket Club, noting the date and location of the meeting. Common subjects addressed in the entries are inclement weather, attendance, entertainment provided during the meeting (usually readings), conversations held during meetings, type and number of items sewn, recipients of the items, illness of members, deaths of members, reception of new members, and resignation of members.

Volume I begins with a short account of the founding of the club and then contains meeting records dated February 12, 1873 to May 20, 1891. The last page of the volume contains an undated partial list of items, including dresses made for the Avon Home. The first meeting entry contains a list of founding members. On June 17, 1880, the secretary records the deaths of its founder Emily Elizabeth Parsons and “Miss. Wyman,” and notes their importance to the club. The entry for February 19, 1881 was recorded on a separate sheet of paper and later sewn into the record book. It contains an account of the Basket Club’s excursion to a member’s observatory to observe the stars and planets. Beginning in 1881, the records note many varied endeavors to support the building of Cambridge Hospital, including the organization of fairs and the sale of articles made by the Basket Club. Following the hospital’s construction and dedication (April 29, 1886) the secretary records the club’s construction of articles to be used by the hospital as well as articles to be sold for its benefit. The entry for June 3, 1891, contains a list of items made by the Basket Club to date for that year.

Loose material found in Volume I consists of a roster of members arranged by dates of enrollment into and resignation from the club.

Volume II contains meeting records dated October 21, 1891 to November 25, 1908. A letter dated April 12 from Mary S. Perrin to a Mrs. Abott regarding the Basket Club’s records is pasted onto the end sheet. A second piece of paper identifying the volume as the “Record of the Basket Club” and listing the President, Secretary, and three treasurers is pasted onto the second page of the volume. Beginning in January 1896, the meeting entries note making items for the Avon Home as well as occasionally sending items to “poor” individuals in Cambridge. During 1896 and 1897, the meeting entries also note several readings on the “Cause of the Indians” and on January 13, 1897, the meeting entry records receiving a note of thanks for a Christmas box they had sent to an unidentified mission to the “Indians.” The club’s interest in American Indian welfare was likely connected to the work of the Cambridge Branch of the Massachusetts Indian Association. Beginning in 1897, the meeting entries regularly record the number and type of items sewn and their purpose (e.g. donation to a charitable institution, sold at a fair to raise funds etc.). By 1903, the volume records discussions of current events, politics, and religion held at meetings, including a discussion of Boston’s mayoral election on December 3, 1905, the San Francisco earthquake on April 25, 1906, and the financial panic of November 20, 1907.

Volume III contains meeting records dated December 9, 1908 to May 12, 1915. The first page contains the dates of the record book as well as a list of club officers. Politics and current events are a constant source of conversation at club meetings. In the meeting entry of November 12, 1910, the secretary editorializes against the election of Mayor Fitzgerald. Beginning in 1909, meeting entries record the vigorous discussion of women’s suffrage. The meeting entry of November 29, 1911 records the circulation and signing of a peace petition by club members. On February 21, 1912, the secretary records discussion of the need for Cambridge women to register and vote in an upcoming school board election. Numerous entries after this date record discussions concerning school board elections and issues. The entry of April 17, 1912 records a discussion about the sinking of the Titanic. In 1915, meeting entries record the undertaking of a project to sew for children in Belgium. Previously, all of the club’s philanthropic endeavors had been focused locally.

Loose material found in Volume III consists of a note of sympathy dated February 18, 1909, from the Basket Club to a Miss Cook on the death of her mother.

Volume IV contains meeting records dated November 30, 1915 to April 26, 1922. The front end sheet contains the dates of the record book as well as the names of the club secretaries during this period. An obituary of Lieutenant Kenneth Fuller, a Cambridge native who was killed in action in France, is pasted next to the entry of November 6, 1918. A poem composed about the Basket Club is pasted in the entry of January 1, 1919. Other inventories of items sewn are interspersed throughout the volume. The meeting entry of November 1, 1916 notes that the club will continue to sew for local charities, which they felt were being neglected because of the war effort (World War I). The meeting entry of April 4, 1917 records a discussion on “War versus Pacifism.”

Loose items found in Volume IV include a letter sent by two club members to the Basket Club and an inventory of items sent to the Avon Home and the Visiting Nurses Association.

Volume V contains meeting records dated October 25, 1922 to March 26, 1930. The front-end sheet contains the years of the record book as well as a list of secretaries. In addition to the meeting records, the volume contains an Annual Report covering the club’s activities during the 1926-1927 season located between the meeting entries for May 1927 and October 1928.

Loose material found in Volume V includes letters to the Basket Club from members and eulogies of members. Letters include descriptions of members’ travel, acceptance of an invitation to join the club, and creation of the office of club vice president.

Volume VI contains meeting records dated April 9, 1930 to October 21, 1942. The front end sheet contains the years of the volume, the names of the presidents and secretary during that period, and the page numbers for the list of members and the account of the Basket Club’s 60th anniversary birthday party. The volume contains various meeting entries, reports, and inventories written on separate sheets of paper and then pasted into the volume. The meeting entry of January 28, 1931 records that the club has decided to send items to the “drought region,” although the same entry reiterates the club’s practice of providing for needs in Cambridge first. Pages 61-67 contain a list of members and officers of the club, from its founding to its 60th anniversary. Additional members and officers appear to have been added at a later date. Pages 75-78 contain two poems written about the Basket Club for its 60th anniversary. The meeting entry of December 10, 1941 includes discussion of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Meeting entries thereafter note frequent discussion about the war, particularly its effects on daily life.

Loose material found in Volume VI includes poems, photographs, letters from club members detailing travel, letters from recipients of Basket Club items, inventories of items sewn, papers from a funeral service, a newspaper clipping explaining the art of fire-making, and a report from the Red Cross.

Volume VII contains meeting records dated November 4, 1942 to February 12, 1953. The front end sheet contains the volume’s dates, a list of secretaries, and a Table of Contents, noting the page numbers of the club’s 70th, 75th, and 80th anniversary entries. The volume also contains various meeting entries, poems, letters, cards, certificates, inventories, and newspaper clippings that have been pasted or taped into the meeting book. Meeting entries contain many references and discussion about the daily effects of World War II as well as discussions about specific battles and events. The entry of April 18, 1945 discusses the death of President Roosevelt and the entry of May 2, 1945 notes Germany’s surrender. Meeting entries for 1952 record discussions of the presidential election. Pages 17-26 contain various poems composed for the 70th anniversary of the club. Pages 31-33 contain a reminiscent account of the death of Abraham Lincoln written by Mrs. Roland Thaxter. Pages 37 –39 contain a recollection of the Civil War by Mrs. J.L. Moore. Pages 168-169 contain a list of Basket Club members for the years 1951-1952. The list includes dates of entrance into the club, street addresses, and any offices held. Page 190 contains the program for the club’s 80th anniversary celebration. Beginning on page 192 and continuing to the end of the volume, poems, certificates, and correspondence between Mt. Auburn Hospital and the club have been pasted or taped onto the pages.

Loose material found in Volume VII includes a list of news items in the Boston Globe of February 12, 1873 (the day of the Basket Club’s first meeting), letters from club members to the Basket Club, and an obituary of club member Gertrude Fuller Nichols
Volume VIII contains meeting entries dated February 25, 1953 to February 12, 1963.

Newspaper clippings have been pasted into the volume. The volume begins with lists of club officers and members. It contains a list of presidents from 1873 to 1937, treasurers from 1914 to 1963 and secretaries from 1873 to 1910. The member list is undated and contains 128 numbered members including the twelve founding members. A list dated February 12, 1953 contains of the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of club members. An undated entry (between the entries of April 8 and 22, 1953) lists the various activities of Miss. Margaret Emery, including her club memberships and offices held. The last page of the volume contains a list of members present and absent from the last meeting of the club. The entry of October 10, 1958 records the club’s decision to cease its sewing. The entry of March 8, 1961 records the club’s decision to decline a request by Mt. Auburn to sew various items for their Social Services Department.

Loose material found in Volume VIII includes photographs, letters to the Basket Club, a magazine clipping, and correspondence between the Basket Club and Mt. Auburn Hospital.
Receipt Book I contains the accounts of the Basket Club dated 1914 to 1932. The front end sheet reads “Account book kept by Miss Carrie Peabody.” The book contains lists of expenditures and members’ dues.

Receipt Book II contains the accounts of the Basket Club dated 1932 to 1960. It contains lists of expenditures and members dues. The last page contains a paragraph written about the decision to raise dues by $2.00 to start the Basket Club’s Hospital Fund.

Receipt Book III contains the accounts of the Basket Club dated 1960-1963. It contains members’ dues and the financial records of the Hospital Fund.

Series II consists of four photographs of Basket Club members and their residences originally found in the volumes of Series I. Photographs were removed from their original location, a copy left in place, and assigned catalog numbers noting the series in which they reside, their number in that series, and a three letter code designating them as part of the collection. For example, the second photo in the series is identified as 2.02 TBC (Series II, photograph number two, The Basket Club).

Library of Congress Subject Headings:

  • Cambridge (Mass.) – Social life and customs
  • Cambridge (Mass.) – Societies etc. – Women
  • Women – Charities
  • Sewing – Societies, etc.

Series Descriptions and Folder Listings

The Basket Club Records, 1873-1963
[table tablesorter=”0″ class=”table table-border”]
||Series I. Records, 1873-1963
1|1|Volume I, 1873-1891
1|2|Loose Material from Volume I
1|3|Volume II, 1891-1908
1|4|Volume III, 1908-1915
1|5|Loose Material from Volume III
1|6|Volume IV, 1915-1922
1|7|Volume V, 1922-1930
1|8|Loose Material from Volume V
1|9|Volume VI, 1930-1942
1|10|Loose Material from Volume VI
2|1|Volume VII, 1942-1953
2|2|Loose Material from Volume VII
2|3|Volume VIII, 1953-1963
2|4|Loose Material from Volume VIII
2|5|Receipt Book I, 1914-1932
2|6|Receipt Book II, 1932-1960
2|7|Receipt Book III, 1960-1963
||Series II. Photographs, 1938, n.d.
2|8|2.01 TBC – Lea Nichols, 1938
||2.02 TBC – Lea Nichols, 1938
||2.03 TBC – Alice Stone in Bass River
||2.04 TBC – Alice Stone’s House in Bass River