Guide to the Home and School Visitors Association (Boston, Mass.) records,1908-1942

Descriptive Summary

Creator Home and School Visitors Association (Boston, Mass.)
Title Home and School Visitors Association (Boston, Mass.) records
Dates 1908-1942
Identification CC 36
Quantity 2.5 linear feet (5 manuscript containers)
Collection Abstract The Home and School Visitors Association (HSVA) records consist of correspondence, reports, meeting minutes and other materials pertaining to the activities of the HSVA. Subjects covered include education, child welfare, social work, immigrant life, urban poverty, and women workers in early 20th century Boston.
Historical Abstract The Home and School Visitors Association (HSVA) of Boston was formed in 1922 through the joint efforts of several organizations which sponsored school visiting. The chief activity of the HSVA was the sponsorship of school visitors. These visitors were women, many trained as social workers, including graduates of Simmons College, who visited area schools to look for the sources and solutions of children's poor school performance. These sources could include health problems, personality disorders, or socioeconomic disadvantages. The HSVA also sponsored lectures and fund raising events. During the 1930s, a lack of financial support led to the eventual end of school visiting, and the HSVA, in 1941.
Language Material in English.
Location Collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Archives staff for more information.

Information for Users

Access Restrictions

Collection is open; some restrictions apply.

Copyright Notice

Copyright for materials resides with the creators of the items in question, unless otherwise designated.

Publishing Permission

Please contact the College Archivist with requests to publish any material from the collection.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item: description and date], Home and School Visitors Association (Boston, Mass.) records, CC 36, Simmons College Archives, Boston, MA, USA.

Acquisitions Information

Transferred from the Simmons College School of Social Work Library, 1991

Accession number: 81.089

Processing Information

Processed by Julie Miller, May 1984

Supervised by Megan Sniffin-Marinoff

Processing of this collection was funded in part by a grant from LTC. Moxie F. Goll (Ret.)

This collection guide was encoded as part of the LEADS project by Meghann Wollitz, December 2012

Organizational History

Boston, New York, and Hartford were the first American cities to participate in what eventually became the nationally-known "Visiting Teacher Movement."(1) School visiting in Boston began in 1907-08 with the work of Katharine Ware Smith at the Winthrop School. Smith's work was sponsored by the Committee on Public Schools of the Women's Education Association, many of whose members (Ellen Coolidge, Elizabeth Putnam, and Margaret Cabot Lee), were later prominent in the Home and School Visitors' Association.(2) Until 1922, when the Home and School Visitors Association was officially begun (it seems to have been in operation for at least a year or two before the "official" founding date), school visiting in Boston was sponsored by settlement houses, school and neighborhood associations, and women's organizations, such as the Women's Education Association, the North End Committee, the Bowdoin School Association, the Prince School Neighborhood Association, the South End House, and the Elizabeth Peabody House.(3)

In 1921 or 1922, the various organizations who independently sponsored school visiting in Boston joined together to form the Home and School Visitors Association. Even though it worked with public schools, the Association was supported by private funds solicited from individuals, and given by organizations such as the Hyams Fund, the Community Federation of Boston, and the alumni associations of the schools. Despite its private support, the Association's ultimate objective was to establish school visiting as a function of the Boston Public Schools.(4) This aim eventually became a subject of much contention between the Association, the Community Federation of Boston, and the Boston School Committee, partially contributing to the demise of the Association in 1941.

The chief activity of the Association was the sponsorship of the school visitors. Other work included the organization of a course in Child Welfare at the Teachers College of the City of Boston; giving lectures to school personnel, parents, and people in related organizations; and sponsoring fund raising events such as lectures by prominent speakers, concerts, and plays. Lectures were an important part of the Association's annual meeting, which was open to the public. These events were reported in the newspapers, and served to help publicize the Association.(5)

The Association's school visitors were exclusively women, many of whom had teaching experience or were trained social workers. Of the latter, some (Katharine MacLarnie '25; Marenda Prentis '31; and Ava Burrows '31) were graduates of the Simmons College School of Social Work.

At the Home and School Visitors Association, the school visitor (also called a "visiting teacher"), was defined as a "friend finding the cause of the child's poor school adjustment, and trying to work out a constructive plan with the home and school and community for his welfare."(6) The child's poor school adjustment was believed to have been due to either educational, social, personality, or home problems, and "children reported by their teachers as drowsy in school, repeatedly unpunctual, uncleanly, seriously deficient in school tasks, puzzling, or with tendencies to immorality, [were] studied in their homes by the school visitor."(7) The school visitor went to the child's home to better understand the reasons for the child's problems in school. Then, with the knowledge she had of the child both in school and out, the visitor attempted to work out a "solution" for the child. This solution often included glasses or other medical attention, a foster home, or a transfer to a more appropriate school. Sometimes the school visitor prescribed attendance at the summer camps and social clubs run by the settlement houses, or she referred children to other agencies, clinics, and hospitals. (The Habit Clinic at the Judge Baker Foundation was a frequent choice). Visitors even suggested help for parents such as English lessons or nutrition classes. A major part of the job was to mediate between parents, guardians, social agencies, school administrators, teachers, and children.

In 1931 the Home and School Visitors Association commissioned a study of its work in an attempt to increase effectiveness. For this they hired Helen Gregory, a former Assistant Secretary of the national Committee on Visiting Teachers.(8) In 1932, the Association was reorganized; an executive secretary was appointed, and a central office was established in the Peter Faneuil School on Joy Street.

Despite this demonstration of new energy, financial support began to dwindle in the 1930s and the number of schools who had a visitor decreased. According to a report written in 1932, most members of the Association felt that the visitors should follow the lead of other cities and receive support from the public schools. The Boston visitors thought that their positions would have more legitimacy if their work was a "regular, accepted function of the public school." (9)

When the Boston School Committee decided not to take over the support of the Association in 1941, the Community Federation of Boston withdrew its support.(10) A 1940 statement written by the Budget Subcommittee of the Community Federation expresses this view:

"If the Superintendent [Arthur Gould, Superintendent of Schools] indicates that he does not believe in school visitors service, and would not be interested to have it established as an integral part of the school system, then there would seem to be no question that the Home and School Visitors Association should withdraw from the field on the ground that without some assurance that the service would go over to the schools, any further demonstration at private expense is not feasible."(11)

At the March 29 1941 meeting of the Board of Directors of the Association, a decision was made to cease work in the schools.(12) Marenda Prentis, Executive Secretary of the Association, was employed for one more year to try, with the help of a steering committee, to search out new options for school visiting in Boston, yet the Association was unable to survive.(13)

1. US Office of Education The Place of Visiting Teacher Services in the School Program Bulletin No. 6, 3945
2. Development of School Visiting in Boston, 1908-1939, Home and School Visitors Association (Boston, Mass.) records, Simmons College Archives
3. Job Analysis of the Work of the School Visitor, Prince School, Boston, Mass., Home and School Visitors Association (Boston, Mass.) records, CC 36, Simmons College Archives, Boston, MA, USA.
4. Meeting Minutes of the Education Committee, 1934, Home and School Visitors Association (Boston, Mass.) records, CC 36, Simmons College Archives, Boston, MA, USA.
5. Newpapers clippings and annual meeting programs, Scrapbook, Home and School Visitors Association (Boston, Mass.) records, CC 36, Simmons College Archives, Boston, MA, USA.
6. 1934 Report, Home and School Visitors Association (Boston, Mass.) records, CC 36, Simmons College Archives, Boston, MA, USA.
7. Memorial for Mrs. Joseph Lee, Home and School Visitors Association (Boston, Mass.) records, CC 36, Simmons College Archives, Boston, MA, USA.
8. Report on the Work of the Home and School Visitors Association of Boston in the High Schools, Home and School Visitors Association (Boston, Mass.) records, CC 36, Simmons College Archives, Boston, MA, USA.A Study of the Work of the Home and School Visitors Association of the City of BostonHSVA records, Simmons College Archives
9. Plans for the Future, Home and School Visitors Association (Boston, Mass.) records, CC 36, Simmons College Archives, Boston, MA, USA.
10. From the Boston School Committee to Charles Rogerson at the Community Federation, Feb 20, 1941, Home and School Visitors Association (Boston, Mass.) records, CC 36, Simmons College Archives, Boston, MA, USA.
11. Statement to Amy Coolidge from office of Charles Jackson, 1940, Home and School Visitors Association (Boston, Mass.) records, CC 36, Simmons College Archives, Boston, MA, USA.
12. Board of Directors meetings, Home and School Visitors Association (Boston, Mass.) records, CC 36, Simmons College Archives, Boston, MA, USA.
13. Excerpt from the Minutes of the Meeting of the Directors, April 7, 1941, Home and School Visitors Association (Boston, Mass.) records, CC 36, Simmons College Archives, Boston, MA, USA.

Collection Overview

The records of the Home and School Association constitute 22.5 linear inches of records, and contain correspondence, reports, clippings and article reprints, brochures and appeal forms, minutes, case records (in the form of notebook pages), lecture notes, and charts.

Even though the Association only existed formally from 1922 until 1941, the records extend both before and after these dates. Before 1922, the records are from various organizations such as the Prince School Neighborhood Association, the Women's Education Association, and others, which sponsored the visitors at that time. Since the women in these early groups were the same as those who eventually worked for the Home and School Visitors Association, and the work carried out was virtually the same, these materials form a continuous record of activity. After 1941 there are scattered documents which include some printed material, sparse records of the steering committee set up to help Marenda Prentis (former visitor and Executive Secretary of the Association) look for new options for school visiting, and a letter to Prentis concerning her work with the Association.

Although correspondence in this collection is sparse, the records are more complete in other areas; there are a complete set of annual reports, two historical charts, and extensive minutes. The issues surrounding the demise of the Association are well documented in the folder now designated as Series VII. In addition, the case records, as portraits of home situations, are one of the most important parts of this collection. The visitor, form whose notebook these came, recorded what she saw of crime, broken marriages, illness, unemployment, poverty, and the difficulties faced by immigrants as they adapted to a new country. Attention is paid to problems such as "congestion" of neighborhoods, "bad influences," misunderstandings between immigrant parents and their Americanized children, and the difficulty of keeping those children in school whose families needed extra income. These, along with the annual reports, provide a detailed look at how social casework was carried out among Boston school children and their families in the first half of the twentieth century.

Online Catalog Headings

These and related materials may be found under the following headings in online catalogs.

Boston (Mass.)--History--20th century
Boston (Mass.)--Social conditions--20th century
Child welfare--United States--History--20th century
Children--Social conditions--20th century
Education--United States--20th century
Home and School Visitors Association (Boston, Mass.)
Immigrants--United States--History--20th century
Poverty--United States--History--20th century
Social work--United States--History--20th century
Women social workers--United States--History--20th century

Collection Arrangement

Related Material

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series I: Historical Records, 1907-1942 (3 folders)

The original files of the Home and School Visitors Association contained a folder labeled "Historical." That file has been left as it was found. In this folder, there are a series of undated and unsigned papers: "Purpose and Scope," "Public Relations," and "Plans for the Future." Also included is Helen Gregory's 1931 "Report on the Work of the Home and School Visitors of Boston in the High Schools," as well as some correspondence relating to the report.

An important document is an examination booklet with the title "Development of School Visiting in Boston, 1907-1939." This is a chronological listing (each page is assigned a year), of important developments in the history of school visiting in Boston. Of note also are a chart entitled "School Visiting in Boston" that shows which visitors were working in which schools between 1907 and 1941 and a scrapbook containing clippings (largely announcement and reports on annual meetings, benefits, lectures, and important Association functions), brochures, invitations, announcements, a 1933 graduation program from the Joseph Barnes School, two catalogs (1933-34 and 1938-39) of the Teachers College of the City of Boston, the by-laws from 1942, and a complete set of annual reports from 1922-23 to 1938-39.

For further "historical reports" see also Series III, Box 4, Folder 28, "Sketch of School Visiting in Boston" by Elizabeth Hale, and the chart in Series VII, Box 5, Folder 43.

Box 1

  • Folder 1: "Historical," 1924-1939; n.d.
    • Folder 2: Chart, "School Visiting in Boston," 1907-1941
      • Folder 3: Scrapbook, 1922-1942

        Series II: Administrative Records, 1913-1945 (About 2.5 boxes)

        This series includes the constitution, minutes, correspondence, and reports of the Home and School Visitors Association.

        Box 2

        • Folder 4: Constitution and By-Laws, 1932; n.d.

          Box 4

          • Folder 25: Questionnaire, n.d.


            These are the minutes of the various committees and groups of the Home and School Visitors Association. The records also include some minutes of meetings held by visitors before the formation of the Association. The minutes are left in their original groupings (with their contents chronologically arranged), the folder titles being the original ones found on the folders or notebooks. Although these records represent meetings of different groups over a period of years, the personnel throughout remain largely the same. Meetings were held only during the academic year.

            Box 2

            • Folder 5: Meetings of Committee with School Visitors, 1913-15
              • Folder 6: Meetings of Committees, 1919
                • Folder 7-8: Visitors Meetings, 1920-30

                  Box 3

                  • Folder 9-10: Board of Directors Meetings, 1920-41
                    • Folder 11: Annual Meetings, 1923-40
                      • Folder 12: Prince School Committee Meetings, 1924-30
                        • Folder 13: Executive Committee Meetings, 1928-37
                          • Folder 14: Staff-Directors Meetings, 1932-41
                            • Folder 15: Education Committee Meetings, 1934-40
                              • Folder 15a: Steering Committee Meetings, 1942-1943; n.d.


                                The original folder arrangement of correspondence has been maintained. The correspondence in the "Early" folder (1923-32), is between Amy (Mrs. Algernon) Coolidge, president of the Association, and the school headmasters, other school visiting organizations, social agencies, and her own school visitors. These letters concern the activities, salaries, and performance of school visitors, requests for money, and discussions of expenses (which intensify during the Depression); announcements; invitations to meetings; and discussions of individual cases. The "Boston School Committee" folder contains correspondence between Coolidge, Marenda Prentis, and the Boston School Committee; a statement for inclusion in the Annual report of the Superintendent of schools (1932); a series of annual letters, (1932-37) from the Boston School Committee providing for the use of the Association's office in a room at the Peter Faneuil School; and letters from the Superintendent of Schools (1942) concerning the demise of the Association.

                                Box 3

                                • Folder 16: "Early," 1923-32
                                  • Folder 17: Boston School Committee, 1932-37

                                    Reports, 1913-41

                                    Among the reports are a complete set of annual reports. (See also: Scrapbook in Series I, Box 1, Folder 3 for a duplicate set.) Printed reports from individual schools (typed versions of some of these can be found among the visitor's records in Series III) include those from the Bowdoin School Association, 1913; Girls' High School, 1916; Prince Neighborhood Association, 1921-22; and English High School, 1930-31. A number of these predate the establishment of the Association in 1922. Also included in this series are the audit report of the Home and School Visitor's Association for the fiscal year ending September 30, 1941; statistical reports (these include such information as numbers of cases, breakdowns of types of cases, names of other agencies referred to and the number of referrals); Helen Gregory's report, "A study of the work of the Home and School Visiting Association of the City of Boston" March 1931; the 1930 "Report of the Check-up Committee" (a committee formed to "check up the work as it was being done in accordance with approved modern standards of school visiting"); and a chart of "School services for individual children" listing Massachusetts towns and the services they provide. The information in the chart seems to consist of information provided by the schools.

                                    Box 4

                                    • Folder 18: Annual, 1922-39
                                      • Folder 19: Annual from Schools, 1913-31
                                        • Folder 20: "A Study of the Work of the HSVA," 1931
                                          • Folder 21: Audit, 1941
                                            • Folder 22: Statistical, 1934-40
                                              • Folder 23: Check-Up Committee, 1930
                                                • Folder 24: School Services for Individual Children, n.d.

                                                  Series III: Visitors' Records, 1908-1937 (13 folders)

                                                  These folders were left as found, arranged by school and visitor (with some exceptions, as noted in the descriptions). Visitors at the schools are noted in the folder titles. Material is arranged chronologically within each folder. Each school visitor was required to write an annual report for her school or district. In these reports, visitors described the events of the year, which included problems in the schools, examples of cases, and reports on their own work with the children, parents, teachers, and school administrators. These reports include descriptions based on their observations of the lives of the Boston poor, many of whom were Italian and Jewish immigrants. In many cases, visitors prepared statistics to include in their reports. These statistics, which vary from visitor to visitor, include numbers and types of cases and numbers of successes and failures. Some of the reports predate the formalization of the Home and School Visitors Association, and mention which organizations were supporting visiting work in Boston before 1922.

                                                  Box 4

                                                  • Folder 36: Case Records, 1931-1932; n.d.
                                                    • Folder 37: Skits, 1937; n.d.
                                                      • Folder 38: Suggestions for the Visiting Teacher, 1925; n.d.


                                                        Box 4

                                                        • Folder 26: Abraham Lincoln School
                                                          • Folder 27: Franklin and Everett Schools
                                                            • Folder 28: Girl's High
                                                              • Folder 29: Joseph Barnes School and U.S. Grant District
                                                                • Folder 30: Mechanic Arts High School
                                                                  • Folder 31: North End [Hancock District]
                                                                    • Folder 32: Prince School
                                                                      • Folder 33: Prince School and Girl's High
                                                                        • Folder 34: Quincy and Samuel Adams Districts
                                                                          • Folder 35: Winthrop School

                                                                            Series IV: Lecture Notes, n.d. (1 folder)

                                                                            Notes on three by five index cards, probably used as lecture notes. One consists of sample cases which demonstrate instances in which a child needed the help of a school visitor. The back of the last card reads "used in Newton speech". The second group of cards consists of quotes about education and social service. Neither the dates nor the lecturer's name is recorded on either of these groups of cards.

                                                                            Box 5

                                                                            • Folder 39: Lecture Notes

                                                                              Series V: Visiting Teacher Hearing Records, 1937-1939 (1 folder)

                                                                              The material in this series concerns a hearing held in February 1937 to pass a Massachusetts Act (House 815) which would provide "for the employment of visitors, so called, by school committees and by superintendency unions and districts." Material includes correspondence from the Massachusetts Child Council (who proposed the act), material prepared by the Massachusetts Child Council for presentation at the hearing, copies of the proposed act, and copies of the act in the form in which it was passed (1939). (See: Series I, Box 1, Folder 3, Scrapbook, for another copy of the bill.)

                                                                              Box 5

                                                                              • Folder 40: Visiting Teacher Hearing Records, 1937-1939

                                                                                Series VI: Teacher's College (Boston), 1932-1942; n.d. (2 folders)

                                                                                This series includes material relating to the course in child welfare taught by the Home and School Visitors Association at the Teacher's College of the City of Boston. The course appears to have been organized by the Association's Education Committee (See: Series II, Box 3, Folder 15). Material includes a syllabus for the 1938-39 course listing requirements and reading; a chart showing which school districts teachers enrolled in the course were from, 1932-42; a bibliography of magazine articles for the first semester 1935-36; and a few transcripts of lectures. A separate folder labeled "Suggestions for courses" contains, along with other information, a brochure listing courses offered in teacher's colleges by the Massachusetts Child Council. (See also: Scrapbook, Series I, Box 1, Folder 3, which includes the 1933-34 and 1938-39 catalog from the Teacher's College of the City of Boston).

                                                                                Box 5

                                                                                • Folder 41: Child welfare course, 1932-1942
                                                                                  • Folder 42: Suggestions for courses, 1938, 1942, n.d.

                                                                                    Series VII: Materials of the Study Committee Regarding Discontinuance of the Home and School Visitors Association, 1936-1941; n.d. (1 folder)

                                                                                    This folder contains the records of a special committee "appointed by the President to make recommendations to the Board of Directors concerning the future policies and activities of the Home and School Visitors Association" (Series II, Box 3, Folder 10, March 29, [1941]). This committee seems to have been appointed to oversee the demise of the Association. Its members were Amy Coolidge (chairwoman), Elizabeth Ely, Elizabeth Putnam, Marenda Prentis, Abigail S. Peek, and Beth Sandusky (referred to here as Mrs. Martin W. Peck, and Mrs. O.E. Sandusky), (Series II, Box 3, Folder 10, April 7, 1941). The decision to stop work in the schools and employ Marenda Prentis for one more year to "make a survey of possibilities for further development of Visiting Teacher work in the metropolitan area" appears in the March 29 [1941] minutes.

                                                                                    Other material includes a chart entitled "History of School Visiting in Boston" which lists organizations sponsoring visitors from 1907-16 (see also: Chart in Series I, Box 1, Folder 2); a listing of enrollments in schools, and the numbers and types of schools in each district; newspaper clippings about the dissolution of the Association; correspondence; and reports. The correspondence is largely to and from Amy Coolidge (president of the Association) and Marenda Prentis with the Community Federation of Boston (who administered the Community Fund); the Boston Council of Social Agencies; school headmasters; the Boston School Committee, and Arthur Gould, Superintendent of Schools. There are also a few memos from Elizabeth Ely, Marenda Prentis, and Amy Coolidge to the Home and School Visitors Association board of directors, keeping them informed of the situation, and a series of letters to various concerned people (dated April 9, 1941), reporting the board's decision to end the Association.

                                                                                    Reports here include some transcripts of conferences, telephone conversations, and interviews with the Superintendent of Schools (Arthur Gould), Eva Whiting White, Maida Solomon, Father Batty of the Boston Public Schools, Charles Rogerson of the Committee Federation, the Dean of Boston Teacher's College, and a meeting of the officers of the Home and School Visitors Association with the Subcommittee on Budget of the Community Federation. A report written by the Home and School Visitors Association (Jan 4, 1940) and submitted to the Subcommittee on Budget of the Community Federation, explains the work of the Association, making the point that "this work is a public school function".

                                                                                    Box 5

                                                                                    • Folder 43: "Material of the Study Committee regarding discontinuance of the Home and School Visitors Association", 1936-1941; n.d.

                                                                                      Series VIII: Printed Material, 1915-1954; n.d. (9 folders)

                                                                                      HSVA Materials

                                                                                      HSVA materials include appeal forms, brochures, and bulletins of the association. The appeal forms, which ask for subscriptions to the Association, include one from the Prince School Neighborhood Association, and one from the Bowdoin School Neighborhood Association. The brochures describe the history and services of the Association. The bulletins, spring and fall bulletins and "The News" (Oct 1937), are newsletters containing some descriptive information about the Association and the School Visiting Movement, notices of meetings, book reviews, editorials, a "personals" column, and examples of cases. Since there are very few of these publications, it is difficult to determine how frequently they were published.

                                                                                      Box 5

                                                                                      • Folder 44: Appeal Forms, 1922; n.d.
                                                                                        • Folder 45: Brochures, 1930; 1941; n.d.
                                                                                          • Folder 46: Bulletins, 1934-1937; n.d.


                                                                                            The non-HSVA materials include article reprints, a book (Home-School Relations: Philosophy and Practice, by Sara E. Baldwin, 1935), brochures, issues of periodicals, and reports (including an annual report for the Lincoln House Neighborhood Club, 1915) about visiting teachers, social work, and education. All of these were produced by organizations and individuals outside the Home and School Visitors Association. Also included is literature from two conferences: the Massachusetts Conference of Social Work (1939), and the Childhood Education Regional Conference (1940).

                                                                                            Materials are from the American Association of Visiting Teachers, Boston Public Schools, Massachusetts Child Council, Massachusetts Society for Mental Hygiene, National Association of School Social Workers, National Committee on Mental Hygiene, National Committee on Visiting Teachers, and the Progressive Education Association.

                                                                                            Box 5

                                                                                            • Folder 47: Article Reprints, 1934-1937; 1949-1954
                                                                                              • Folder 48: Brochures, 1937; n.d.
                                                                                                • Folder 49: Periodicals, 1927-1950
                                                                                                  • Folder 50: Reports, 1915; 1932; 1944
                                                                                                    • Folder 51: State Conference, 1939
                                                                                                      • Folder 52: Childhood Education Regional Conference, 1940