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New England Learning Center for Women in Transition records

Identifier: SSC-MS-00459

Scope and Contents

This partially processed portion of NELCWIT Records and documents the organization's founding and programming from 1975 to 2012. The date spans of 1976-81 and 1987-2001 are particularly well represented. Confidential client and shelter records are not included as part of the collection, and they will not be deposited at the Sophia Smith Collection.

SERIES I. ADMINISTRATION pertains to the creation and ongoing management of NELCWIT. The material contained in its Board of Directors and Planning Board committee files trace the organization's evolution from its conception to the creation of an effective agency with a paid staff and a large list of clientele. The committee work gives considerable evidence of the difficulty of reconciling the founders' egalitarian ideals with the day-to-day operations of a growing group, particularly in the sometimes-hostile environment of greater Franklin County. These factors are also evident in the administrative correspondence, internal news sheets, and fundraising files. In addition, the series' fundraising files indicate the intensive, creative efforts necessary to sustain a non-profit organization. The Personnel files include materials from reunions of NELCWIT staffers, and a small file of statistics for 1977 indicate the range of functions the organization served.

SERIES II. PROGRAMS contains materials of some of NELCWIT's ancillary efforts, including conferences, an anti-racism initiative of the 1990s, and participation in the Franklin County Coalition for a Safe Community (FCCSC). The FCCSC sponsored Violence Awareness Prevention Awareness events and was the result of a coalition among the county's health and human service agencies and organizations. This series also contains the records of the Woman of the Year banquet sponsored by NELCWIT from 1989-95. Woman of the Year efforts solicited input from the citizens of Franklin County to single out and celebrate the achievements of a local woman; it also served as a means of generating awareness and advertising revenue for NELCWIT.

NELCWIT's primary programming work is best documented in SERIES III. PUBLICITY AND WRITINGS. Publicity includes articles and newspaper clippings about the organization, as well as printed material produced by NELCWIT for outreach and fundraising purposes. Clippings from local newspapers trace the services provided by NELCWIT over the thirty-year course of its existence, documenting its emergency services, efforts to compel recognition of the toll of abuse, and the long-term counseling and support groups offered as means to cope with and healing from violence. News coverage also records the changing atmosphere in which NELCWIT was received, beginning with receptivity toward its efforts initially being found primarily in the alternative and feminist press and eventually garnering a greater appreciation and recognition for its work. A series of domestic violence-related homicides in Franklin County in the late-1980s brought a spate of press coverage to Franklin County and highlighted the necessity for domestic abuse awareness and prevention. The printed material produced by NELCWIT includes newsletters, brochures, fundraising appeals, and informational packets. These materials illustrate the variety of programs undertaken throughout the years and demonstrate one of the primary means by which NELCWIT sought to help women empower themselves, which was to provide the information and resources to recognize and escape abusive relationships.

Writings include a report, "Domestic Abuse of Women in Franklin County, Massachusetts," (1978) and a Master's Thesis, "New England Learning Center for Women in Transition: The Planning Stages of a Residential Learning Center for Women in Transition," (1978) give in-depth accounts of NELCWIT's treatment approaches and the type of situations in which it was called to assist. Files relating to the writing project "Shattered Silences" have considerable historical value. In 1991, NELCWIT solicited writings related to abuse for a published booklet. The poetry and prose pieces can be read as both therapeutic exercises for survivors and a means to implode the silences and misinformation surrounding sexual and physical abuse.

SERIES IV. SUBJECT FILES consists of printed materials which provide more general reference information and background on matters of violence; spousal, child, and sexual abuse; and feminism. These materials were possibly used by staff and clients as resource files.

Dates of Materials

  • 1970 - 2012


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use with the following restrictions on access: Restricted material is closed until 2081. Writing submissions and correspondence related to Shattered Silences is closed indefinitely. For the remainder of the collection, researchers must sign an Access Agreement form agreeing to preserve the anonymity of individuals represented in the collection. Please consult with special collections staff at to begin this process.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright to materials produced by NELCWIT has been transferred to the Sophia Smith Collection. Permission must be obtained to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use."

Biographical / Historical

The New England Learning Center for Women in Transition (NELCWIT) targets the needs of women and children in largely rural Franklin County, Massachusetts who have experienced domestic or sexual abuse. NELCWIT was the brainchild of a collective of Franklin County women who, particularly influenced by the self-help ethos of 1970s feminism, devised a means of raising awareness and providing solutions for violence in the home. Working at a time when municipal agencies offered no services for women leaving abusive homes and law enforcement routinely encouraged battered wives to make amends with their husbands, the founders established NELCWIT as a direct service and support agency. Rejecting the prevailing mentality that domestic abuse was a matter to be settled within the family and that it was primarily the fault of the victim, NELCWIT compelled local social service agencies to consider the hands-on approach to preventing and resolving domestic violence.

The group opened an office in 1976, relying solely, at first, on volunteered staff and resources to offer counseling, information, and an ad hoc shelter program that housed women and children fleeing abusive situations in the private homes of supporters. By the late 1970s, successful fundraising efforts and job funding disbursed through the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) allowed NELCWIT's programming to flourish. NELCWIT established a space that functioned exclusively as an emergency shelter and networked successfully with other women's groups and social service and law enforcement agencies to devise solutions to domestic violence and sexual abuse. Unfortunately, the service was much needed: rural isolation made it difficult for many victims to get the psychological and material support necessary to escape abusive situations, and the region's high unemployment and economic hardships produced a stressful atmosphere that contributed to family violence.

At its inception, the group functioned as a strictly feminist, anti-hierarchical enterprise. Administration was managed collectively, "personal sharing" was on most meeting agendas, and "process meetings" assured that no single volunteer or employee exercised too much influence. Around 1980, at the height of its rise to prominence as a self-starting and well-utilized service provider, local selectmen pulled NELCWIT's CETA funding, citing the organization's collective administration (which was seen as providing insufficient oversight) and "anti-male" bias as justification. NELCWIT waged a successful battle to recapture the funding, but the impasse marked the first of several funding crises and a shift to a more traditional administrative structure (although the organization continued to be led and staffed primarily by women). Its longevity and status as a pioneer in the field of providing shelter, support, and prevention of domestic abuse helped to establish it as a recipient of United Way funding and as an influential player in the social services landscape of Franklin County. While NELCWIT has not abandoned its core mission of addressing domestic abuse, its programming has branched out to include outreach to abusers and efforts to stop racism. NELCWIT remains an active organization.


13.085 linear feet (15 containers)

2.06 Gigabytes

Language of Materials



Women's shelter. The NELCWIT Records include reports, planning board minutes, personal writings, fundraising and outreach materials, articles and clippings, and publications. The collection documents the organization's administration, shelter and counseling services, and educational programs from its founding in 1976 to the present. Included are personal writings by survivors of domestic violence and abuse; research papers; and publicity and printed materials related to issues of domestic violence and sexual abuse in Western Massachusetts and beyond.


This collection is organized into four series:



This collection has been added to over time in multiple "accessions." An accession is a group of materials received from the same source at approximately the same time.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

This collection contains materials received from the donor in digital form that are not currently available online. Please consult with Special Collections staff to request access to this digital content.

Other Finding Aids

One or more content listings to individual accessions in this collection are available for download. Links can be found in the description of the individual accessions.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by the New England Learning Center for Women in Transition, 2001 and 2012.

Additional Formats

The video tapes in this collection have been digitized and are available to view online (Smith campus only).

Processing Information

Preliminary processing done Summer 2005 by Amanda Izzo. Duplications returned to NELCWIT.

The contents of computer media in this collection has been copied to networked storage for preservation and access; the original directory and file structure was retained and file lists were created. Some CDs were unable to be copied.

Processing Information

Between September 2022 and February 2023, Smith College Special Collections renumbered many boxes to eliminate duplicate numbers within collections in order to improve researcher experience. A full crosswalk of old to new numbers is available.

New England Learning Center for Women in Transition records
Finding Aid
Amanda Izzo
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (
  • 2017-07-26T17:48:13-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
  • 2020-04-010: Description added for born-digital content.
  • 2020-12-07: Added 2 flat file folders

Repository Details

Part of the Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063