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Institute for the Coordination of Women's Interests records

Identifier: CA-MS-00081

Scope and Contents

The records consist of .625 linear feet of correspondence, memoranda, reports, minutes, proposals, and programs. In addition, the Institute published a series of nine studies which present its various projects in greater detail.

Although numbering fewer than 150 pages, the correspondence and memoranda follow the affairs of the Institute from its conception in 1922, through its development, 1925 to 1928, to signs of its decline in 1929. The minutes of both the Smith College Board of Trustees and Trustees' Committee on the Institute reveal the attitudes and intentions of their members regarding support for the Institute. The material includes reports which outline the activities of the Institute and a 1926 questionnaire sent to 500 Smith alumnae in an effort to learn whether college graduates had integrated the interests of marriage and work. Two student projects contribute to our understanding of the Institute. An important source is an honors thesis for a B.A. in American Studies, "In Search of the 'Good Life': Ethel Puffer Howes and the Institute for the Coordination of Women's Interests," by Elizabeth A. Harwick. This paper traces the rise and fall of the Institute concentrating on its conceptualization and formation. A research paper, "A Matter of Compromise: The Institute for the Coordination of Women's Interests at Smith College, 1925-31," by Amelie Russell, also examines the Institute's history.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1922-1983


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

Smith College retains copyright of materials created as part of its business operations; however, copyright in other items in this collection may be held by their respective creators. For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For instances which may regard materials in the collection not created by Smith College, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use.

Biographical / Historical

The Institute for the Coordination of Women's Interests was established at Smith College in 1925 with Ethel Puffer Howes as director. Mrs. Howes, an advocate of domestic reform, formulated a plan for a research institute to develop methods of combining efficient home management with serious intellectual endeavors. Mrs. Howes submitted her proposal to the president of Smith College, where she had studied and taught. The proposed institute received a three-year grant from the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Foundation and the approval of the Smith College Board of Trustees.

The Institute had two major goals: to find practical ways to make household chores easier for women and to educate women to pursue interests which could be integrated with the duties of marriage. In an effort to achieve the first objective, the Institute experimented with ways to help married women lighten their daily routines. Between 1926 and 1929, the Institute conducted research and practical demonstrations to provide home assistance through cooperative nursery schools, dinner kitchens, and cooked food delivery services. To attain the second objective, Mrs. Howes sought to guide women into professions and activities which could be combined with marriage. Toward this end, the Institute studied domestic and landscape architecture and free-lance writing to determine their possibilities for coordination with family life.

Associated by the faculty with vocational training and home economics, the Institute functioned as an isolated entity. In two recent papers about the Institute, the authors concluded that neither the goals of the Institute's programs nor its theoretical bases were clearly defined. In 1929 Mrs. Howes asked the Trustees for a two year extension for the Institute. She also proposed that the Institute be incorporated into the college curriculum, a plan which the faculty did not endorse. After the Rockefeller Foundation denied a request for continued support, the Trustees appropriated funding for Howes to conclude her work. Howes did not complete her research and by 1931 the Institute was at an end.


0.667 linear feet (2 containers)

Language of Materials



These records document a research institute to develop methods of combining efficient home management with serious intellectual endeavors. The collection contains correspondence, memoranda, reports, minutes, proposals, and programs.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

A few items in these records were donated by Benjamin T. Howes, son of Ethel Puffer Howes. The source is unknown for the remainder of the materials.

Related Material

Material relating to the Institute for the Coordination of Women's Interests can be found in the records of the Laura Spellman Rockefeller Memorial and the Laura Spellman Rockefeller Papers (1918-49), both located at the Rockefeller Archive Center, Pocantico Hills, North Tarrytown, New York.

Partial results of an unpublished 1926 Institute survey are located in the files of Eleanor L. Lord in the College Archives. Between 1922 and 1927, Ms. Lord was educational consultant and research associate for the Institute.

Processing Information

Processed by Eleanor M. Lewis.

Processing Information

Please note that prior to 2018, folder inventories were not always updated when new material was added to the collection. As a result, folder inventories may not be complete and folder numbers may be incorrect.

Finding aid to Institute for the Coordination of Women's Interests Records
Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
Eleanor M Lewis, Ellice Amanna
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (
  • 2005-09-23: manosca81 converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02-5c.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • 2018-11-20: Finding aid updated with new box numbers, barcodes, locations

Repository Details

Part of the Smith College Archives Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063