Archives and Special Collections
92 Snell Library
360 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA 02115
(617) 373-2351

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Historical Note


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Title:Women's Educational Center (Cambridge, Mass.) records
Call Number:M47

Historical Note

In Boston in 1970, Bread and Roses, a group of Socialist-Feminist women, began searching for a building to house a center for women.  In March 1971, after being frustrated in their search, Bread and Roses seized an unoccupied building, owned by Harvard University, on Memorial Drive in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Bread and Roses held the building for ten days, offering free classes and childcare before they were forced out. Sympathetic individuals donated $5,000, and in June 1971 Bread and Roses bought the house at 46 Pleasant Street in Cambridge. The Women's Center (later incorporated as the Women's Educational Center) opened in January 1972. The Center is committed to the philosophy that women, empowered by taking responsibility for their lives, are able to help themselves and effect change in their communities and in the world. The Women's Educational Center provides women with referrals to outside community resources, including doctors, therapists, lawyers, clinics, housing and job opportunities. It is staffed mostly by volunteers, and decisions, which are made at All Center Meetings, are based on the input of all staff.  Groups and projects that meet at the Women's Educational Center are self-governing.  Over time, some of them have developed into independent organizations, such as the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, Finex House, Incest Resources, and Transition House, a shelter for women and children who are escaping violent home situations, since 1976. 

In the spring of 1972, local vandals set a fire in the basement that shut down the electricity and heat throughout the entire house. The dedicated women of the Women's Educational Center continued to work without heat or lights for many months to keep their center operating. One outcome of this was the inception of the Tooth and Nails collective, a group of women who were qualified mechanics, electricians, and carpenters. In 1979 the Women's Movement Archives, established with the support of a small grant, began collecting and organizing the records of several Boston-area based women's organizations, including: Bread and Roses; Female Liberation; Cell 16; the Abortion Action Coalition; Sister Courage; the Somerville Women's Educational Center; and the Boston Women's Music Collective. At the same time, the Women's Center library was established, consisting of books, periodicals, and vertical file collections.  Most of the archives have been transferred to Northeastern University's Archives and Special Collections Department.                                     

The Women's Center celebrated its 25th anniversary in 1996.  The festivities culminated with a benefit concert held in Harvard University's Sanders Theatre.  Featured musicians and poets at the event included Patty Larkin, Mili Bermejo, Toshi Reagan and Patricia Smith.