Emergency Aid of Pennsylvania records
Held at: Historical Society of Pennsylvania [Contact Us]1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19107
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Emergency Aid of Pennsylvania is a women’s volunteer organization that was founded by eight Philadelphia women in 1914. The organization’s original purpose, according to the Charter of Incorporation, was "to carry on both at home and abroad, emergency and relief work for the benefit of the military forces and the civilian populations of the United States and of their Allies.” Members included women from various prominent Philadelphia families with the money, resources, and connections to provide both foreign and domestic aid.
In World War I Emergency Aid was the first organization in Philadelphia to forward relief supplies to the military and civilian forces of the Allies. The organization sent millions of dollars in money and supplies for overseas relief throughout the war, and had its own distributing centers in each country. In 1917 branches were organized throughout Pennsylvania. Emergency Aid was also active in combatting the 1918-1920 influenza pandemic. At the time Philadelphia did not have a Red Cross chapter.
In World War II Emergency Aid again secured and sent relief supplies to the Allies and rendered services to U.S. military personnel. The organization distributed books and magazines to naval and military centers; knitted garments and comfort items for service men, furnished and equipped recreation rooms in isolated Army posts, provided thousands of Christmas Kits and Survivor Kits for military men, operated canteens, provided housing and information services for enlisted men and women, arranged home entertainment for officers, supervised Clubs for Service Women, and cooperated with the Navy League and Army Officers Club for Men. Emergency Aid also maintained an Allied Work Room for volunteers to make garments for civilians abroad. The Emergency Aid Aides, a special service group, assigned volunteers to draft boards, hospitals, and numerous other war relief agencies and sold over $68 million in war bonds.
From its founding through World War II, Emergency Aid also ran a local welfare program continued, which offered follow-up care for infantile paralysis victims; unemployment relief; supplemental meals for school children; emergency help and clothing for individuals and families; and aid for the disabled, the sick, and the underprivileged.
The Emergency Aid grew to become one of the largest women’s organizations in the Philadelphia area. In 1984, the Emergency Aid of Pennsylvania Foundation, Inc. was formed with the impetus of “includ[ing] the spirit and tradition of its past with a renewed awareness of the ever-changing conditions and with the flexibility to respond to these needs.” As of 2014, the organization continued to enjoy an active membership of women volunteers who donated time, talent, and financial resources to support its mission and work.
“About Us,” Emergency Aid of Pennsylvania Foundation, Inc., http://www.eafoundation.org/about.html
The Emergency Aid of Pennsylvania Foundation records house the institutional records and memorabilia of the Philadelphia-based charitable organization, which was initially founded in 1914 to provide relief to war-torn countries during the First World War. The collection dates from 1889 to 1984, with bulk dates of 1914 to 1978, and documents the organization’s evolution from war-time relief efforts to philanthropic community service and grant-giving. The collection’s excellent organization and rich documentation are a testament to Emergency Aid’s strong commitment to public service and charity. The records are an important source of information about the Philadelphia philanthropic community during the twentieth century and home-front relief efforts during the two world wars.
This collection is arranged into three series: I. Administrative, 1889-1983, II. Financial, 1927-1984, and III. Photographs and memorabilia, 1914-1982.
Series I. Administrative dates from 1889-1983, with bulk dates of 1924-1983, and includes reports, books, correspondence, memoranda, event planning materials, bulletins, newsletters, and other organizational records. These records provide an early history of Emergency Aid of Philadelphia and its intended foci, particularly through the bulletins and newsletters put out by the organization. Additionally, major event-planning documentation can be found here, such as records concerning the Annual United Christmas Bazaar and Spring Benefit. This series is divided into four subseries: Ia. General, 1889-1979, Ib. Committees and Foreign Aid, 1914-1980, Ic. Fundraising, Programs, Events, 1917-1981, and Id. Pamphlets and Reports, 1914-1983.
Subseries Ia. General dates from 1889 to 1979, with bulk dates of 1940 to 1968. Records in this subseries include organizational documentation and history, with assorted correspondence and reports comprising the bulk of the subseries. Annual Meeting reports may be found here, as well as records of the volunteers and staff of Emergency Aid. Two boxes of office record cards in particular highlight the many hours volunteered by members, particularly during World War II. A run of research records at the end of the subseries consists of books kept by the organization, mostly regarding women’s roles in wartime relief efforts. Although small and somewhat eclectic, this subseries helps to explain the goals of the organization, its methods of organization and staff selection, and the resources from which it took inspiration. This subseries is arranged chronologically.
Subseries Ib. Committees and Foreign Aid dates from 1914 to 1980, with bulk dates of 1964 to 1978. The materials found in this subseries relate to the work of various committees formed to coordinate both foreign and domestic relief efforts as well as fundraising and events. The early material mainly pertains to World War I relief to several different European countries. There is also a smaller amount of material relating to similar relief efforts during World War II. The bulk of the material, however, deals with committee activities in the post-World War II era, especially that of the Hospital Committee and committees related to the governance of the organization. Materials in this subseries include meeting minutes, agendas, letters and memoranda, reports, and photographs. There is significant overlap in material with Subseries Ic. Fundraising, Programs, Events” since it is not always clear whether a specific committee was designated or formed for certain of the organization’s activities. Additionally, Series III. Photographs and Memorabilia also contains some photographs and other materials related to specific foreign aid and committee activities. This subseries is arranged chronologically.
Subseries Ic. Fundraising, programs, events dates from 1917 to 1981, with bulk dates of 1945 to 1981. Records found in this subseries mostly relate to the major fundraising event of the organization, the Annual United Christmas Bazaar. Documentation includes reports, often financial or regarding planning and associate organization candidates, as well as programs, minutes, proposals, correspondence, policy lists, receipts, and agendas. Other events and programs are documented in this subseries as well, though not as fully as the Bazaar. These include the Spring Benefit, Emergency Aid staff trips, Braille transcription materials and instruction books, and other one-time events. This subseries evidences the major resource of fundraising for Emergency Aid’s activities, the Bazaar. Emergency Aid worked with other associate organizations, which had to apply for inclusion to the Bazaar, in order to raise money each year. The completeness of the record regarding the event makes it possible to trace the evolution of the Bazaar and its continuing success, especially following World War II, and establishes one of the major ways Emergency Aid made its presence felt in the Philadelphia region into the 1970s. This subseries is arranged chronologically.
Subseries Id. Pamphlets and reports dates from 1914-1983, with bulk dates of 1924 to 1983. This subseries is made up of the bulletins and newsletters created by Emergency Aid every year, generally by quarter. These bulletins and newsletters provide information about the organization’s goals, accomplishments, and activities. Larger multi-year reports can also be found in this subseries, documenting major accomplishments and the mission of the organization, usually over five-year periods. This subseries provides excellent summaries of the activities of Emergency Aid through the years, especially up until its 50th Anniversary. Additionally valuable in this subseries are some bulletins with small notations by members. This subseries is arranged chronologically.
Series II. Financial dates from 1927 to 1984, with bulk dates of 1945 to 1978. Materials in this series pertain to the organization’s financial record-keeping and contain information about spending, fundraising efforts, and disbursal of funds. The series begins with the records of the Emergency Aid Realty Corporation. This corporation was created to build and manage the Warburton House, an apartment building that offered housing for professional women and contained Emergency Aid’s headquarters for a time. Particularly during the post-World War I years, the revenue from rents was an important source of income for the organization’s activities. However, the majority of the material in this series consists of invoices, receipts, and account records, documenting the expenses related to various events and activities. Also included in this series is a significant number of membership due cards, documenting another important source of income for the organization. Certain tax documents and health insurance invoices are restricted and researchers should consult with Historical Society of Pennsylvania staff before requesting access. The series is arranged chronologically.
Series III. Photographs and memorabilia dates from 1914 to 1982, with bulk dates of 1914 to 1945. However, many of the items in this series are undated. This series consists mostly of photographs, documenting the various activities of the organization. The series provides particularly rich documentation of Emergency Aid’s early years in the form of scrapbooks containing photographs, press clippings, and ephemera. Of particular visual interest may be several World War I and II era posters, located in separate flat file storage. This series contains a significant amount of deteriorated newspaper material and researchers should exercise care while handling the materials. Additionally, this series contains several phonograph recordings of radio programs from the World War II era. These materials are inaccessible at this time due to their format. The series is arranged chronologically.
This collection provides documentation of women’s experiences in World War I and World War II, particularly on the home front in Philadelphia, and also documents Emergency Aid’s activities and changing focus during peacetime. The bulletins, financial reports, and committee records paint a detailed picture of the lengths to which the organization went to provide aid to many different kinds of people, not just soldiers. The photographs and scrapbooks also richly document the cultural changes happening in Philadelphia, from fashion and dress to societal trends.
This collection was processed in 2013-2014 as part of an experimental project conducted under the auspices of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries to help eliminate processing backlogs in sixteen Philadelphia repositories. The project used a less intensive processing methodology than traditionally thought necessary to make a collection ready for use by researchers. When citing sources from this collection, researchers are advised to defer to folder titles provided in the finding aid rather than those provided on the physical folder.
Employing processing strategies outlined in Mark Greene's and Dennis Meissner's 2005 article "More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Processing Approaches to Deal With Late 20th-Century Collections," the project team processed at an average rate of 4 hours per linear foot of records, a fraction of the time traditionally reserved for the arrangement and description of collections. Among other time saving strategies, the project team did not extensively review the content of the collections or complete any preservation work.
- Historical Society of Pennsylvania
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Annalise Berdini and Megan Evans.
- Finding Aid Date
- ; 2014.
- The creation of the electronic guide for this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.
- Access Restrictions
For legal privacy reasons, approximately ten folders in Series II. are closed to researchers for 75 years from date of creation. These files have been moved to Boxes 136 and 137, which may not be accessed. See the Collection Inventory for details. The remainder of the collection is open for research.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may apply. Please contact HSP's Rights & Reproductions staff with requests for copying and for authorization to publish, quote or reproduce the material.