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Collected papers of Alice P. Hadley and the Thread and Needle Society


Held at: Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College [Contact Us]500 College Avenue, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania 19081

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College. 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

Alice C. Paxson (1857-1919) was the daughter of Frederick Paxson and Lydia Betts Paxson, Philadelphia Hicksite Quakers. She was a founding member of the Thread and Needle Society where she met her future husband through mutual friends. Alice married Walter Hadley (1857-1896), an Indiana Quaker, in 1883, and they lived in New Mexico where Walter managed a mining operation. She was widowed 1896 and moved to Swarthmore, purchasing house at 411 Colllege Avenue next-door to the home where her older brother, Charles Paxson, lived with his wife and her parents, Thomas Heston Hall and Lydia Cox Hall. The Halls were early residents of Swarthmore, and their daughter Alice (1868-1955) graduated from Swarthmore College as did her four siblings.

Alice and Walter Hadley had one child, Caroline (1885-1946). Caroline graduated from Swarthmore College in 1906 and married Louis N. Robinson, Class of 1905, a prominent economist and penologist. In 1952, Louis Robinson bequeathed the house to Swarthmore College in memory of his wife. The extended family has many connections with Swarthmore College.

The Thread and Needle Society began as a sewing group established in the fall of 1873 by young Philadelphia Hicksite Quaker women. The group met in members' homes twice a month. After spending the afternoon sewing clothing for a family in need, they shared supper and were joined by young men socializing and participating in programs organized by members. On special occasions, the group met for dancing, picnics or other outings.

Alice enjoyed a close circle of friendship with the Smyth, Cooper, Ferris, and Paxson families of Philadelphia. She was especially close to her siblings, Charles (born 1855), Anna ("Nan," born 1852), and Mary (born 1860), all of whom were members of the Thread and Needle. Some of the members were classmates at Friends Central School or members of the Young People's Temperance Union. Many were related, and all were unmarried at the time they joined the group. A number of members were introduced to their future spouses through the Society. Members resigned when they married, but were welcome at the annual meeting. In 1884, with few of the original members still attending, the group disbanded. They agreed to hold annual meetings; the last year of the announcements is 1897.

Alice C. Paxson Hadley (1857-1919) was a founding member of the Thread and Needle Society, a social and charitable club of young Philadelphia Hicksite Friends. Alice kept a diary that recorded events and meetings of the group 1873 to 1880 which were transcribed by her great-granddaughter, and she collected memorabilia and speeches she presented. The collection offers insight into the social life of Philadelphia young Quakers, concentrating on close friendships and family connections.

Gift of Christine Erb, great-grandaughter of Alice Paxson Hadley, Accession FHL 2015.019

Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College
Finding Aid Author
Susanna Morikawa
Finding Aid Date
March 2017

Collection Inventory

Excerpts from Alice Paxson's diary (transcript), 1873-1880.
Scope and Contents

Typed mss transcribed by Christine Erb, great-granddaughter. Alice recorded events of the meetings and significant events in the lives of current and former members. The group made a quilt as a wedding gift when Alice married Walter Hadley in October 1883. The transcriber notes that after the death of fellow member and close friend, Frank Ferris, Alice no longer kept her diary but rather wrote to her fiancé Walter Hadley who had moved to the New Mexico to seek a cure. Like his friend Frank Ferris, Walter died of tuberculosis, and Alice then returned to Pennsylvania.

AL to "My dear sisters", 1884.
Scope and Contents

Incomplete letter describing an outing by the group. The author is identified by the donor as Mary Paxson, writing to sister Alice and Nan.

Letters between Charlie Paxson and Warner Walter , 1884.
Scope and Contents

Squabble over seating in a sleigh ride. Charlie apparently was in charge of assigning seats for the group. Carbon copy?

North Broad Street Help and Escort Service notes , 1883-1884.
Scope and Contents

"News items" about the Society from Charles Paxson and others sent to Alice after her move to isolated New Mexico. Spoof letter from Henry Ferris to Charles Paxson with mention of group's trip to Mt. Cuba. Also verse on birth of Frederick Suplee in 1883, son of members Anna ("Nan") Paxson and William Suplee.

Talks presented at Thread and Needles, Approximate.
Scope and Contents

Written in Alice Paxson's hand. Also two annotated published plays used by group as a base for entertainment

Talks presented by Alice Paxson.
Printed resolution laying down the Thread and Needle Society, 1884.
Scope and Contents

Because most of the founding members, all friends, were no longer active, it was resolved to end regular meetings, but rather hold annual meetings as reunions

Third Annual Meeting poster, 1887.
Scope and Contents

With photographs of members, some identified by donor. Adhesive trimmed from upper edge.

Programs and mementoes, 1877-1897.
Scope and Contents

Includes programs of annual meetings, a small history published in 1888, and the 10th anniversary program which lists founders and members to date. The donor noted that active members Francis ("Frank") and Henry Ferris operated a printing and publishing company in Philadelphia and hence the wealth of nicely published programs and other notices.

Photographs, 1883-1897.
Scope and Contents

1883 group photograph of outing to Catskill Mountains. Photos of Alice Paxson Hadley and 1897 Thread and Needle Society card

Notes on the Thread and Needle Society, 2015.
Scope and Contents

The donor, Christine Erb, wrote a history of the Society with biographical information about the members.

Print, Suggest