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Guide to the Records of the New York Exchange for Woman's Work
  MS 446

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400

© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Gabrielle Sanchez

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on August 24, 2012
Description is in English.

Scope and Content Note

The records of the New York Exchange for Woman's Work include board minutes, corporate, financial, and real estate papers, advertising materials, clippings, photographs, video and ephemera. The New York Exchange was one of many such organizations founded in the late nineteenth century. Its original aim was to help "gentlewomen in reduced circumstances" principally Civil War widows) achieve economic independence. The Exchange sold the handiwork of these women, including crafts, giftware, decorative items, clothing, pickles, preserves, and baked goods. Over the course of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the organization grew to include an employment agency, a vacation home where needy women were hosted free of charge, training and education facilities, and a Restaurant and Bar. Over time the Exchange also began to accept work from needy women (and, by the 1970s, men) of all social classes.

The collection supports research on the history of philanthropy, women's employment, and women's exchanges (which at one time numbered over 70 in the United States and Canada). The collection contains materials related to the corporate history of the Exchange, including nearly complete minutes of monthly and annual meetings of the Board of Directors (variously referred to as Board of Managers) and various subcommittees. The minutes detail the challenges of running a not-for-profit business, and provide insight into the social changes which occurred over the course of the twentieth century, particularly in regard to employment opportunities for women. Because it moved nine times in the course of its 125-year history, the collection also contains a great deal of material related to the real estate owned and rented by the Exchange.

For many years the Exchange was just as well-known for its Restaurant as for its shop. The collection includes menus, recipes, and cookbooks from the Restaurant, as well as numerous newspaper and magazine articles which comment on the experience of dining at the Exchange. Also of interest are the publications produced by the Exchange. In particular, the Exchange Revue, a magazine/catalog first published in 1936 contains articles on the subjects of fashion and beauty, housekeeping, entertaining, home decorating, literature, film, and theater, in addition to advertisements for local businesses and news about the Exchange.

The collection also contains materials related to public relations efforts of the Exchange. Press releases and PR strategies mainly date from the 1990s, but newspaper clippings and advertisements have been preserved from as early as 1919.


The collection is organized into the following thirteen series:

  1. Series I. Minutes, 1878-1997
  2. Series II. Corporate Documents, 1878-1987, n.d.
  3. Series III. Financial Documents, 1911-1997, n.d.
  4. Series IV. Real Estate Documents, 1914-2000
  5. Series V. Correspondence, 1878-2003, n.d.
  6. Series VI. Menus and Recipes, 1937-1980, n.d.
  7. Series VII. Publications, 1894-1994, n.d.
  8. Series VIII. Advertising and Public Relations Materials, 1918-2002
  9. Series IX. Fundraising, 1879-2000, n.d.
  10. Series X. Photogrpahs and Video, 1981-1990, n.d.
  11. Series XI. Historical Information, 1891-1998, n.d.
  12. Series XII. Other Exchanges and the Federation of Woman's Exchanges, 1879-2000, n.d.
  13. Series XIII. In-Store Displays and Exhibits, n.d.

The materials are arranged chronologically within each series.