by Zoë Quinn and Susan Baker-Leavitt, Collections Care Specialists
For Salem Women’s History Day we have chosen to highlight a seemingly innocuous object: a bulletin board. This bulletin board, however, displayed notices for the Salem Unit of the Massachusetts Division of the Women’s Committee of the Council of National Defense. During World War One, President Woodrow Wilson called upon Dr. Anna Howard Shaw of Michigan, a well-known and respected suffragette, to establish an all-female domestic committee dedicated to the aid and preservation of the home front. Established in April 1917, The Women’s Committee of the Council of National Defense was the first governmental organization exclusively comprised of and run by women.
It should come as no surprise that The House of the Seven Gables became involved in this aspect of the war effort. The House of the Seven Gables was founded to help support the settlement work done by Caroline Emmerton to benefit the immigrant population of Salem and later the community at large. Shaw’s Women’s Committee and its chapters focused on Americanization, child welfare, food administration and production, foreign and allied relief, health and recreation, voter registration, women in industry, and education. This list reads as though it were written by Emmerton herself to describe the mission of her settlement, further bolstering the role of women in the success and well-being of Salem and its citizens even in dark and difficult times.