Records of the Association for the Relief of Respectable, Aged and Indigent Females in New York City
Language of Materials
Eight volumes of records including pensioners' rolls, 1813-1832, 1840-1860; meeting minutes, 1814-1817; Advisory Committee minutes, 1867-1882; journal of visits, 1839-1843; expenditures, 1814; receipts, 1849-1862; accounts for extra fuel, 1844-1862; and death register, 1838-1875.
The Association for the Relief of Respectable, Aged and Indigent Females was formed in the autumn of 1813, organized the following February, and incorporated on 10 March 1815 to aid widows of the recent War of 1812 and the more distant American Revolution, women "who once enjoyed a good degree of affluence," but were by then "reduced to poverty by the vicissitudes of Providence."
A subscription begun in 1833 (to which John Jacob Astor donated $5,000 and Peter G. Stuyvesant gave three property lots) allowed the construction in 1837-38 of a four-story brick asylum at 226 East 20th Street (since demolished) to accommodate about one hundred pensioners and association officers. The building provided "a place of comfort to persons of refined sensibilities," unlike "the common almshouse, filled as it usually [was] with the dregs of society." An infirmary was added in 1845.
As the Association's charitable activities expanded, the need for a larger home led to the construction of the extant 891 Amsterdam Avenue, designed by the noted architect Richard Morris Hunt. First occupied in June 1883 (after the records in this collection end), the building formally opened in December during the Association's seventieth anniversary celebrations that year. The residence accepted any respectable woman above age sixty, provided she was not a Roman Catholic and surrendered any personal property to the Association along with an entrance fee of $150.
The Association operated as late as 1974 — by then it was known as the "Association Residence Nursing Home" or the "Association Residence for Women" — when its occupants were relocated to another facility in anticipation of the construction of a modern building. This never happened, and the Association dissolved. The City of New York acquired the Amsterdam Avenue property in 1978, and after a period of decline, the structure was rehabilitated and now functions as the largest hostel in North America.
For further information, see The Constitution, and First and Second Annual Reports of the Proceedings of the Association for the Relief of Respectable, Aged, Indigent Females (New York: J. Seymour, 1815); Rev. John F. Richmond, New York and its Institutions, 1609-1872 (New York: E. B. Treat, 1872); and the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission's designation report LP-1280 for the Association Residence for Respectable Aged Indigent Females (Association Residence for Women), 891 Amsterdam Avenue.
The eight small volumes in this collection are housed in a single box. They are individually foldered and arranged in two series:
Series I: Expenditures, Receipts, and Meeting Minutes
Series II: Pensioner and Asylum records
Scope and Contents
This small collection spans the first seventy years of the existence of the Association for the Relief of Respectable, Aged and Indigent Females in New York City, from its inception in 1813 through its move, in 1883, to a substantial (and, ultimately, final) home at 891 Amsterdam Avenue. Due to the significant breaks in coverage, these records are best consulted in conjunction with the Association's published annual reports; the New-York Historical Society Library holds the years 1815-1871 (with gaps) under call number F128 HV1447 .N5 A87.
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This collection should be cited as Records of the Association for the Relief of Respectable, Aged and Indigent Females of New York City, MS 801, New-York Historical Society.
Location of Materials
Immediate Source of Acquisition
McKesson Fund purchase, January 1976.