Information for Researchers
Scope and Contents
Title: San Francisco Ladies' Protection and Relief Society records
Date (inclusive): 1853-1969
Collection Number: MS 3576
San Francisco Ladies' Protection and Relief
Crocker Old People's Home.
8 boxes, 1 oversize volume
(4.75 linear feet)
California Historical Society
678 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA, 94105
Physical Location: Collection is stored onsite.
Language of Materials: Collection materials are in English.
Consists of the records of the San Francisco Ladies
Protection and Relief Society, the Scandinavian Benevolent and Relief Society (later
known as the Crocker Old People's Home), and the entity created by the merger of the
two societies, Heritage House, spanning the years 1853-1969. Includes twenty-eight
volumes, including minute books (1853-1955), case histories (1871-1909), and
registers (1880s-1890s, 1929) of the San Francisco Ladies' Protection and Relief
Society; bylaws, case files, and financial records of the Crocker Old People's Home;
and records of the organizations after their merger in 1955.
Information for Researchers
Copyright has not been assigned to the California Historical Society. All
requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted
in writing to the Director of Research Collections. Permission for publication
is given on behalf of the California Historical Society as the owner of the
physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the
copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.
[Identification of item], San Francisco Ladies' Protection and Relief Society
Records, MS 3576, California Historical Society.
Collection arranged chronologically.
The bulk of the collection was donated by the San Francisco Ladies' Protection
and Relief Society in 1980. Additional volumes were donated circa 1997. Volume 1
was purchased in 2007.
Processed by California Historical Society staff.
Scope and Contents
The San Francisco Ladies' Protection and Relief Society records consist of
twenty-eight volumes documenting the history and merger of the San Francisco Ladies'
Protection and Relief Society and the Scandinavian Benevolent and Relief Society.
Included are minutes, reports, financial records, case histories, and board
The extensive minutes of the San Francisco Ladies' Protection and Relief Society span
the years 1853-1955. Subjects discussed in these minutes include individual
qualifications for admittance to the home, decisions regarding property locations,
school curriculum (including methods to avoid personality clashes), and ways to
maintain a good relationship with the general public. There are many interesting
anecdotes, such as the 1891 spiritualist who was denied a child until the Society
could be "taught a lesson in broad-mindedness." Reports from the education, library,
home furnishings, clothing, social work, financial, and home economic committees
illustrate how daily decisions were finalized.
The case histories of the San Francisco Ladies' Protection and Relief Society are a
vivid, detailed portrait of the poorer side of Victorian life. Although written from
the perspective of middle-class women, the histories provide a glimpse into
working-class family economics. Also contained are descriptions of self-supporting
women's attempts to find employment.
The Scandinavian Benevolent and Relief Society records consist of bylaws, cash books,
and case files. The bylaws of the Society are traced from 1879-1923, detailing the
various changes over that fifty year period. Case files offer records of births,
deaths, burials, and diseases. There are some short individual histories as
The bulk of this portion of the collection is made up of cash books. Tracing the
financial history of the organization from 1895-1923, the books focus on budgets,
salaries, supplies, funerals, laundry bonds, and general expenses.
The documents in this worthwhile collection fit well into the new social history of
the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. By exploring the Victorian world through the
records of a middle-class charity organization, we are able to view their attitudes
of class, as well as get an idea of the lives of the women who rarely recorded their
With a pledge to "render protection and relief to strangers, to sick and dependent
women and children," Mrs. A.B. Eaton and her friends formed the San Francisco
Ladies' Protection and Relief Society in 1853. From their offices at 151 Sacramento
Street, these middle-class women aided women not quite as fortunate as themselves.
With a Board of Lady Managers in charge of the daily affairs, and a Board of
Trustees to manage the financial decisions, the Society offered relief to women who
had moved to San Francisco searching for either relatives or fortunes, only to find
themselves alone and penniless. Seeking temporary homes and secure employment, the
recently arrived women sought out the Society for assistance for themselves and
By 1857 the Society had grown from an office to a live-in home at Second and Tehama
Streets. Known as the "Hospitality House," the residence also developed a thorough
program to help orphans find adopted families. In 1858 the Act of Legislature
granted the Society permission to apprentice the children in a system known as
"binding out." Doubling as an employment agency, the Society sent orphans to work in
local businesses or in family homes as domestic servants. While this was a
charitable effort, it also represented class attitudes of the Society members who
sought to place the children in lower paying jobs, which reflected what they
believed to be the children's proper station in life.
When in 1860 the Society was again forced to move, philanthropist Horace Hawes
donated his lot at the corner of Franklin and Geary. Designed by S.C. Bugbee, the
imposing brick structure stood on what was then the edge of town. The house on the
"sandy hill" served as both home and school. Lessons offered by the Society included
sewing, cooking and moral training for young women. "Homemaking," the Society
espoused, was "woman's highest privilege." Most of the women were trained to go into
department sales, hairdressing and later, clerking and typing. After 1913 the
children were educated in the public schools.
There was a marked change in people's attitudes regarding child care institutions in
the 1920s. An even stronger ideology of home and family advocated that foster homes
should replace the impersonal atmosphere of the large, often overcrowded
institutions. Caught in the changing ideology, the Society members began to discuss
what other social services they could offer the city of San Francisco. After much
deliberation, they chose to help the elderly. They moved to their site at 3400
Laguna. Designed by Julia Morgan, the home was soon to enjoy the reputation of one
of the finest retirement homes in the city.
In later years, the property dedicated to the Society by Horace Hawes continued to be
of great value. After leasing the property to various businesses over the years, the
Society drafted a tremendously lucrative contract with the Jack Tar Hotel. This 1954
contract assured them of a secure economic future.
The Scandinavian Benevolent and Relief Society was among the many Victorian relief
societies which existed at the same time as the San Francisco Ladies' Protection and
Relief Society. Founded in 1875 by Minnie Nelson, the Society was dedicated to the
care of the elderly. With an ever-growing staff of volunteers, they established an
"old people's home" on Francisco Street near Powell and Stockton.
The Society remained at this site until 1884 when Mary Crocker offered her lot at the
corner of Pine and Pierce as a memorial to her late husband Charles Crocker, the
railroad magnate. When the Society moved to their new location, they promptly
changed their name to the Crocker Old People's Home. The San Francisco Fire
Department finally condemned the building as a fire hazard in the 1930s. For twenty
years, the Society was engaged in a legal dispute with the department, until they
were finally forced to leave in the early 1950's.
After much discussion and litigation, the San Francisco Ladies' Protection and Relief
Society and the Crocker Old People's Home decided that it would be to their mutual
advantage to merge into a single organization. In 1957 the Crocker Old People's Home
moved into the Laguna Street building. Following this merger, the living area was
expanded and a hospital wing was added to the structure. The merged entity continued
operating as the San Francisco Ladies' Protection Society, renaming the 3400 Laguna
Street facility "The Heritage" in 1959. The organization is officially now the San
Francisco Ladies' Protection and Relief Society DBA (doing business as) The
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the
library's online public access catalog.
Scandinavian Benevolent and Relief
Women--Societies and clubs.