Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
Finding Aid to the San Francisco Ladies' Protection and Relief Society Records MS 3576
MS 3576  
View entire collection guide What's This?
Search this collection
Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • Scope and Contents
  • History
  • Indexing Terms

  • Collection Summary

    Title: San Francisco Ladies' Protection and Relief Society records
    Date (inclusive): 1853-1969
    Collection Number: MS 3576
    Creator: San Francisco Ladies' Protection and Relief Society.
    Creator: Crocker Old People's Home.
    Extent: 8 boxes, 1 oversize volume (4.75 linear feet)
    Repository: California Historical Society
    678 Mission Street
    San Francisco, CA, 94105
    URL: http://www.californiahistoricalsociety.org/
    Physical Location: Collection is stored onsite.
    Language of Materials: Collection materials are in English.
    Abstract: 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


    CHS is not taking appointments for research at this time. Please check the Library's website updates: https://californiahistoricalsociety.org/collections/north-baker-research-library/ 

    Publication Rights

    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.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], San Francisco Ladies' Protection and Relief Society Records, MS 3576, California Historical Society.


    Collection arranged chronologically.

    Administrative Information

    Acquisition Information

    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.

    Processing Information

    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 membership lists.
    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 well.
    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 life histories.


    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 their children.
    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 Heritage.

    Indexing Terms

    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 Society.
    Charities--California--San Francisco.
    Women--Societies and clubs.
    Financial records.