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The TriCollege Libraries Digital Collections include unique and rare archival collections, manuscripts, publications, ephemera, maps, photographs, and audiovisual content, including oral histories, from Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and Swarthmore Colleges. The materials available reflect the strengths and collecting priorities of each institution. To browse the collections of an individual institution, use the "All Institutions" drop down menu below.
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The Female Society of Philadelphia for the Relief and Employment of the Poor was established in 1795 by Anne Parrish, a young Quaker woman who wished to address the issues of poverty which had become aggravated following the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1793. She founded the society with the help of 23 other Quaker women, who began travelling around the city seeking those in need, especially the widows and children of Yellow Fever victims. At first, help was given in the form of food, clothing, or money for fuel. Soon, the Female Society decided that more permanent help was necessary, and that it would be more productive to give the needy a way to earn their own money. The Female Society established a House of Industry, which employed women to spin flax and wool. In 1799, to accommodate those workers with young children, a daycare center was opened at the House of Industry, possibly the first of its kind in the country. The Female Society was incorporated in 1815, and established a constitution and by-laws. The House of Industry reached its peak around 1854, when it employed 154 women and had 73 children in the nursery. In 1916, the Female Society joined the Philadelphia Society for the Instruction and Employment of the Poor to establish the Catherine Street House of Industry. By this time, more jobs had been made available to women elsewhere, so the majority of the Female Society’s workers were elderly and in need of less physically strenuous occupations. In the Catherine Street House of Industry, the women sewed for hospitals and other charity organizations in exchange for small weekly wages and a hot meal every day. The sewing room was closed in 1949, and the Female Society established in its place the Friends House for Older Neighbors. In 1959, the Female Society established a new, larger organization called the Philadelphia Center for Older People, which included non-Quakers and men on its board. Today, the Philadelphia Center for Older People has evolved into the Philadelphia Senior Center.

The collection includes mostly administrative records, as well as pamphlets, newspaper clippings, and photographs from major gatherings and events. The charter from the Female Society’s incorporation in 1815 is also included. The collection spans from the Female Society’s founding in 1795, until 1978.


466 items

Female Society of Philadelphia for the Relief and Employment of the Poor Records

Frances Arnold (1874-1976) attended Bryn Mawr College from 1893 to 1895, affiliating herself with the class of 1897. Upon leaving the College, she attended French finishing school and traveled abroad. In 1899, she returned home to New York City to teach mathematics at the Brearley School. Except for a brief stint supervising women who assembled torpedoes during World War I, Arnold remained at Brearley until 1930. This collection includes a book of bound letters, 1893-1897, from Frances Arnold to her mother, father, cousin, and "Minge," an unknown correspondent who is presumed to be family. The letters detail her time at Bryn Mawr College, her experience at French finishing school, and her life traveling in Europe. There are a few incoming letters in this book, but the vast majority were composed by Arnold.

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1 item

Frances Arnold Family Letters

The “Friendly Association for Regaining and Preserving Peace with the Indians by Pacific Measures” was established in 1756 by a group of eminent Quakers in Philadelphia following months of horrific violence between settlers and Native Americans on the Pennsylvania frontier.

The Friendly Association papers contain hundreds of unique and detailed accounts of behind-the-scenes treaty negotiations; historical documents dating back to the early years of Pennsylvania related to work with Indigenous groups; the correspondence of Pemberton and others relating to fund-raising and the exigencies of Pennsylvania politics; and missives from Indian leaders, transcribed or otherwise transmitted by an intricate network of Indian “go-betweens” who maintained almost constant contact with the Association.


707 items

Friendly Association Papers

The Women's Association of Philadelphia for the Relief of the Freedmen was founded in 1862 to provide charitable assistance to recently freed slaves. Many Quakers were involved in this organization, but it was not until the following year that a similar group that was officially affiliated with the Society of Friends emerged. The Friends Association of Philadelphia and its Vicinity for the Relief of Colored Freedmen, was founded by Orthodox Quaker men in 1863. Soon after, in 1864, an equivalent group was established by Hicksite Quakers of both sexes: the Friends' Association for the Aid and Elevation of the Freedmen (amended to the more precise "Friends' Association of Philadelphia for the Aid and Elevation of the Freedmen" in 1865). It is unclear when this association closed, but it was in existence at least as late as 1872. Its Orthodox counterpart, renamed Friends' Freedmen's Association circa 1873, continued to operate in various capacities--most recently as a scholarship fund--until it was dissolved in 1982.

2 items

Close up of printed text reading "Friends' Association for the Aid and Elevation of the Freedmen"

Thousands of images of Friends’ meeting houses have been brought together digitally in this online collection. Photographs from both the Quaker Collection of Haverford College and Friends Historical Library at Swarthmore College are available here. The majority of these images come from within Philadelphia and New York Yearly Meetings, but also include pictures from across the United States and abroad.

1513 items

The inside of a Quaker meetinghouse

Friends Historical Library Miscellaneous Manuscripts is an on-going collection. Before the era of digital surrogates, it included primary and some secondary documents, original manuscripts and photocopies, by and about Quakers and of the Society of Friends and its testimonies. The collection includes significant holdings relevant to antislavery, peace, temperance, women's rights, penal reform, and other social concerns of Quakers in the United States and in England. 

12 items

Close up of a handwritten letter discussing the capabilities of the staff of the Liberator newspaper

This collection contains miscellaneous photographs, engravings, illustrations, and other images, acquired over time from various sources by the Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College. Most depict Quaker schools or the the homes of Quaker families. There are also historically Quaker senior homes, conference and retreat centers, colleges and universities, and social service agencies (hospitals, orphanages, etc.). There are images of additional miscellaneous organizations and topics related to the Society of Friends, as well as some subjects and locales with no direct or obvious connection to Quakerism.

43 items

Engraving of George Fox's head and shoulders

Established in 1871, Friends Historical Library collects archival, manuscript, printed, and visual records concerning the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) from their origins in the mid-seventeenth century to the present. The holdings are a significant research collection for the regional and local history of the middle-Atlantic region of the United States, the history of American social reform, the involvement of Quakers in a variety of movements and organizations.

9250 items

A broadside titled "The Case for the People Called Quakers"

The Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College is devoted to the history of the Society of Friends (Quakers) and its concerns. The Library includes printed works dating from the mid-seventeenth century to the present, as well as archives, manuscripts and other materials. This virtual collection is a small sample of its approximately 60,000 visual resources holdings.

197 items

Black and white photograph of Lucretia and James Mott from the shoulders up

This collection includes selections from Friends Hospital records, including annual reports and superintendents’ daybooks. Friends Hospital was founded by Philadelphia-area Quakers in 1813 under the name ‘The Asylum for Persons Deprived of the Use of Their Reason.’ Their mission statement was: “To provide for the suitable accommodation of persons who are or may be deprived of the use of their reason and the maintenance of an asylum for their reception, which is intended to furnish, besides requisite medical aid, such tender, sympathetic attention as may soothe their agitated minds, and under the Divine Blessing, facilitate their recovery.” In 1817, the hospital accepted its first patients. Friends Asylum was the first private psychiatric hospital in the United States, and one of the first mental hospitals to use moral treatment, which eschewed corporal punishment for the patients and advocated treating them with respect and compassion.


20 items

Friends Hospital Collection