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Louise Marion Bosworth (1881–1982)

Louise Marion Bosworth grew up in Elgin, Illinois. After attending Elgin Academy she studied at Dana Hall School in Wellesley, Massachusetts (1900–1901), and at Mountain Seminary in Birmingham, Pennsylvania (1901–1902). She entered Wellesley College in 1902, where she became president of the Philosophy Club, a house president, and manager of the senior play. After graduating in 1907 she moved to Boston, where she began a research fellowship at the Women's Educational and Industrial Union (WEIU).

While at the WEIU she participated in the general duties of the Union's research department, but she focused on completing a survey of the incomes and expenses of working women in Boston. The survey asked women about their country of birth, employment history, income and expenditures, and housing. Included in the questionnaires were detailed questions about the amount of money women spent on lodging, food, clothing, health, recreation, and education. The surveys were complemented by reports describing visits to women in their rooming houses and dining halls. From these reports we learn that women participating in the survey were encouraged to keep records of their income and expenses in account books provided by the WEIU. (Bosworth kept similar expense books during this period.) The results of this investigation were later published as The Living Wage of Women Workers, as a supplement to the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (Philadelphia, 1911) and by Longmans, Green & Company (1911).

During the period that she was completing the living-wage survey, Bosworth herself was learning how to live on her salary of $9.61 a week, share living space with other working women, and find time in her busy schedule for rest and relaxation. Unlike many of the women she studied, Bosworth had the advantages of a supportive and generous family and an excellent education. She was active on a number of WEIU committees and continued to take courses both at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and at Radcliffe College, where she studied economics.

Bosworth left Boston in 1911 to work for settlement houses in Chicago, closer to her family home in Elgin. There she received a certificate from the Chicago School of Philanthropy. She went on to work in Traverse City, Michigan, and in Philadelphia, where she took part in a survey of available housing that would later be published as Housing Conditions in Main Line Towns (Philadelphia: Committee on Investigation of the Main Line Housing Association, 1914). For the remainder of her life she continued to do social welfare research and work, living in St. Paul, Minnesota, New York City, Great Barrington, Massachusetts, Elgin, Illinois, and Washington, Connecticut. She died in Connecticut on August 6, 1982.

Digitized Archival Materials

Family Correspondence; Louise Marion Bosworth to Eleanora W. Bosworth

Series of letters exchanged between Louise Marion Bosworth and her mother Eleanora W. Bosworth during the period 1907-1910. Louise's letters to her mother relate the events of her everyday life, including her work at the WEIU, social activities, living arrangements, and her own struggles to economize. In her letters to her daughter, Eleanora Bosworth apprises her of her own social activities, the health of family members, and her travels with her husband. She offers Louise advice about dealing with "nervousness" and depression, often entreating her to work less or to leave her position and take a sabbatical.

Living Wage Survey: Questionnaires

Completed questionnaires that would become the raw data for the book "Living Wage for Self-Supporting Women." Two very similar questionnaires were used: one a four-page form that was used from 1907 to 1908, and the other a two-page form entitled "Living Wage Schedule" that was used from 1908 to 1909. The two surveys ask for essentially the same information: occupation, income, expenses, and living arrangements. Particular attention was paid to the amount of money working women spent on clothing.

Living Wage Survey: Typescript Reports

Investigative reports related to The Living Wage of Women Workers. The reports include accounts of visits to individual women and to boarding houses or residences where they lived and boarded. From these reports we learn that Bosworth and her fellow researchers were introduced to possible informants by women they had already interviewed or knew from the social work. The reports related to particular women discuss their living arrangements, work situations, and appearance and health. Bosworth encouraged these women to keep expense-account books as in the examples below, but it is unclear how much success she had. Other reports describe the cost, food, and atmosphere of dining rooms, for example at the YWCA in Boston, that catered to working women.

Living Wage Survey: Expense Account Books

Two handwritten expense account books:

Full Collection Citation

Louise Marion Bosworth Papers. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University

Electronic Finding Aid

Bosworth, Louise Marion, 1881–1982. Papers, 1890–1946: A Finding Aid (85-M71). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe College, Cambridge, MA.

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