Five College Archives and Manuscript
Home >> Sophia Smith Collection >> New England Learning Center for Women in Transition (NELCWIT) Records, 1975-2001 (ongoing)
Smith College seal
New England Learning Center for Women in Transition records, 1975-2001 (ongoing)
2 boxes (1.75 linear ft.)
Collection number: MS 459

Women's shelter. The NELCWIT Records include reports, planning board minutes, personal writings, fundraising and outreach materials, articles and clippings, and publications. The collection documents the organization's administration, shelter and counseling services, and educational programs from its founding in 1976 to the present. Included are personal writings by survivors of domestic violence and abuse; research papers; and publicity and printed materials related to issues of domestic violence and sexual abuse in Western Massachusetts and beyond.

Terms of Access and Use:

Restrictions on access:

The records are open to research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection, except for a small portion of restricted material. Researchers must sign an Access Agreement form agreeing to preserve the anonymity of individuals represented in the collection.

Restrictions on use:

Copyright to materials produced by NELCWIT has been transferred to the Sophia Smith Collection. Permission must be obtained to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use."

Sophia Smith Collection
Smith College
Northampton, MA

Biographical Note

The New England Learning Center for Women in Transition (NELCWIT) targets the needs of women and children in largely rural Franklin County, Massachusetts who have experienced domestic or sexual abuse. NELCWIT was the brainchild of a collective of Franklin County women who, particularly influenced by the self-help ethos of 1970s feminism, devised a means of raising awareness and providing solutions for violence in the home. Working at a time when municipal agencies offered no services for women leaving abusive homes and law enforcement routinely encouraged battered wives to make amends with their husbands, the founders established NELCWIT as a direct service and support agency. Rejecting the prevailing mentality that domestic abuse was a matter to be settled within the family and that it was primarily the fault of the victim, NELCWIT compelled local social service agencies to consider the hands-on approach to preventing and resolving domestic violence.

The group opened an office in 1976, relying solely, at first, on volunteered staff and resources to offer counseling, information, and an ad hoc shelter program that housed women and children fleeing abusive situations in the private homes of supporters. By the late 1970s, successful fundraising efforts and job funding disbursed through the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) allowed NELCWIT's programming to flourish. NELCWIT established a space that functioned exclusively as an emergency shelter and networked successfully with other women's groups and social service and law enforcement agencies to devise solutions to domestic violence and sexual abuse. Unfortunately, the service was much needed: rural isolation made it difficult for many victims to get the psychological and material support necessary to escape abusive situations, and the region's high unemployment and economic hardships produced a stressful atmosphere that contributed to family violence.

At its inception, the group functioned as a strictly feminist, anti-hierarchical enterprise. Administration was managed collectively, "personal sharing" was on most meeting agendas, and "process meetings" assured that no single volunteer or employee exercised too much influence. Around 1980, at the height of its rise to prominence as a self-starting and well-utilized service provider, local selectmen pulled NELCWIT's CETA funding, citing the organization's collective administration (which was seen as providing insufficient oversight) and "anti-male" bias as justification. NELCWIT waged a successful battle to recapture the funding, but the impasse marked the first of several funding crises and a shift to a more traditional administrative structure (although the organization continued to be led and staffed primarily by women). Its longevity and status as a pioneer in the field of providing shelter, support, and prevention of domestic abuse helped to establish it as a recipient of United Way funding and as an influential player in the social services landscape of Franklin County. While NELCWIT has not abandoned its core mission of addressing domestic abuse, its programming has branched out to include outreach to abusers and efforts to stop racism. NELCWIT remains an active organization.

Scope and contents of the collection

This partially processed portion of NELCWIT Records consists of 1.75 linear ft. and documents the organization's founding and programming from 1975 to 2001. The date spans of 1976-81 and 1987-2001 are particularly well represented. Confidential client and shelter records are not included as part of the collection, and they will not be deposited at the Sophia Smith Collection.

SERIES I. ADMINISTRATION pertains to the creation and ongoing management of NELCWIT. The material contained in its Board of Directors and Planning Board committee files trace the organization's evolution from its conception to the creation of an effective agency with a paid staff and a large list of clientele. The committee work gives considerable evidence of the difficulty of reconciling the founders' egalitarian ideals with the day-to-day operations of a growing group, particularly in the sometimes-hostile environment of greater Franklin County. These factors are also evident in the administrative correspondence, internal news sheets, and fundraising files. In addition, the series' fundraising files indicate the intensive, creative efforts necessary to sustain a non-profit organization. The Personnel files include materials from reunions of NELCWIT staffers, and a small file of statistics for 1977 indicate the range of functions the organization served.

SERIES II. PROGRAMS contains materials of some of NELCWIT's ancillary efforts, including conferences, an anti-racism initiative of the 1990s, and participation in the Franklin County Coalition for a Safe Community (FCCSC). The FCCSC sponsored Violence Awareness Prevention Awareness events and was the result of a coalition among the county's health and human service agencies and organizations. This series also contains the records of the Woman of the Year banquet sponsored by NELCWIT from 1989-95. Woman of the Year efforts solicited input from the citizens of Franklin County to single out and celebrate the achievements of a local woman; it also served as a means of generating awareness and advertising revenue for NELCWIT.

NELCWIT's primary programming work is best documented in SERIES III. PUBLICITY AND WRITINGS. Publicity includes articles and newspaper clippings about the organization, as well as printed material produced by NELCWIT for outreach and fundraising purposes. Clippings from local newspapers trace the services provided by NELCWIT over the thirty-year course of its existence, documenting its emergency services, efforts to compel recognition of the toll of abuse, and the long-term counseling and support groups offered as means to cope with and healing from violence. News coverage also records the changing atmosphere in which NELCWIT was received, beginning with receptivity toward its efforts initially being found primarily in the alternative and feminist press and eventually garnering a greater appreciation and recognition for its work. A series of domestic violence-related homicides in Franklin County in the late-1980s brought a spate of press coverage to Franklin County and highlighted the necessity for domestic abuse awareness and prevention. The printed material produced by NELCWIT includes newsletters, brochures, fundraising appeals, and informational packets. These materials illustrate the variety of programs undertaken throughout the years and demonstrate one of the primary means by which NELCWIT sought to help women empower themselves, which was to provide the information and resources to recognize and escape abusive relationships.

Writings include a report, "Domestic Abuse of Women in Franklin County, Massachusetts," (1978) and a Master's Thesis, "New England Learning Center for Women in Transition: The Planning Stages of a Residential Learning Center for Women in Transition," (1978) give in-depth accounts of NELCWIT's treatment approaches and the type of situations in which it was called to assist. Files relating to the writing project "Shattered Silences" have considerable historical value. In 1991, NELCWIT solicited writings related to abuse for a published booklet. The poetry and prose pieces can be read as both therapeutic exercises for survivors and a means to implode the silences and misinformation surrounding sexual and physical abuse.

SERIES IV. SUBJECT FILES consists of printed materials which provide more general reference information and background on matters of violence; spousal, child, and sexual abuse; and feminism. These materials were possibly used by staff and clients as resource files.

Organization of the collection

This collection is organized into four series:

Organization of the collection

Note: This collection has not been fully processed;therefore:

  • Folders may not be clearly labeled or numbered.
  • Some materials may not be in folders.
  • Materials may not be in logical order within folders.
  • The container list may not be very detailed, or completely accurate.
  • There may be duplicates of some materials.
  • Locations of materials are subject to change when collection is fully processed at a later date.
  • Some items may be fragile or deteriorated, requiring further preservation treatment.


  • Handle fragile or deteriorated items with extreme care.
  • Remove one file at a time and place a flag in its place in the box.
  • Put items and folders back in their original order.
  • When citing materials do not use box and/or folder numbers as they may change.
  • We know you are trying to be helpful, but please refrain from making corrections to the lists or the folders.

Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

The records are open to research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection, except for a small portion of restricted material. Researchers must sign an Access Agreement form agreeing to preserve the anonymity of individuals represented in the collection.

Restrictions on use:

Copyright to materials produced by NELCWIT has been transferred to the Sophia Smith Collection. Permission must be obtained to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use."

Preferred Citation

Please use the following format when citing materials from this collection:

New England Learning Center for Women in Transition Records, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Mass.

Additional Formats

The video tapes in this collection have been digitized and are available to view online (Smith campus only).

History of the Collection

The New England Learning Center for Women in Transition donated its records to the Sophia Smith Collection beginning in 2001.


Periodic additions to collection are expected and may not be reflected in this finding aid.

Processing Information

Preliminary processing done by Amanda Izzo, 2005.

Additional Information
Contact Information
Smith College Special Collections
Young Library
4 Tyler Drive
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: (413) 585-2970
Fax: (413) 585-2886


Contents List

circa 1970s

Box 1: folder 1
Board of Directors

Box 1
Agendas, minutes, reports, lists, and notes,

Box 1: folder 2-3
Membership forms,

Box 1: folder 4
Director search: job description, interview material, and notes,
circa 1981

Box 1: folder 5
Planning board committee (includes miscellaneous committees)

Box 1
Minutes and agendas,

Box 1: folder 6-8

Box 1: folder 9

Box 1: folder 10
Fundraising and organizational development

[see also SERIES II. PROGRAMS--Woman of the Year Banquet]

Box 1
Bowl-a-thon fundraiser: press releases, notes, and scorecards,

Box 1: folder 11
Proposals, process committee materials, notes, budgets, and reports,
1975-81, undated

Box 1: folder 12
Fundraisers' committee: notes,

Box 1: folder 13
Completed fundraisers: correspondence, drafts, and notes,

Box 1: folder 14
Mini-grants: fundraising correspondence,

Box 1: folder 15
Major gifts campaign: correspondence, research materials, pledges, lists, and notes,

Box 1: folder 16-17
Research and notes, circa early

Box 1: folder 18
Ideas and research,

Box 1: folder 19
Funding and budget: notes,, n.d.
1987, 1998-2001

Box 1: folder 20
Internal news sheets,

Box 1: folder 21
Office space: New Salem Academy building use proposal and photographs, circa 1976; and correspondence and bills,

Box 1: folder 22

Box 1
Reunion: correspondence, publicity, mailing lists,
1986, 2001

Box 1: folder 23
Job listings,

Box 1: folder 24
Volunteer application materials and notes,

Box 1: folder 25

Box 1: folder 26

Anti-racism work,
circa 1997

Box 1: folder 27

Box 1
Memoranda and publicity,

Box 1: folder 28
Sexual assault conference: registration and notes,

Box 1: folder 29
Franklin County Coalition for a Safe Community

Box 1
Stationery, financial, and facility information,

Box 1: folder 30
Violence Prevention Awareness Events: correspondence, memoranda, minutes, mailing lists, and notes,

Box 1: folder 31
Press releases, clippings, and writings,
1994-95, undated

Box 1: folder 32
Shelter admission forms,

Box 1: folder 33
Woman of the Year Banquet: correspondence, program material, nominations, photographs, and notes,

Box 1: folder 34-41


Box 1: folder 42-44
Clippings and printed material about NELCWIT and Franklin County,
1976-2001, undated

Box 1
First NELCWIT flier,

Box 1: folder 45
Informational packet: articles, fliers, and statistics,

Box 1: folder 46
Printed materials: handouts, announcements, and fundraising appeals from NELCWIT,
1987-2001, undated (circa 1980s-90s)

Box 1: folder 47-48
Statements, press releases, "position papers,"and miscellaneous information about NELCWIT,

Box 1: folder 49
NELCWIT newsletter,

[see also SERIES I. ADMINISTRATION--Internal news sheets]

1986, 1990-2001

Box 2: folder 1

Box 2
Reports (including CETA-funded "Domestic Abuse of Women in Franklin County, Massachusetts"),

Box 2: folder 2
"New England Learning Center for Women in Transition: The Planning Stages of a Residential Learning Center for Women in Transition," Master's thesis by Susan Weinberg (Goddard: Cambridge),

Box 2: folder 3
Shattered Silences: collection of writings about abuse sponsored by NELCWIT,

Box 2
Printed book and page proofs

Box 2: folder 4
Correspondence, financial material, and notes,

Box 2: folder 5
Writing submissions and correspondence [Closed: folders have been removed]

Box 2

Printed material and clippings,

Box 2: folder 6-9
Newsletters and magazines

Box 2
Feminist publications,

Box 2: folder 10
Ecumenical Resource Consultants: newsletter,

Box 2: folder 11

Search Terms
The following terms represent persons, organizations, and topics documented in this collection. Use these headings to search for additional materials on this web site, in the Five College Library Catalog, or in other library catalogs and databases.

  • Abused women--Services for--Massachusetts--History--Sources
  • Family violence--Massachusetts--History--Sources
  • Feminists--Greenfield (Mass)--History--Sources
  • Franklin County (Mass.)--History--Sources
  • New England Learning Center for Women in Transition (Greenfield, Mass.)--History--Sources
  • Rural women--Massachusetts--History--Sources
  • Sexual abuse victims--Services for--United States.
  • Women's shelters--Massachusetts--History--Sources
  • Women--Legal status, laws, etc.--Massachusetts--History

Questions about this collection? Contact the archives
Home | Help | About | Search