The mission of the Newburyport Society for the Relief of Aged Women is to serve needy women sixty years and older.  We are a private not-for-profit foundation established in 1835 and formally incorporated in 1839.  

Women who are designated Newburyport area residents for at least one year, or are former Newburyport residents who were forced to relocate for financial or medical reasons are considered for aid.  Priority will be given to women who demonstrate indigent status or acute need for assistance. The Society will utilize all resources to serve identified elderly women in the Newburyport area, including collaborative efforts with established agencies that provide such services. 


The Newburyport Society for the Relief of Aged women was established in 1835 by a small group of women who, out of the concern for aged and poverty stricken women in the area, devised a plan to start a fund to assist these women in their own homes.  Initially the members would simply visit the elderly women in their homes once a month bringing packages of tea, flour, sugar, clothing, etc.

Subsequently, it was proposed that a home be established for some women who were forced to live in dreary conditions.  In 1865, a separate fund was established for the purchase of a home.  Several large donations were received that year including a $3,000 gift from Mrs. William Wheelwright, a native of Newburyport who was living in South America at the time.  In 1866, a house was purchased at 18 Olive Street. The fund was found insufficient at the time to carry the expense of a home; therefore it was rented and the rent was added to the house fund.

Eventually the fund grew to $12,000, in part due to the continued generosity of Mrs. Wheelwright, enabling the Society to proceed to establish a home, with five women living in residence the first year.  In 1887, Mrs. Wheelwright died and bequeathed her home at 75 High Street to the Society, along with $5000 for maintenance expenses.  The home, known as the Wheelwright House, was quickly filled with thirteen women in need, and in 1892 the home on Olive Street was sold.

Over time the Wheelwright House required updates to the heating system, installation of electricity, telephone, expansion for more women and finally an elevator, all of which were accomplished in the early 1900’s.  In an attempt to keep the home open, extensive grant writing efforts were undertaken in the early 2000’s to assist with the maintenance and upkeep of a large and aging house and to meet the changing state and federal regulations associated with the services offered to the residents.  

However, it became obvious that the Society would not be able to maintain its Mission to serve elderly women whose needs were changing, if its resources continued to be depleted in its service to a small number of women living in the home. Therefore, in order to continue to maintain its Mission in a responsible manner, the Wheelwright House was sold in 2006.

Following the closing of the Wheelwright House, the Board of Directors established a plan to fulfill its Mission by using its resources to serve a greater number of needy elderly women (age 60 and above) in the designated area of Newburyport, Newbury and Salisbury.  It now solicits applications for aid from individuals to meet critical needs such as health care, utility assistance, rent, food vouchers as well as emergency assistance for unexpected bills.

In addition, the Society solicits applications for grants from non-profit organizations that demonstrate the funds will be used to directly service needy elderly women.  The Society has provided significant grants to organizations such as the YWCA of Greater Newburyport, Opportunity Works, Community Action, Inc. Heating Assistance Program, Anna Jaques Community Health Foundation, Newburyport, Newbury and Salisbury Councils on Aging, Merrimack Valley Home Health VNA, Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Assisted Living Center - Salisbury, as well as many others.