Elizabeth E. Boit

  • Elizabeth E. Boit
  • "Elizabeth Eaton Boit, the first woman in the United States to be actively involved in the manufacture of textile goods, was born in Newton on July 9, 1848 [i.e. 1849] to James H. and Amanda (Berry) Boit. She attended Newton public schools and the Lasell Seminary at Auburndale for two years. In 1866 at the age of 18, Miss Boit was employed by Dudley Hosiery Mill as timekeeper for the sewing department and was later promoted to forewoman. She was later named Superintendent of the Allston Mills at Cottage Farm, the first position of its kind ever held by a woman. In 1888, she and Charles N. Winship, her co-worker at both Dudley Hosiery Mill and Allston Mills entered into a partnership for the manufacture of ladies undergarments with a combined investment of $2500. The firm, Winship, Boit & Company served as proprietor of the Harvard Knitting Mills and began their operation in Cambridgeport, employing 25 workers who produced 20 dozen garments each day. The company moved to Wakefield in 1889 and occupied the entire third floor of the Wakefield Block, later known as the Taylor Building. At the time 40 workers were employed and the firm boasted 10 knitting machines and five sewing machines. Business increased and the company later occupied several other floors in the building. In 1895, the company employed 160 workers, mostly young ladies, in the factory and between 200 to 250 additional workers who crocheted the finish work in their own homes. At the time the company expanded their line to include infants', children's, ladies' and men's undergarments and did a business of $250,000. Miss Boit served as Superintendent in charge of the office and the business management of the firm. In 1897 the firm purchased a parcel of land at the corner of Lake and Albion Streets. Eventually the firm would occupy over 8 acres of space as several additions were built over the years. She was a friend to her workers and built a 'mini hospital' at the factory for Harvard Knitting Mills employees in 1917 and instituted a maternity leave for the women. Miss Boit was active in the community and was the first woman in the country to serve on the Board of Directors of a bank, (Wakefield Co-operative Bank). She was also active in the First Baptist Church and was involved in several real estate transactions including the Boit Apartments on Richardson Avenue. Miss Boit served as a founder and Treasurer of the Wakefield Home for Aged Women which was established in 1894 to 'furnish a home for women who have been residents of the town of Wakefield not less than ten years.' The home was constructed at 5 Bennett Street and was renamed the 'Elizabeth E. Boit Home for Aged Women' in 1921 in recognition of her generosity and faithful assistance in the management of the home. She passed away in 1932 at her home which is located at the corner of Chestnut and Prospect Streets." -- Text from calendar by Jayne M. D'Onofrio.
  • Image from the Wakefield Municipal Gas and Light Department annual calendar, 1990
  • Photos courtesy of the Wakefield Daily Item and the Wakefield Historical Society.
  • Wakefield Municipal Gas & Light Department


“Elizabeth E. Boit,” NOBLE Digital Heritage, accessed September 29, 2020, https://digitalheritage.noblenet.org/noble/items/show/6931.


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