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Massachusetts Senior Action Council : Records, 1978-1994, (Bulk, 1980-1992)


27 linear feet


These Massachusetts Senior Action Council records were donated to the Archives and Special Collections Department of the Healey Library, University of Massachusetts at Boston, in June 1995.


The Massachusetts Senior Action Council was founded in April 1981. The National Council of Senior Citizens' (NCSC) New England Organizing Director (Jim Wessler) was organizing in the area in 1980-81. Through its National Senior Organizing Assistance Project, NCSC gave MSAC its initial funding. The first MSAC board was a Sponsoring Committee of 27 people from five cities; it first met in April 1981 to establish policies and identify leaders for the fledgling organization. By September 1981, there were local councils in Malden, Everett, and Watertown. MSAC now has local councils, or chapters, in many cities and towns across Massachusetts, and dozens of "affiliated" organizations that have representation in the chapters. In the mid-1980s, MSAC became the state affiliate of NSAC. Wessler was MSAC's first staff director and then the first executive director, a post he held until the early 1990s.

MSAC is a participatory democratic organization comprised of individuals and local associations that, at annual conventions, elect officers and identify the grassroots issues that become MSAC's priority for the following year. The first MSAC convention was in October 1983. The Board of Directors meets once a month and sets general policies. Membership is open to people of all ages, but board members must be at least 55. 

A non-profit organization, MSAC works on all issues concerning senior citizens, especially health care, housing, and transportation. Over the years, MSAC has organized, lobbied, publicized, and educated people about such issues as prescription drug costs, medicare rules and legislation, safe and affordable housing, and accessible and affordable public transportation. Since its inception, MSAC's main office has been in the Elizabeth Peabody House, a former settlement house in Somerville. 


Scope and Content

 The MSAC records are arranged in the following series:

               I.  Board, annual reports, 1981-1990

              II.  Correspondence, administrative files, 1980-1993

             III.   Publications, publicity, press clippings, 1981-1993

             IV.  Conventions, finances, fundraising, membership, 1980-1994

              V.  Alphabetical files, 1978-1992

             VI.  Legislation, committees, issues, activities, 1980-1993

            VII.  Chapters, affiliates, local and regional work, 1983-1993

          VIII.   National Council of Senior Citizens, 1981-1993

             IX.  Allied organizations, 1980-1992

The records arrived in the archives in some disarray. Several series were discernable (V, VII, VIII, and parts of II and III), others were created by the processors based on patterns that appeared in the files. A fair amount of material collected by MSAC, particularly from state and federal government, mainstream state organizations, national organizations, that may easily be found elsewhere, was discarded; a list of some of these organizations follows this scope and content note.

These records document the MSAC's work from its founding in 1981 through 1994, although thorough documentation ends in the early 1990s. A few records in the collection, used for planning or other purposes, predate the founding. This collection documents MSAC's governance (through its board and conventions), grassroots organizing and membership drives, work on the local level, cooperation with local affiliates and national organizations, fundraising, various projects and, especially, its lobbying and education efforts. There is also information about a variety of issues affecting senior citizens, and evidence of the growth of a small grassroots organization into a fairly large state-wide one in a short period of time.

This collection is comprised of MSAC's office files. Most of the files date from Jim Wessler's reign as staff and executive director, but it is not clear whether these were his files, records kept under his guidance, central office files, or some combination thereof. Some files were clearly kept by an officer, committee, or local chapter official, who then must have given her/his records to MSAC. Because the provenance of each series is not clear, or varies from folder to folder, researchers should be careful in using these records to establish points of view.

      Series I: BOARD, ANNUAL REPORTS, 1981-1990, 41 ff, includes by-laws, minutes from meetings of the Sponsoring Committee, Board of Directors and Executive Board, and a few annual reports.

     Series II: CORRESPONDENCE, ADMINISTRATIVE FILES, 1980-1993, 109 ff, is comprised of correspondence MSAC kept in notebooks labeled "correspondence copies" or "readers files," and administrative files including notes and minutes from staff meetings and retreats. The correspondence is mostly from MSAC presidents and staff. 

      Series III: PUBLICATIONS, PUBLICITY, PRESS CLIPPINGS, 33 ff, includes MSAC's newsletter (Senior Action News) and newspaper (Senior Action Leader); a few brochures and press releases; a speech; and clippings MSAC kept about its work and that of its local affiliates. MSAC mounted many of the clippings on stationary and used them as publicity. The clippings provide a great deal of information about all of MSAC's activities, especially on the state-wide level, but also on the local level.

     Series IV: CONVENTIONS, FINANCES, FUNDRAISING, MEMBERSHIP, 309 ff. This series combines files that eventually should be broken into separate series. These four topics, however, are integrally related: fundraising is part of finances, increasing membership is part of fundraising, etc. The series is arranged as follows: conventions, retreats, support books, ledgers, proposals and grants, and membership, organizing, general fundraising, etc. The convention files include programs, resolutions, and planning material for the 1983-1993 conventions. Most of the support books are for MSAC's local affiliates. Among the proposals are many to the Campaign for Human Development (US Catholic Conference), which was an early MSAC supporter, the Boston Housing Authority, and the City of Boston for Title IIIB of the Older Americans Act funds. The proposals provide summaries of MSAC's work, descriptions of the projects proposed, and, often, detailed financial information.

      Series V: ALPHABETICAL FILES, 214 ff, covers almost every subject one would expect to find in MSAC's records. These files do not appear to have been maintained by one particular person; they may have been the central file under Executive Director James Wessler. Most of the files were kept by staff, others were kept by MSAC committees. The series includes subject files for many of the issues with which MSAC was concerned, and files of material from local affiliates and related organizations. Subject files not containing evidence of MSAC's direct involvement, or consisting of printed material from various national and state senior associations were discarded.

      Series VI: LEGISLATION, COMMITTEES, ISSUES, ACTIVITIES, 299 ff, combines files that will eventually become separate series. This series documents every aspect of MSAC's work on issues concerning senior citizens, including lobbying, public education, and demonstrations. The folders in this series appear in the same order as when they arrived in the archives. Originally, folders #109-213 were probably in the same file drawer as #16-39.

     Series VII: CHAPTERS, AFFILIATES, LOCAL AND REGIONAL WORK, 118 ff, is arranged alphabetically and documents MSAC's work with local SACs or on the local or regional level in Boston, Bristol County, Concord, Everett, Fall River and New Bedford, Framingham, Franklin County, Hampshire County, Holyoke, Lawrence, Malden, Merrimack Valley, Northampton, Revere, Somerville, Watertown, west suburban, western Mass., and Worcester. At the end of the series are files dealing with more than one location. MSAC's work in Boston, Watertown, and Western Mass. is particularly well documented.

      Series VIII: NATIONAL COUNCIL OF SENIOR CITIZENS, 25 ff, includes information about NCSC conventions and MSAC's work with NCSC. For the original grant proposals that funded MSAC, see Series IV. There are additional files about NCSC in Series V.

      Series IX: ALLIED ORGANIZATIONS, 27 ff, consists of material from a number of organizations that do work similar to MSAC, throughout the U.S. Files not containing evidence of MSAC's direct involvement, or consisting of printed material from national and state senior associations not doing grassroots work were discarded.