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The Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA)
The YWCA is the oldest and largest multicultural women’s organization in the world. Throughout its history, the YWCA has been in the forefront of most major movements in the United States as a pioneer in race relations, labor union representation, and the empowerment of women. The YWCA USA is a women’s membership movement nourished by its roots in the Christian faith and sustained by the richness of many beliefs and values. Strengthened by diversity, the YWCA draws together members who strive to create opportunities for women’s growth, leadership, and power in order to attain a common vision: peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all people.
Worldwide, the organization has more than 25 million members in 122 countries, including 2.6 million members and participants in 300 local associations in the United States.
Throughout its history, the YWCA has been in the forefront of most major movements in the United States as a pioneer in race relations, labor union representation, and the empowerment of women. A brief history of the YWCA includes the following milestones:
1855 – Young Women’s Christian Association was formed in London by Emma Robarts and Mrs. Arthur Kinnaird.
1858 – The YWCA movement was introduced to the United States. New York City and Boston opened women’s residences.
1860 – The YWCA opened the first boarding house for female students, teachers and factory workers in New York City as women moved from farms to cities.
1870s – Recognizing women’s needs for jobs, the YWCA held the first typewriting classes for women, formerly considered a man’s occupation, and opened the first employment bureau.
1890s – First African American YWCA branch opened in Dayton, Ohio. First YWCA for Native American women opened in Oklahoma.
1894 – The United States American Committee, England, Sweden and Norway joined together to create the World YWCA.
1894 – YWCA established Traveler’s Aid. Implemented chaperones to liners’ crews to protect women traveling in steerage.
1909 – YWCAs International Institutes featured bilingual instruction to help immigrant women.
1915 – YWCA held the first interracial conference in the south, at Louisville, Kentucky.
1919 – The YWCA convened the first meeting of women doctors, the International Conference of Women Physicians, with attendees coming from 32 countries for 6 weeks to focus on women’s health issues.
1920 – Based on its work with women in industrial plants, the YWCA Convention voted to work for “an eight-hour per day law, prohibition of night work, and the right of labor to organize.”
1930s – YWCA encouraged members to speak out against lynching and mob violence, for interracial cooperation rather than segregation and for efforts to protect African American’s basic civil rights.
1930s and 1940s – YWCAs trained New York City bus drivers, Rosie the Riveters, lathe operators and others.
1942 – YWCA extended its services to Japanese American women and girls incarcerated in World War II Relocation Centers.
1946 – YWCA adopted its Interracial Charter – eight years before the United States Supreme Court decision against segregation.
For more information, visit: www.ywca.org/