significant firsts

With a long and proud her-story, the YWCA has many significant “firsts.”

1858 The country’s first women’s organization forms as “Ladies Christian Association” in New York City.

1860 YWCA opens the first board housing for female students, teachers and factory workers in New York City.

1864 YWCA opens the first U.S. day nursery in Philadelphia.

1866 The first travelers’ aid initiative started in Boston.

1869 YWCA opens the first unwed mothers’ residence in Boston.

1870 YWCA holds first typewriting instruction for women in New York City.

1872 YWCA holds first sewing machine instruction for women and opens the first employment bureau in New York City.

1873 First student YWCA opens in Normal, Illinois.

1874 YWCA opens the first (and only) low-cost summer “resort” for employed women in Philadelphia dedicated by President Ulysses S. Grant.

1889 The first African American YWCA branch opens in Dayton, Ohio.

1890 The first Native American branch opens in Chilocco, Oklahoma.

1891 YWCA opens the first public cafeteria in Kansas City.

1893 First training school for practical nursing opens at YWCA in Brooklyn, New York.

1903 The first home study courses are initiated in Southern cotton mills.

1906 The YWCA is the first organization to introduce “positive health” concept, sex education in all health programming.

1908 The first industrial federation of clubs to train girls in self-government was formed.

1913 First national conference ground for women – 30-acre YWCA Asilomar Conference Grounds opens in Pacific Grove, California designed by architect Julia Morgan.

1915 YWCA holds the first interracial conference in the U.S. in Louisville.

1917 First women’s organization permitted in a U.S. Army camp and the first group to send professionals overseas to provide administrative support for U.S. armed forces in Europe.

1919 The YWCA convenes and finances the first meeting of women doctors.

1922 The first national Assembly of Industrial Women is held in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

1924 The YWCA established the first women’s pension fund.

1930 YWCA holds the first national conference on unemployment in New York City.

1936 YWCA holds the first co-ed, intercollegiate, interracial student conference at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina.

1942 YWCA extends services to Japanese American women and girls incarcerated in WWII relocation centers.

1946 YWCA Convention adopts Interracial Charter, which commits the YWCA to work for an end to racial injustice and full integration of black women in the mainstream of Association life.

1960 Atlanta YWCA cafeteria opens to African Americans, becoming the city’s first desegrated public dining facility.

1963 YWCA participates in the March on Washington for jobs and freedom.

1965 YWCA sets up the Office for Racial Justice, appointing Dorothy Height as director.

1967 YWCA elects the first African American President, Helen W. Claytor.

1970 The YWCA National Convention, held in Houston, adopted the One Imperative. “To thrust our collective power toward the elimination of racism, wherever it exists, by any means necessary.” The resolution passed and renewed effort went into racial justice work.

1978 YWCA receives the first grant to a voluntary agency by U.S. Department of Commerce, which enables 250 YWCAs in 44 states to form a network publicizing jobs for women in local public works projects.

1988 The YWCA is the first women’s organization invited to join U.S. Olympic Committee, Multi-Sport Division

1989 YWCA leads “pro-choice” demonstration, March for Women’s Equality/Women’s Lives.

1992 YWCA organizes the first National Day of Commitment to Eliminate Racism in response to beating of Rodney King and Los Angeles riots.

1992 The YWCA is the first women’s organization chosen by the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to launch a partnership to combat breast cancer.

1994 YWCA appoints its first foreign-born Executive Director, Dr. Prema Mathai-Davis, a native of India.

2001 YWCA undertakes a major restructuring (the largest of any non-profit ever) to shift from a top down to a bottom up grassroots organization. Local associations joined regions and elected their representatives to the National Coordinating Board. They also adopted a focus on Hallmark Programs – the Economic Empowerment of Women and Racial Justice, set in place the goal for a revitalized brand identity and put a renewed emphasis on advocacy, developing leaders under 30 and enhancing connections with the World YWCA.


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