our history

Woman Using Machining WheelThroughout our 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.

1858
The first Association in the U.S., Ladies Christian Association was formed in New York City

1860
The first boarding house for female students, teachers and factory workers opened in New York, NY

1866
“YWCA” was first used in Boston, MA

1872
The YWCA opens the first employment bureau in New York City

1874
The YWCA opens a low cost summer “resort” for employed women in Philadelphia, PA

1889
The first African American YWCA branch opened in Dayton, OH

1890
The first YWCA for Native American women opened in at Haworth Institute, Chilocco, OK

1894
The United States of America, England, Sweden and Norway together created the World YWCA, which today is working in over 125 countries

1906
The YWCA was the first organization to introduce the positive health concept and sex education in all health programming

1907
YWCA of the USA incorporated in New York City

1908
The YWCA was the first industrial federation of clubs to train girls in self- government

1915
The YWCA held the first interracial conference in Louisville, KY

1918
The YWCA was the first organization to send professional workers overseas to provide administrative leadership and support to U.S. Armed Forces

1920
Based on its work with women in industrial plants, the YWCA Convention voted to work for “an eight-hour/day law, prohibition of night work, and the right of labor to organize”

1921
Grace Dodge Hotel completed a Washington, DC residence initially designed to house women war workers

1934
The YWCA encouraged members to speak out against lynching and mob violence, and for interracial cooperation and efforts to protect African American’s basic civil rights

1942
The YWCA extends its services to Japanese American women and girls incarcerated in World War II Relocation Centers

1944
The National Board appears at the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate hearings in support of permanent Fair Employment Practices Committee legislation

1946
Interracial Charter adopted by the 17th National Convention

1949
The National Convention pledges that the YWCA will work for integration and full participation of minority groups in all phases of American life

1955
National Convention commits local Associations and the National Board to review progress towards inclusiveness and decides on “concrete steps” to be taken

1960
The Atlanta, Georgia YWCA cafeteria opened to African Americans, becoming the city’s first integrated public dining facility

1965
The National Board of the YWCA created the Office of Racial Justice to lead the civil rights efforts

1970
The YWCA National Convention, held in Houston, adopted the One Imperative. “To trust our collective power towards the elimination of racism, wherever it exists, by any means necessary”

1972
The YWCA started the ENCORE program for women who have undergone breast cancer surgery

1982
YWCA establishes Fund For The Future

1983
The YWCA National Board urges Congress to support legislation that opposes the South African policy of apartheid

1992
The YWCA National Day of Commitment to Eliminate Racism began in response to the beating of Rodney King, an African American, the acquittal of four white Los Angeles police officers accused of the crime, and the subsequent riots and unrest across the country

1995
The YWCA Week Without Violence was created as a nationwide effort to unite people against violence in communities. The annual observance is held the third week of October

2001
Steps to Absolute Change was adopted. The YWCA shifted from a top down to a bottom up grassroots organization. Local associations joined regions and elected their regional representatives to the National Coordinating Board

2004
Igniting the Collective Power of the YWCA to Eliminate Racism, the YWCA USA’s Summit on Eliminating Racism, was held in Birmingham, AL

2008
The YWCA celebrates its Sesquicentennial Anniversary with the launch of the “Own It” campaign. Focused on igniting a new generation of 22 million young women aged 18 to 34 to get involved with important issues facing women and the country today

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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.