why we are needed

Once upon a time in America, the Woman Suffrage Amendment passed. The Civil Rights Act passed. And the Voting Rights Act passed. The end?

Hardly.

It’s true that women are no longer constitutionally inferior. And people of color are no longer property. But we’re far from living happily ever after.

In spite of widespread reform legislation over the last century, justice is yet to be served. Equality laws may be on the books. But the laws of the land are still distorted when it comes to women and minorities.

Want proof? Then look at education. While women are more likely to earn a high school diploma than men, their education often goes no farther. Only 25% of women 25 or older hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, as opposed to 28.5% of men.

This disparity continues into the workplace. Women and men in the same position make incredibly different salaries. A woman earns 76¢ for every dollar her male counterpart makes. Only 5.5% of women make salaries above $75,000, as compared to 15.8% of men. The difference is even more appalling when it comes to women with only a high school diploma. On average, they earn $18,042. In contrast, even those males who never finished high school make $20,944.

In all, the average woman is shortchanged $420,000 in salary over her working life when compared to the average male. And that doesn’t include benefits like pensions.

So what are we supposed to tell our daughters?

Should we tell them that the workplace is unfair, but that they have advantages elsewhere? We can’t. Consider that one in four women will be involved in domestic violence. Or that one in five emergency room visits by women are caused by battering.

And when should we tell them that they face a one-in-three chance of living in poverty as a female? Or that they’re ten times more likely to have an eating disorder? Or that the odds of them becoming a CEO of a Fortune 1000 company are practically incalculable?

Now consider people of color – regardless of gender.

How are parents supposed to explain to their children why they’re being followed by security in a shopping center simply because of their skin color? Or why some people cross the street to avoid them? Or that only one in every three will meet basic requirements on national scholastic tests?

These are the realities of children of color. And it doesn’t get any better as they get older.

African Americans, for instance, make 66¢ for every dollar made by a white person. And 19% of them live without health care.

Hispanics are half as likely to make salaries over $35,000 than their white equivalents. They’re also three times more likely to live in poverty.

Then there’s profiling. African Americans are much more likely to be pulled over by police than whites. Once stopped, African American and Hispanic drivers are more than twice as likely to have their vehicles searched.

And let’s not forget about prison. People of color make up 64% of the penal population. They make up less than 25% of the general American population. Do the math.

In fact, do the math on any of these statistics. In some cases, it’s frustrating. In others, it’s downright frightening. Either way, it’s wrong. From birth, women and people of color still face obstacles in 2005 that were intended to die with the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Obviously, we can’t legislate our way to equality. So what is the answer? Who can promote an agenda of not only tolerance and acceptance, but of advancement and equality? It all comes down to one person.

You.

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eliminating racism

1800’s The first Negro YWCA Branch was organized in Dayton, Ohio, in 1889; although Negro branches were separate from white branches, by 1898 the YWCA had seven Negro Student Associations affiliated with it. The YWCA also extended its mission to American Indian young women, founding an Association at Chilocco, Oklahoma, in 1890, work which continued for many years as part of the Student Department of the National Board.

1900-1920’s In 1913 Eva Bowles became the first African American staff member to work as a professionally trained leader to work with Local Associations. In 1915, the YWCA held its first interracial conference in Louisville, KY. In the 1920s the Student YWCA organized its first councils on an interracial basis, adopting the principle of iinclusion for all of the membership in regional councils. In 1924, the National Student Assembly took a program stand on race relationships, “pledging ourselves to seek anew the mind of Jesus in regard to our race relationships and to know students of other races, that we may rid ourselves of prejudices and may promote justice and understanding.”

1930’s In the thirties, the YWCA set its face against lynching and mob violence and supported the struggle for civil rights for African Americans in the United States. The first interracial seminar in the South took place at Shaw University, Raleigh, North Carolina in 1938. Students called for an investigation into segregation in YWCA associations and community life.

1940’s During World War II, discrimination against Japanese Americans led to thousands being forced from their homes into relocation camps in desolate areas by order of the United States government. Japanese Americans were deprived of their rights as citizens; the YWCA extended its services to the Relocation Centers, and many Associations, including many in the Midwest, opened their facilities to Japanese Americans as they prepared for resettlement.

In 1946 the YWCA reached a watershed in adopting the Interracial Charter at the 17th National Convention. It accepted recommendations that “the implications of the YWCA Purpose be recognized as involving the inclusion of Negro women and girls in the mainstream of Association life, and that such inclusion be adopted as a conscious goal.” In an unequivocal statement of its position on civil rights, the Charter states: “Wherever there is injustice on the basis of race, whether in the community, the nation, or the world, our protest must be clear and our labor for its removal vigorous and steady. And what we urge on others we are constrained to practice ourselves.” Three years later, YWCAs in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Princeton, New Jersey, elected a Black president.

1950’s Between 1950 and 1970, the YWCA remained on the cutting edge in support of the Civil Rights Movement, which culminated in the adoption of the One Imperative. Through the ups and downs of the era, the student YWCAs remained in the vanguard with regard to issues of race and gender. The emphasis immediately post-war was on the spiritual welfare of women and girls, and the provision of social services to them. In May, 1954, the US Supreme Court rules segregationist doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ unconstitutional. This fueled the Montgomery Bus Boycott in Alabama. The YWCA acted to disseminate material on the Supreme Court decision with a booklet, ‘Our Schools, and Our Democracy.’

1960’s In the United States the 1960’s was the decade of the Civil Rights Movement in which African American people made unprecedented strides in affecting social, economic and racial change, and self-empowerment. However, in the YWCA of the U.S.A., the struggle to combat racism had begun early in its history, in the days of “service laced with social action” in the American South. This decade, however, ended with the epoch-making decision in 1970 to adopt the One Imperative, a statement which was rooted in the Christian purpose of the National Association, seeking “to respond to the barrier-breaking love of God in this day’, drawing together women and girls of diverse experiences and faiths, that their lives may be open to new understanding, and deeper relationships and that together they may join in the struggle for peace and justice, freedom and dignity for all people.”

During Dorothy Heights’ tenure, the YWCA, combined with other organizations such as the United Council of Negro Women, Church Women United, the International Council of Jewish Women, and the Catholic Women, to break the law in the South to challenge racial segregation. The YWCA invited activists such as Stokely Carmichael, Whitney Young, and Roy Wilkins to talk to members, and the Office of Racial Justice initiated Dialogue and Action Groups in 1968 in Community and Student YWCAs throughout the country.

1970’s At the YWCA’s April 1970 Convention, it adopted the One Imperative: “To thrust our collective power towards the elimination of racism wherever it exists and by any means necessary.”

Journey of Faith, The History of the World YWCA 1945-1994, by Carolyn Seymour-Jones, Allison & Busby, 1994

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