Young Women's Christian Association of the U.S.A.

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Records of the YWCA's programs and activities among blacks began in 1907.

From the description of Records, 1920. (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 232007201

The YWCA of the Mid-Peninsula opened in 1948 as a recreation center for business women. It expanded to provide recreational and social services for women that met the organization's mission of "empowering women and eliminating racism." The organization was based in Palo Alto until its closing in 2003.

From the description of YWCA of the Mid-Peninsula records, circa 1948-2003. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 754864165

Women's Educational and intercultural exchange organization; Social service organization; Women's advocacy organization; Civic improvement organization; Community service organization

From the description of YWCA of the U.S.A. Records 1860-2002 (bulk 1906-2000) (Smith College). WorldCat record id: 465491937

Early in its history, the YWCA of the U.S.A. established a Publication Department to publish its monthly magazine, then known as the Association Monthly; to produce study materials, programs, and other publications for the National Convention and for conferences; and to facilitate and oversee publication, promotion, and distribution of "technical" publications written by and for the Association's departments and divisions.

Cover of April 1919 issue of "The Womans Press"

In the spring of 1916 the Publication Department and Committee started discussing a plan for enlarging the publishing venture. The idea was to finance the Association's "technical" publications through sales of more general interest material which could "Christianize the Woman's Movement." In the spring of 1917 they consulted with National Association staff, librarians, teachers, and social workers "to discover what sort of books they looked for…but did not find." These groups cited a real need for "books on vocations, written for girls; books on personal efficiency; biographies; collections of poetry; stories which will help the modern-day woman to adjust herself to the world in which she lives; and reprints in attractive form of books or parts of books which every girl ought to read." (Association Monthly, June 1917) The Department settled on a new name, The Womans Press, to reflect the more general character of the venture. (For its first 28 years, 1917-45, the name was usually printed without an apostrophe.) The first two titles under the new imprint, Mobilizing Woman-Power by Harriot Stanton Blatch and The Young Woman Citizen by Mary Austin went on sale in 1918.

In addition to their work on production and distribution of technical publications (which were generally written by staff most closely involved with the subject), the Publications Department selected authors and editors for the new general interest books, oversaw their design, publication, publicity, and distribution; produced the monthly magazine (re-christened The Womans Press) and Convention publications; and administered the Woman's Bookshop in the National headquarters.

The hard-cover general interest titles included religious books, such as collections of prayers and meditations, books on How to Use the Bible, and Christianity's relation to communism, peace, work, citizenship, and social morality. The Association also published poetry collections, women's memoirs and biographies, and books on women in history. Many titles reflected the staff's areas of expertise, presenting topics such as group work, adolescent girls' development, race relations, international understanding, health, jobs, citizenship, leadership, and sex education. Recreation and creative expression were promoted through volumes about nature study, flower arranging, parties, festivals, and Decorating the Small Apartment.

The impressive catalog of "technical" publications on a myriad of topics made up one of the most important contributions of the National Association to Community and Student Associations. The publications were clear, comprehensive, attractive, and eminently useful.

In the face of the financial challenges of the Depression, the Publications Department adjusted such things as the quality of the paper and formality of presentation, and managed to continue to put out a substantial catalog of titles.

Paper and other shortages curtailed publication during World War II. After the war, the National Association attempted a revival on advice of a "business analyst." A three-year plan concentrated in three major subject areas appropriate to YWCA: social group work, religion, and self-help books for women. The records are vague about why the Association ultimately abandoned this plan, but it eventually decided to sell its rights in the "general interest" hardcover books to Whiteside, Inc., in 1952. As part of the agreement, the National Association promised to limit its future publications to items for use within the Association and not to enter the publishing business in any form.

The National Association continued to put out technical and publicity materials, but on a much smaller scale. In 1961, the efforts became the responsibility of the Communications Bureau.

  • 1909 - 12 : Publication Department
  • 1912 - 22 : Publication Department
  • 1923 - 24 : Editorial Department in Editorial and Publicity Division
  • 1923 - 32 : program staff decentralized in Field Division and Education and Research Division
  • 1925 - 31 : Education and Research Division
  • 1932 - 39 : Publications in Laboratory Division
  • 1940 - 49 : Publication Department
  • 1950 - 51 : Publications Services in Membership Resources and Woman's Press in General Administration
  • 1951 - 53 : Publications Services in Membership Resources
  • 1954 - 60 : Publications Services in General Administration
  • 1961 - : part of Communications Bureau in Executive Office

From the guide to the YWCA of the U. S. A. Records, . Record Group 06. Program: Series VI. Publications Forms part of MS 324., 1870-2002, (Sophia Smith Collection)

Organizational responsibility for development of the National Association program and program materials was especially fluid during the first twenty-five years of the YWCA of the USA. Initially, the Association divided its staff into a Home Department (concerned with work in the U.S.) and a Foreign Department (concerned with U.S. staff working abroad.) By 1909 the Association added a Department of Territorial Work to facilitate establishment of a single cohesive national organization out of the array of local, state, and regional organizations that made up the two predecessor organizations.

YWCA Program Packet, Fall 1947

Though the National Association incorporated in 1907, the Home Department did not have its first meeting until November of 1909. This meeting brought together representatives of the Department's three committees--City, Student, and Association Extension-"to consider the questions of common importance." One of the first topics of discussion was a change of the Department's name to something that would better describe its responsibility for "developing and perfecting" YWCA methods. The group decided to change the its name to Department of Method at its second meeting in January 1910. Also in 1910 the Department of Territorial Work was re-christened the Department of Field Work and charged with responsibility for communication between the National Association and Community Associations on "standards, policies, finances, and work desired and contemplated." In theory, these two departments had quite separate responsibilities, but in practice, the staff seems to have been extraordinarily aware of the big picture needs of the Association and to have participated wherever and however they were needed. From its earliest staff configurations, the National Association seems to have remained unsure about whether or not it was desirable to divide responsibility for "method" and "services."

The Method Department's duties included making studies "to reveal the needs of young women in different localities and groupings," making "continuous study of the Association as a cooperative instrument of service in any community," and testing the "adaptability of its policies to different localities by a series of experiments conducted by expert secretaries." By 1913 those "expert secretaries" included specialists in city, and small town and country association work; in economics, education, physical education and hygiene, and religion; work in college and universities, Indian schools, secondary schools, church schools, "colored" schools; and work with "colored" women, girls, women in industry, and new immigrants. Method Department staff traveled the country visiting Associations and reporting on their area of expertise, but also on any other aspects of YWCA program they felt warranted comment.

The post-World War I staff reorganization and reduction placed specialist "subject" and "constituent group" staff in the newly-created Education and Research Division. The intent was for staff of the Division to act as a resource "to their colleagues at headquarters," but not to work so much with staff of local Associations. They were to carry out research; maintain the library and other resource files at headquarters (such as files on legislation and a clipping service); develop program materials and training courses on "girls as growing personalities," citizenship, general and vocational education, religious and social education, "constructive" health; and to correlate all material related to the educational work of the Association.

As the National Association's financial challenges continued, and the emphasis on national-level development of program decreased, the size of the program staff and its placement within the administrative structure changed every few years until 1960. It was sometimes part of the office responsible for services to Community Associations, sometimes explicitly part of Training, and sometimes a department of its own. Staff overseeing the National Association's public advocacy (which originally emerged from the Method Department) was often linked with program staff, but almost as often under the supervision of General Administration.

The establishment of the Bureau of Research and Program Resources in 1960 brought staff responsibility for research, program materials development, and public advocacy back together-though on a much-reduced scale. These activities remained linked, though under a succession of different names, through the end of the Twentieth century.

  • 1907 - 09 : Home Department
  • 1909 - 19 : Method Department
  • 1919 - 23 : Research and Method Department
  • 1923 - 32 : program staff decentralized in Field Division and Education and Research Division
  • 1932 - 35 : Program Dept of the Laboratory Division (incl also Pubs and Lib)
  • 1936 - 39 : Program and Research Department of the Laboratory Division
  • circa 1940 - : Program staff in Community Division; [called Subject staff 1941, Program Subjects staff 1942, Program staff 1943-44]
  • 1945 - circa 1948 : Program Subject Department
  • 1950: staff from former Program Subject Department listed under Training Services
  • 1952: above staff listed under Leadership Services in the Membership Resources Department
  • 1955: Leadership Services Department
  • 1960: Bureau of Research, Studies, and Program Resources
  • 1962 - 71 : Bureau of Research and Program Resources
  • 1972 - circa75 : Program Development and Public Policy Unit
  • circa 1975 - c.1984 : Program Unit
  • circa 1984 - 92 : Program Services Division
  • 1992 - : Advocacy and Research Division
  • 1908 - circa 1917 : Secretaries [and Special Workers]: Minutes, 1908-17
  • 1927 - 1927 ? : Methods Council [program approval and evaluation]
  • 1933 - 39 : Review of Program and Budget
  • 1939 - 42 : Program Planning
  • Nov 1948 - Mar 1970 : Program and Budget Apportionment Committee
  • Oct 1970 - Sep 1971 : Program Coordinating/Coordination Core Group [interim group until Organizational Renewal Committee finished work]
  • Sep 1971 - 80? : Program and Budget

From the guide to the YWCA of the U. S. A. Records, . Record Group 06. Program: Series I. Departmant, Staff, and Committees Forms part of MS 324., 1870-2002, (Sophia Smith Collection)

The Young Women's Christian Association of the United States of America is the U.S. national affiliate of the World YWCA. Incorporated in 1907, it is an association made up of autonomous member Associations in cities and towns, and on college campuses throughout the country. The YWCA movement emerged during a surge in evangelical Protestant revivalism and women's activism in the mid-nineteenth century. Though the language used to describe its purpose has changed over time-from doing "what it could toward the full and proper development of whatever excellencies of character" its members possessed to "helping women lead larger lives" to "the empowerment of women"-its purpose, has been remarkably steady. At its height in the 1910s through the 1930s, the national YWCA encompassed programming tinged with radical politics-labor activism, social Christianity, desegregation-and also provided the resources more commonly associated with its name, such as Christian-oriented club work, wholesome accommodations for women, and physical education. In its current incarnation, it is among the more progressively-oriented social service providers to women and families in need and bears no formal ties to organized religion.

Group sing at the YWCA 26th National Convention, 1973

Historically speaking, the YWCA is one of the most important and far-ranging non-profit organizations in the United States. The segment of interests and constituency embedded in its name, Young Women's Christian Association, belies the breadth of its work. Modeled on English women's prayer groups and rooted in rigorous Christianity, individual YWCAs were established in northeastern U.S. cities and on midwestern college and university campuses in the mid-nineteenth century in response to the social upheaval of industrialization. Its earliest incarnations were local women's prayer groups that gave a morally upright means for middle-class women to cross from the separate sphere of their domestic domain into the public realm as they provided moral and material assistance for women in need. For working-class women loosed from the controls of family and community by the demands of the labor market, YWCAs offered safe recreation, decent living spaces, and a Christian-oriented social and educational culture. For both groups of women, its independent, cross-denominational Protestantism allowed them to take leadership in institution building, charity and social work, and the creation of coalitions across geographic, class, and, at times, racial barriers. As local work was consolidated into a national organization, the YWCA provided a launching pad for pathbreaking work for and by women.

It is the product of this consolidation, the YWCA of the U.S.A., that is the entity from which these records are collected. Its records are separate from those of the World YWCA, headquartered in Geneva, and local associations, whose archival records are dispersed across a number of institutions.


Individual Women's Christian Associations and Young Women's Christian Associations scattered around the country formed into two national organizations, the "American Committee" and the "International Board of the Women's and Young Women's Christian Associations," over the course of the latter half of the nineteenth century. The two, which went through a series of names before settling on these, differed in origins, constituencies, organizational structure, and the intentions of their efforts. They shared an impulse toward geographic and organizational expansiveness. The predecessor umbrella organizations became a means by which local associations shared experiences and techniques for advancing their work, often through Chautauqua-style conferences. The national YWCA drew upon many of the methods pioneered by its predecessors, including education and training in conference settings.

The first of these two predecessor organizations, the International Board first met as a national conference of Women's Christian Associations in 1871. It represented a number of northeastern, urban WCAs that began in the 1860s and '70s as interdenominational prayer circles. Dedicated to "the temporal, moral, and religious welfare of young women who are dependent on their own exertions for support," the work of these groups hinged around revival-inspired prayer, worship, and "rescue" and social work that addressed the needs and perceived dangers facing unattached, employed women who were increasingly populating the cities. By providing employment referrals, work training, a variety of classes from book-keeping, to writing, to botany, to singing; and wholesome boarding houses in addition to moral suasion and prayerful concern, Women's Christian Associations supplied their volunteers and staff with work that extended beyond the typical domain of women's behind-the-scenes support in churches. At the same time, such work allowed them to engage in social activism independent from male oversight of their methods and works.

The International Board had no permanent staff or year-round office. It was intentionally non-hierarchical and membership-driven. Each conference or convention elected committees to oversee the program agreed upon by the membership and plan the next convention. The International Board aligned with similar associations internationally, creating a network of women's organizations through correspondence and publications and through interpersonal contact at conferences that grew into a formidable volunteer force by the 1890s.

The other predecessor organization, the American Committee of Young Women's Christian Associations, reflected a midwestern and student-oriented approach to such work. Though some city associations of the Midwest affiliated with the American Committee rather than the International Board, the organization for the most part represented the YWCAs that formed on college campuses in the 1870s to augment the highly popular Young Men's Christian Associations. The YWCAs offered religious services and volunteer opportunities that had significant appeal for the growing number of women pursuing higher education. While interdenominational, the student YWCAs tended to be strongly evangelical and enforced membership requirements based on doctrinal and church allegiance. The fervor behind the proliferation of student YWCAs and YMCAs also fueled the immensely popular Student Volunteer Movement, which enlisted young Protestants in "the evangelization of the world in this generation" and provided a springboard to missionary careers.

The American Committee had a permanent staff and headquarters in Chicago to provide stability for an organization whose membership turned over regularly as young women finished college and moved on to other pursuits. Deeply committed to missionary work, the American Committee established a foreign department in 1899. At the time of the merger in 1906, they provided the training and support for ten secretaries stationed in southeast Asia and Japan.


By 1889, there was significant enough overlap between the work, geographical territories, and fundraising efforts of the two national organizations as to create a certain amount of competition within the movement and some confusion in the general public. A special committee was formed to confer "with the view of harmonizing our work and inducing cooperation," but it was nearly a decade before serious talks about a merger were possible. Only late in 1906 the two agreed to join together.


Grace Hoadley Dodge, a New York City philanthropist and activist, brokered the consolidation of the International Board and the American Committee into a national administration for local associations. She served as president of the resulting organization, the Young Women's Christian Associations of the United States of America. Her leadership skills extended beyond experience in voluntary work and fundraising; she was an important bridge builder, a forward thinking clubwoman who traversed the circles of small-scale women's organizations and envisioned a national, corporate structure that would have a reach and impact comparable to that of the era's business enterprises. Her vision was expansive in scope and open to innovations in programming that remained faithful to an ethos of Christian women's service, but was also sensitive to local associations' desire for autonomy.

The new, national YWCA continued the "association" concept, an organizing principle that tied together local groups in coalition work and reached out to new constituencies. The membership met at periodic Conventions to decide on the overall program for the national organization and elect one-third of the members of its governing body, the National Board-"servant and prophet of the local YWCA." In general, the national organization concentrated on work that "the associations have found by experience that they can do more effectively together than alone." This included: publicity; training of volunteer and professional staff; organization of new community YWCAs; research and study; development of programs and program materials to meet the needs of women and girls; cooperation with other national organizations and government agencies; and, eventually, advocacy for various women's and social welfare issues.

The national YWCA opened central offices in New York City but maintained a regionally dispersed administration. It devoted its early years to training a work/volunteer force and constructing YWCA buildings and studying "the field." It built a national headquarters at 600 Lexington Ave. that housed residences, office space, and a training school. Administratively, it largely preserved the division of labor that had characterized its predecessors, creating separate divisions for student work, the overseas work that had been a particular interest of the student organizations, and for cities. Within these divisions secretaries oversaw a variety of social services and educational efforts.

Operational structure

The national YWCA was designed with membership-driven policy as its intention. A matrix of volunteer committees, paid professional staff (called secretaries), and program committees, which were composed of staff and volunteer committee members, reported to and were overseen by the National Board-the organization's executive committee-as the means of producing and reviewing the course of programming and policy. This structure remained in place for roughly the century following the founding of the national association until a major reorganization was implemented in 2002. A convention, held biennially until 1940, then triennially, put the work of the committees and national staff up to the review of delegates of the entirety of the YWCA membership and provided them with the means of initiating new organizational and programming emphasis. Convention proceedings determined the priorities of programming and legislation advocacy.

One segment of the national organization-that concerned with support work-has maintained a fairly steady presence throughout its history. Though administered under different names and committees over time, such matters as personnel and training, conferences and conventions, administration of the office and buildings, publications, and finances have always been the work of the national association. Another segment of its work related primarily to program development has shifted significantly with the YWCA's changing emphases and financial wherewithal.

The early YWCA of the U.S.A. inherited its programming emphases from precursor organizations. This included commitment to the idea that its work emanated from the needs of its members and member associations. It also inherited a sensitivity to reaching out to underserved groups of women. Over time, this structure facilitated the creation of an organization that strived and often succeeded at bringing together the middle-class with workers, black and white women, and the mature with the young. This was evident even in its earliest incarnations, which encompassed clubs and activities for industrial workers, "colored" women, and immigrants, as well as more traditional middle- class, white church-oriented, volunteers. The structure overseeing its early programming facilitated this open-endedness and constituency-building. Initially split into divisions of "Home," which organized work done in the US, and "Foreign," which oversaw missionary education and the missionary presence inherited from the American Committee, World War I and the programming expansion that followed it necessitated a more capacious departmental structure and a more exacting division of labor.

For programming in the U.S., the creation in the 1910s of a Department of Method that oversaw "all those committees which carry the responsibility of developing and perfecting the [YWCA's] methods" and undertook study "as shall reveal the needs of young women in different localities and groupings" set a template for work that guided the organization through its most expansive years of programming. It facilitated the modus operandi of undertaking study of the needs of the Association's constituency or potential constituencies, proposing solutions, putting it to committee for approval and review, and then sending national secretaries out to the field to train and oversee local associations in their implementation of the programming. In the early years, the Department of Method divided these tasks by geography (with cities, towns, and rural areas administered separately), special constituency (American Indians, African American), and subject area (religious, economic). Through the 1920s, the work of the Department of Method was further parsed into separate divisions and committees, dividing research and study from the "field" aspect of overseeing and implementing work in local associations. The names of the relevant division and committees changed as the national YWCA honed its methods, instituting a Laboratory Division, for example, in the 1930s to indicate a more social scientific mode of research, but the basic structure of study and field oversight remained. A few special projects, such as the Hollywood Studio Club for aspiring actresses, were administered directly from the National Board, a contrast to most programs, which were run in community associations with the staff and material support of national secretaries.

The structure facilitated centralization while allowing association autonomy. Programs included clubs, training, and religious instruction tailored to their particular constituencies. Industrial work was aimed at factory and domestic workers; business clubs, white-collar workers. International Institutes targeted immigrants and the children of immigrants. Travelers Aid, women traveling alone. Indian Schools work was aimed at young American Indian women traversing the transition between life on the reservation and at government boarding schools. Colored work covered both work at Black colleges and among Black women in cities.

Race and religion in the early national history

Work for and by black women had been part of the YWCA from the start, and it proved to be one of the most significant and often troubled aspects of the organization's work throughout the twentieth century. Before the creation of the national organization, YWCAs proved to be as popular on Black campuses as they were on white ones, and autonomous Black YWCAs operated in four cities, joining institutions like Atlanta's Neighborhood Union and the Cleveland Working Girls' Home Association (later the Phillis Wheatley Association, partly formed in response to segregation at the city's white YWCA) in a network of neighborhood-oriented social service centers operated by black club women at the turn of the century.

The formation of the National Board in the era of the "nadir of race relations" foregrounded the potential problems and promises of uniting the administration of black and white women's organizations. From this context, it exhibited an uneasy combination of (relative) forward thinking on questions of race, with many white clubwomen interested in the Christian work improving race relations and many black clubwomen seeking more full access into public life, and the reality of the racist status quo. Through educational and religious programs, the early organization made ambivalent attempts to address symptoms of racial inequality that percolated in the urban social order like labor segmentation and racial strife, threats that loomed in the consciousness of both the black and white middle classes, but the persistence of racism and white women's paternalism challenged its ability to do so.

The early YWCA supported work for black women while capitulating to white racial entitlement and paternalism. It set up "Colored" branches of the organization as financially and administratively subordinate to a city or region's central association, preserving the segregation of space, yet allowing autonomy and leadership for black women at the institutions they controlled. The YWCA hired Black women as consultants and secretaries for a national program of "colored" work, which took the onus off of local associations to address racial matters. While creating opportunities for interracial meetings, it initially deferred to southern resistance to national conferences that would bring the races together and allowed Jim Crow accommodations for black members attending southern events. In putting forward an agenda for gradual integration, conferences proved to be a highly significant, albeit slow-moving, means for improving race relations as they forged casual social and work-related contacts among black and white women.

Religious matters fostered a common purpose for YWCA staff and volunteers, but like interracial work, they occasionally were a source of contention. The question of religious requirements for membership delayed the creation of the national organization. From the early days, constituents of the American Committee maintained a doctrinaire interpretation of the Christianity of their organization. They demanded membership in an appropriately evangelical Protestant Church, defined in terms of the authority of the Bible, Trinity, and the immanence of Christ, as a condition for full membership in their associations. Such membership was not required for participation in their programs but it did mark those who had a voice in the direction of the organization. Members of the International Board shied away from such doctrinal particulars, keeping an open membership in order to attract city populations that increasingly included Catholics and non-denominational church-goers. The negotiation effected in 1906 pacified the American Board by allowing existing Associations to maintain their policies but stipulating that new Associations had to make church membership a requirement for full association membership, which included voting privileges on the Convention delegations that determined YWCA policy, but softened this requirement by making the membership requirement hinge on membership in a church recognized by the Federal Council of Churches as appropriately Protestant rather than enumerating adherence to a specific theology.

The National Board revisited questions of religious requirements frequently. In its early years, it strongly exemplified the activity and mindset of the Social Gospel as it remained committed to the pietistic foundations of its social programs. Still, it relented in 1920 to pressure coming from the student representation for an alternative to the church membership requirement, an individual pledge of Christianity. It also cast its lot with a growing tide of liberal Christianity, endorsing the Federal Council of Churches' Social Ideals in 1921, which called for an eight-hour day and the right to collective bargaining, among other progressive reforms. Matters such as this and the YWCA's growing involvement with labor politics of young women workers and a public education program that focused on the international political sphere alienated more conservative women involved with the YWCA, but the national organization and its paid staff maintained a decidedly left-leaning, politically engaged conception of Christian organization-building.

Programs and Priorities in the First Twenty Years

In the first twenty years of the national organization, the YWCA strengthened programs that it had come to be identified with, particularly providing residences and cafeterias, recreation, and educational and religious opportunities for women, especially working women. It also forged new directions in its work. Its publishing arm, which came to be called the Woman's Press, proved influential. It produced a range of materials for use in YWCAs and for similar religious and voluntary organizations, including a monthly magazine, pamphlets and books tied to its programming, and publications on more general matters. Conferences grew in importance as a means to disseminate information, cultivate contacts and fellowship among far-flung groups, and provide rest and recreation in vacation spots to women from diverse circumstances. The National Board undertook the planning of these conferences and also acquired a number of properties for camping and conference purposes.

The YWCA established a National Training School (1908-30) at its headquarters in Manhattan that aimed to provide graduate level training for the women who were to be its professional staff. The brief heyday of the NTS was distinguished by a heavy emphasis on biblical and religious instruction and also the ability to attract distinguished teaching talent, but enrollment proved to be unsatisfactory. From then on, the board experimented with more dispersed means of training, encouraging staff members to pursue their own higher education by other means and instituting programs that brought training to local and regional associations.

While the organization increasingly directed its programming away from organized religion and toward promoting professionalization and progressive labor and social policy, it often bore the imprint of the older style of social reform in which it was steeped. The Hollywood Studio Club (1916-75) served women migrating to Los Angeles for work in the film industry; even as it lent legitimacy to the notion of women seeking work in film, a strong undercurrent of the sexual danger that faced such women undergirded its operating premises. Work to advance health and physical education started in the YWCA as an outgrowth of the social morality movement, an attempt to defend against various contagions linked to modernity. Eventually, its health programming would be characterized by a frank approach to matters of sexuality. International Institutes and other efforts from the Immigration and Foreign Community Department sought to ameliorate the xenophobia and dislocation experienced by immigrants and promote the value of pluralism and the contributions of immigrants among the native born. Though progressive in intent, part of the force driving this work was upholding values of Americanization and assimilation to ward off threats raised by the question of foreigners within.

World War I and 1920s Expansion

The entry of the United States into the First World War spurred on the work of the YWCA. War needs intensified demand for its programming. Industrial and residence-related work mushroomed in response to domestic mobilization, and it devoted particular attention to black women workers, who entered the industrial work force in significant numbers under conditions of profound inequality. The YWCA formed a War Work Council, which devoted much of the organization's resources to answering the demands that came out of the economic and social strains of war. The National Board developed a "Hostess House" program around places in the U.S. with a military presence in order to provide hospitality and recreation for the military and its dependents. It lent its services and its foreign secretaries to overseas service and relief work, and after the war, became involved in campaigns to aid refugees.

The enthusiasm and heady sense of accomplishment over the success of the YWCA's work from the inception of national organization through the First World War encouraged an overextension of staff and programming, which led to trouble as the organization's financial commitments outpaced its fundraising power. The end of the war brought an end to many fundraising opportunities, and in cognizance of this, the National Board undertook the first of many major restructuring efforts in 1921. The resulting consultation and study induced the Board to break from the division of labor inherited from the predecessor organizations, centralize programming, and bring local associations into closer contact and oversight from the National Board. Although this move eliminated some of the more regionally-oriented staff, its expansive programming still facilitated untenable financial needs. These circumstances would come to the fore during the Great Depression.

Although the 1920s saw many successes of YWCA programs, a number of controversies dogged the organization. The religious language of membership requirements remained a perennial matter for discussion at national conventions throughout the 1920s and 1930s. While always affirming the centrality of Christianity and religiosity to the organization, delegates proposed continued relaxation of membership requirements to open decision-making of the organization to greater numbers. In 1920, they approved an individual pledge of upholding Christian ideals and affirming Jesus Christ as sufficient for membership, which created the means for Catholics to join and removed the mechanism of enforcement of the YWCA's Christian basis from the organization to the individual, which encouraged some non-Christians to become full members.

A merger proposed by the Young Men's Christian Association created strains in the YWCA. Spurred by a drive to encourage heterosocial programming on an increasingly suspect single-sex organization, the YMCA increased its programming offerings to women, which threatened the YWCA as a provider of services, and made overtures to join operations. YWCA partisans strongly resisted this move. They suspected co-optation in the YMCA's intent and felt that the conservatism of the YMCA, an organization closely tied to business interests, would water down the YWCA's increasingly progressive efforts in programming and political education, which emanated from their Legislation/ Public Affairs Committee. Others in the YWCA felt the pressures working against single-sex organizing and the advantages of joining up with the greater resources of the YMCA. Though the National Board evaded efforts to merger and to open membership to men, many local YWCAs coordinated efforts with YMCAs that stopped short of merger.

Nonetheless, it was a period of institution building and growth. Affiliations with other organizations included an alliance with the National Council of Jewish Women, an important indicator of its ecumenicalism. Its work with white collar women led to in formation of the National Federation of Business and Professional Women, a significant and enduring service and support group for white-collar workers. It also joined the Committee on the Cause and Cure of War, which advocated pacifism in face of the tragedies of the First World War. After the war diminished enthusiasm for the Student Volunteer Movement, YWCA student organizations, which were administered by the National Board (rather than local associations) under the National Student Council (launched in 1925) participated in the World Student Christian Federation. Work with teenagers, which the national YWCA began sponsoring upon the creation of the Girl Reserves in 1918, became a significant force in the organization. It enlisted young women in YWCA programs and introduced them to the culture of the YWCA through conferences and camps. It was envisioned in part as a means to cultivate future leaders.

War reshaped the work of the Foreign Division. Its toll brought into question the purposes of mission work, and they worked more intensively at the indigenization of their work and the cultivation of leadership among native populations. War also put into motion political changes that at least temporarily forced the dispersal of many of YWCA foreign secretaries as they shifted their focus from work among non-Christians in Southeast Asia and the Near East to relief work in Europe. Over the course of the 1930s, economic depression and war affected the areas in Europe and Asia where foreign secretaries had been stationed, compelling the YWCA to reduce its commitment to sending staff overseas.

1930s: Great Depression and Retrenchment

The YWCA's quest to perfect the streamlining of relations between associations and the national organization as well as hone their method of program development was intensified by the financial situation that worsened over the 1920s. The Association underwent a number of organizational consultations and reorganization plans in order to wrest the utmost efficiency from their necessarily limited means. After the initial expansion following the organization of the National Board and, especially, the First World War, the YW gradually was compelled to scale back the wide-reaching content of nationally-administered programs. As the Depression brought these matters to the fore, it divested itself of some operations that were administered solely by the National Board, in contrast to those that had ties with community association. This included the sale of properties like D.C's Grace Dodge Hotel in the 1930s and the Asilomar retreat, which after years of leasing out was sold to the state of California as park land in 1956.

Other means of economizing were not easily accomplished. Staff reductions occurred frequently in lean years, and the remaining staff were expected to administer visionary programs with diminishing means. A 1933 conclusion of the Committee on Program and Budget, the programming review mechanism, recommended "Emphasis on the Association as a whole rather than on special groups within it [and diminishing] emphasis on institutional services" as necessary for the organization to move forward. This shift, prompted out of the inability to fund the expansive constituency-building, decisively turned away from the all-encompassing goals that had initially guided the national organization. It pushed the YWCA into a long-period of self-scrutiny as to its raison d'etre. In determining that programming tailored to its specialized professional and ethnic constituencies was ultimately untenable for the organization, it called for a broadening of the general program as necessary to bring the diverse groups together as well as to make their scope more manageable. This had two ramifications. One was that a variety of specialized programming-that for Business, Professional, and Industrial Workers and Immigrant Women and families-was diverted into independent organizations. The YWCA had a hand in creating the National Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs, which took on the goal of education and lobbying for white collar workers that had been the province of the YWCA's work with business and professional women . Similarly, the YWCA turned over its work with immigrant women and families to the National Institute of Immigrant Welfare, a coalition of organizations providing similar services that the national YWCA had a hand in forming. Such spin-off organizations could devote the entirety of their resources to the more narrowly-defined tasks at hand and freed the YWCA to create more manageable goals. Programming for industrial workers, who had once been a highly active presence in the organization, grew less visible and eventually was eliminated. It is likely that the success and opportunities of the trade union movement diverted the dedication of many blue-collar women to the YWCA.

The other ramification of the YWCA's strategy to tighten up its constituency had significant implication for work with African Americans and other non-white women. When it turned away from separate programming directed at African-American groups, the Association steered its racial consciousness toward fostering interracial relations. One element of this work was making issues of racial justice a priority in its public affairs and educational programming, which increased steadily throughout the 1930s; another piece was more slow in implementation, which was the full integration of the YWCA. Interracial work expanded to encompass racial groups other than African Americans, but programming that had foregrounded the concerns of white and blue collar women and immigrants faded into the background as these groups were spun off.

Structurally, even under reduced means, the YWCA continued to administer its work through divisions that preserved the domains of support work to community associations and National Board-oriented research and program development. However, the program review committee of the National Board, the Programming and Budget Apportionment Committee, exercised exacting oversight over program expenditures and initiatives. The National Board focused on tightening the focus of its community association-oriented work, while the Foreign Division and National Student Council continued operations "in many ways quite separate from the rest of the program of the National Board" (Report of Program Planning Committee to the National Board, 17 May 1939, 9).

Program Priorities during the 1930s

The Great Depression intensified the organization's administrative and financial struggles, but it also provided the impetus for several helpful programs. Free recreation and study helped to relieve boredom and boost morale. Some associations administered direct relief and make-work programs. The National Board developed an emergency Unemployment Committee to coordinate study and public education around the crisis situation. As the toll of war in Europe increased over the 1930s, the YWCA responded by creating a refugee committee (1938) designed to create a space for the acceptance of refugees in the U.S. and help them adjust upon arrival. Its International Institutes had operated to help assimilation and adjustment for foreign-born and second-generation women, but as the refugee question emerged, it turned to lobbying for immigration laws sensitive to refugee settlement and attacking xenophobia.

Limited in its means to launch new programs from the national level, the YWCA could embrace measures of public education and publicity. In doing so, it promoted progressive politics among its membership. Public Affairs staff coordinated the fact-finding and the creation of an organizational dialogue on hot-button social issues, which in the 1930s included support and action on the federal anti-lynching bill, the New Deal, and the participation of the U.S. in the League of Nations and World Court.

Social Christianity guided much of the politics of the national organization's staff. It contributed to its consciousness and support of labor reform and racial justice. The organizational structure of the YWCA allowed for a considerable lag between the ideals and plans to foster racial integration that were advanced at the national level and the segregated practices of many local associations, particularly but not exclusively in the South. In what programming their political commitments could guide, the National Board promoted social interaction as the primary means by which daunting political change, such as the eradication of segregation and racial hatred, would begin. They made tentative, often behind the scenes, steps to direct integration of the organization. In 1940, a National Board commission was charged with mobilizing decisively integration work in the YWCA. This group devised an "Interracial Charter" calling for the full integration of black women into YWCA life and pledging the efforts of the collective YWCA to fight racial prejudice. The charter was adopted at the 1946 National Convention.

1940s and beyond: drift

The National Convention held in 1946 in Atlantic City, NJ was a turning point in the administrative structure of the organization for a number of reasons. It was the first convention held since 1940, as they had been eliminated during the war years. As was the case during World War I, the demand in those years for YWCA services increased sharply in response to a number of factors: the number of women entering the workforce, the needs of young people affected by military and economic mobilization, the call for racial justice raised in the early 1940s by A. Philip Randolph and others, the recreation and relief demands of the troops-which the YWCA met by becoming a charter participant in the United Service Organizations. As the organization looked forward, it continued its commitments to public advocacy while continually being compelled to reduce the amount of staff that could be dedicated to nurturing a national program. In the wake of increased civil rights agitation after World War II, the YWCA increased the pressure on itself to bring racial issues and integration to the fore of its organizational practices and public affairs topics.

At the adoption of the interracial charter at the 1946 convention, delegates affirmed that the Christian purpose of the organization called for "the inclusion of Negro women and girls into the main stream of Association life, and that such inclusion be adopted as a conscious goal." (Sims, Unfolding, 84). This interracial charter heralded a campaign of strong organizational identification with the goals of the civil rights movement and increased pressure on locals to desegregate, although many southern associations redoubled their resistance to doing so.

At the same time as it advanced this bold declaration, the National Association expended increasing effort and anxiety scrutinizing its functions, and it abandoned the push for centralization and national programming that had characterized the previous years. It continued to curtail the small amounts of national programming that had survived the cutbacks of earlier years, particularly those affecting the employed women who had been major constituents in its early history. The YW sold the Woman's Press in 1952 and produced a more limited amount of in-house publications. It made short-lived attempts to forge new constituencies, such as the YW-Wives program for young mothers and the Agricultural Council of the late 1940s (although rural work had been a goal of the program from the beginning, it was overshadowed by its success in urban settings. The Y-Teens of the 1960s succeeded the Girl Reserve and drew upon the politicized language of the incipient student movement to delineate the young as a political constituency that deserved a distinct voice. The organization was receptive to their influence, seeing them as the next wave of YWCA leaders. Overall, the national YWCA relinquished the scope of vision that characterized its first forty years. The midcentury served as a watershed that pushed the National Board into retrenchment, reduction, and self-scrutiny.

At several points, the national YWCA reached for religion as the unifying theme to tie together the many facets of their program. However, the demands for secular programming that emanated from community associations and the lack of consensus on the scope of religious content limited the effectiveness of this impulse. Through the 1940s and 1950s the organization continued to experience the pressure to reduce staff and programming that had been at play since the 1930s, but the diminishing ability to launch innovative, progressive programming in the atmosphere of the Cold War further tied the hands of the National Board. The red scare of the late 1940s and 1950s particularly contributed to these trends. Anticommunists targeted the YWCA for its outspoken liberal and progressive politics. Though its long record of service and affiliation with organized Christianity shielded it from some of the more excessive redbaiting tactics, the political atmosphere determined the YWCA's ability to continue to promote liberal politics.

In the midst of its drift, the YWCA continued to provide oversight and encouragement to local associations and student groups, many of which took up the interracial impulse advanced at the 1946 convention to commit themselves to direct action in the burgeoning civil rights movement. Much as they had in earlier years, the YWCA drew on self-study as a means to navigate it through the difficulty of its diminished ability to provide a national presence and to coordinate the actions of disparate local associations. It commissioned studies on the YWCA as a religious movement and as YWCA as a women's movement in order to refine and bring more locals into active participation in the national mission.

These studies contributed to some decisive declarations. Pressures emanating from the YMCA's initiative in the 1920s to merge the associations and local inclinations toward joining programming with the YMCA had continued to raise the question of the efficacy of a single-sex organization. Up to that point, the YWCAs had a strong but tacit commitment to organizing and leadership among women alone. Originally commissioned as a study of YMCA-YWCA cooperative experiences, Dan Dodson's 1960 report, "The Role of the YWCA in a Changing Era," prompted the YWCA to officially affirm at its 1961 Convention the significance of its mission as an autonomous women's organization.

In 1967, the YW also returned to the perennial question of its ties to Christianity in a Study of the YWCA as a Christian Movement. It affirmed a set of guiding principles rooted in liberal Christianity and upheld and publicized earlier policies that had chipped away at the religious requirements that had been part of the affiliation requirements for Community Associations. At the 1988 National Convention, the matter came up again in a resolution that stated that "references to the Christian Purpose of the YWCA of the U.S.A. create a climate of distrust and misunderstanding among women and girls of diverse faiths." ("Summary of Convention Action," 1988 from Conventions, 1988, Chicago). In 1991 they rephrased their purpose to acknowledge "roots in the Christian faith" but shifted the focus to a secular vision of "Peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all people" ("Summary of Convention Action, 1991).

In the 1950s, the National Association began cultivating funders for short-term, targeted projects, rather than general support. Other opportunities for program-building came with the upsurgence in political consciousness and the availability of federal funds that came out of the mid-1960s and Great Society legislation. These efforts set a new direction for financial arrangements and programming for the next thirty years. With this approach, the YWCA was able to launch more projects, albeit limited by the short-term nature that such funding necessitated. The interests of funders also shaped the content of the proposed programming, but the concerns of the YWCA were capacious enough to direct available funds into efforts to alleviate racial and economic justice and empowering women, particularly young women. For example, the National Association's long-standing commitment to health and sex education dovetailed with funders' growing interest in women's health issues, from which they created an early (1976) breast cancer program (in the 1980s, this was expanded into a large, Avon Corporation-funded awareness campaign) and what would become a signature service area, addressing domestic violence. Sensing opportunity in the Great Society's interest in combating youths' disaffection and lack of job opportunities, the YWCA received a Department of Labor contract from 1967-75 for providing short-term residence and counseling centers for young women Job-Corps training program graduates.

The One Imperative

The flurry of controversy surrounding the 1970 National Convention brought the YWCA to national attention. As had been the case at National Conventions for many years, discussion and program platforms addressed the notable topics of this fraught year, including matters of poverty, peace, and race. Contrary to the usual practice of studies and resolutions being drafted in advance of the meeting, a delegation of black women put forward at the convention the resolution that the elimination of racism be the singular emphasis of the YWCA. Heated discussion ensued but a groundswell of support led to the adoption of a singular imperative for the YWCA, to end racism. The resolution drew on the language of the black power movement, using Malcolm X's "by any means necessary" as the standard to propel the elimination of racism.

The adoption of the "One Imperative" was dogged by the conflicts that had become standard given the cosmopolitan scope of the national organization and the often parochial views of local associations. Many delegates resented the techniques that brought the matter to the fore of the discussion. Others resisted the anti-racism measure as too radical an action. The stormy convention left some charged with excitement over the renewed direction and invigorated political program of the YWCA; others remained indifferent or angry over the course of events. Subsequent conventions and meetings reaffirmed the intent of the imperative and advanced ways to realize it. In the national organization, this took the form of affirmative action and efforts toward multiracial recruiting in hiring and fostering membership. It also created an enforcement mechanism for the One Imperative. Associations that refused to bring the One Imperative into their programming considerations were subject to disaffiliation. Some volunteered for disaffiliation on these grounds.

Other such Convention planks generated smaller levels of controversy. In 1970s, they called for turning over war in Southeast Asia to the United Nations, an end to Selective Service, disarmament, and supported the legalization of abortion and Equal Rights Amendment. A stand for gun control brought harassment to some local associations. In the 1980s the National Association lent its support to lesbian rights, overthrow of South Africa's apartheid regime, and combating domestic violence. In the 1990s, following the growing involvement of local YWCAs in domestic violence crisis services, the National Board launched a "Week without Violence" events to raise awareness.

As federal funding dried up in the 1970s, the National Association relied increasingly on corporate sponsorship to carry its programming. These ventures fostered a national presence for the organization, including "A Week without Violence" and a large traveling exhibit on the 135th Anniversary of the organization. But they did not create a stable of funds that would provide a steady base of support for member associations.

These troubles, as always addressed and scrutinized by self-study and reorganization, came to the fore in the late 1990s. A group of interested employees of community YWCAs launched an effort called the Change Initiative in order to scrutinize the practices and structure of the National Board. Initially resisted, then endorsed by the National Board, they called for greater accountability to community associations and financial stability. Upon professional consultation, they developed a sweeping reorganization plan that was approved by the membership at a special convention in 2000. The reorganized national administration, now called the National Coordinating Board, dissolved the New York office, relocated the remaining national staff in Washington, D.C., and established a regional presence to decentralize the national administration of the organization. The national staff shrunk significantly under this initiative, and it seems likely that little programming will be initiated by the new national entity.

From the guide to the YWCA of the U. S. A. Records MS 324., 1860-2002, 1906-2000, (Sophia Smith Collection)

Delegate reading program for 26th YWCA National Convention, 1973


From its earliest days until the early 1970s, the YWCA of the U.S.A. put considerable effort into Conferences as a means of bringing together YWCA people, sharing information, exchanging ideas, and providing for practice in public speaking, group work, legislative action, and parliamentary procedure. A wide variety of Conferences was planned for professional and volunteer staff, and members. The materials filed in this series relate to "general" or "regional" conferences. Material about Conferences for specific types of Associations (City, Town and Country, "Colored" Branches), or "constituent" groups (Industrial, Business and Professional, Teen, Student) is filed with other material related to that work. [See RECORD GROUP 6. PROGRAM, RECORD GROUP 7. STUDENT WORK, and RECORD GROUP 8. COMMUNITY ASSOCIATIONS .]

Regional Conferences (also known as General Conferences, or National Conferences in the Regions) brought together representatives from the general membership within geographic regions. Training focused on effective administration of Community YWCAs as well as the mission of the YWCA. They provided a regular avenue for the National Office to hear issues and concerns from the various geographic regions. Regional Conferences were part of "the cycle of meetings between conventions" which allowed the Association to monitor progress toward resolutions passed at prior Conventions and develop issues for discussion at upcoming Conventions.

Though other kinds of training opportunities (workshops, institutes, seminars, round-tables, etc.) continued, traditional conferences disappeared from the YWCA program by the early 1970s when a general desire for change combined with a dramatic re-organization of the staff structure and severe financial problems made them no longer feasible or desirable.


The YWCA's National Convention was the regular meeting of the national organization and served as its legislative body. Delegates from member associations met with the National Board and national staff to share information and methods; discuss, amend, and/or affirm the purpose of the organization; "consider and adopt prioritized program for the ensuing years;" establish and amend policies and procedures for the national organization; establish standards for membership of community and student associations in the national organization; and elect the National Board to shepherd the work of the organization between Conventions. National Conventions were called by the National Board at least every three years except when prevented by travel restrictions during the two World Wars.

Actions of the Convention were determined by majority vote of the delegates. These were either "voting delegates," who were representatives from member associations, (the number of delegates an association could send to Convention was a function of the size of voting membership of that Association); or "ex-officio voting delegates," who were National Board and national staff members.

Convention "entrusts" the National Board with the management of the Association in the interim between Conventions. The National Board was responsible for hiring and directing the work of the national staff. Each National Board member served a term lasting through two Convention cycles and was eligible to stand for one additional term. One third to one half of the membership was elected at each Convention.

The challenge of "creating . . . a common mind which can deal wisely and adequately with complex problems in the life of the organization" out of a large group of women brought together for a few days every two or three years, lead to ever-evolving experiments with preparatory materials and meetings, small group discussions, and various other techniques to achieve effective and representational participation. Though there were enduring traditions and features, no two conventions were exactly the same.

This form of organization-major organizational decisions made at intervals of two or three years-meant that changes in national YWCA policies and procedures were slow in coming. Often when issues were brought to Convention, the result was a resolution to establish a Commission to study the situation and report to the following Convention. It was not unusual for changes to be studied and discussed through two or three Convention cycles before final decisions were reached.

Due to this deliberative process, often-cited "watershed" Convention Actions, such as the adoption of the Federal Council of Churches' "Social Ideals of the Churches" in 1920, the "Interracial Charter" in 1946, and the "One Imperative: the elimination of racism wherever it exists and by any means necessary" in 1970, were in fact the result of years of study, discussion, preparation, and incremental action. They were more a manifestation of a continuum of activity than a dramatic change of direction. YWCA Conventions regularly and repeatedly reviewed such issues as the nature of the organization's role in public policy; the diversity of its membership and leadership; religion, or the "C" in YWCA; and the role of men in the Association.

Auxiliary meetings associated with Convention, the Assemblies, were the national meetings of various YWCA Councils-the bottom-up organizations of various constituent groups within the YW: Industrial, Business and Professional, [college and university] Student, and Teen Age. These usually convened a few days before Convention.

The Convention planned for 1918 was postponed for the duration of the U.S. involvement in World War I.

The Convention planned for 1945 was cancelled at request of the federal government that convention travel be curtailed. In its stead, the National Board election was carried out by mail, and simultaneous meetings were held at each association to consider questions of importance to the whole Association and report back to the National Board. These were referred to variously as "little convention meetings" and "nation-wide discussions."

Any meetings or conferences held between Conventions provided more and less formal opportunities for the Association to measure progress toward goals set at Convention and gather ideas and opinions for future program. After World War II, the Association established a more formal "cycle of meetings between conventions" held all around the country. These were known variously as "Neighborhood Meetings," "Interim Leadership Development Meetings," "Convention Cycle Meetings," and "Mid-Triennium Conference."

After World War II, as the national organization scaled back its program activities, Convention discussion centered more on the organization's public policy platform and the internal workings of the YWCA: affiliation of associations, payment of dues, public relations, and finances. In addition, Convention served as a venue to launch such things as a new YWCA logo (1988), the 135th Anniversary exhibit (1994), and the ill-fated Worldwide Web-based "communications platform" YWLink (1998).

A series of long-range and strategic planning initiatives began circa 1988 to attempt to "transform" the YWCA for the 21st Century. These eventuated in the "Change Initiative" (1998-2000). A Special Convention was called in summer 2000 to approve an outline plan "Steps to Absolute Change." At this Special Convention, a Transition Steering Committee was charged with drafting a detailed reorganization plan for approval at a Convention the following year. The final Convention in 2001 approved the "Ten Steps to Absolute Change Transition Plan" for the restructuring of the national organization.

Staff and Committees

At the national office, Conventions and Conferences staff were in charge of business management and logistical planning of conferences and Conventions, including publicity, budgeting, scheduling, and the production of printed materials. Convention Committees planned program for Convention and any pre-Convention meetings, and solicited and gathered input from associations for resolutions and amendments to be voted on at Convention.

  • 1909 - 23 : Convention and Conference Dept
  • 1923: Convention and Conference Division
  • 1925 - 31 : under Education and Research Division
  • 1932 - 39 : Leadership Division: business manager conferences and Convention; and General Administration
  • 1941 - 70 : under General Administration
  • c 1971-spr 1987: National Convention and Conference Office
  • fall 1987 - Aug 1992 : Convention, Meetings, and Travel Dept
  • fall 1992 - : ? Leadership Development Center staff? "Sales and Conference Planning Specialist"

From the guide to the YWCA of the U. S. A. Records, . Record Group 04. National Conventions and Conferences Forms part of MS 324., 1899-2001, (Sophia Smith Collection)

Prior to the founding of the YWCA of the U.S.A. in 1906, local YWCAs had made financial contributions to church missionary work. Some of them decided to send overseas staff, or "secretaries" under their own auspices beginning in 1894 when Agnes Hill volunteered to go to India, supported by the Toledo City Association. While both predecessor organizations, the International Board and the American Committee, were interested in missionary work, the latter was most active due to its roots among college students and more evangelical character. YWCAs in the United States forged bonds in India, Japan, and China when association workers went to those countries to introduce association work to, and ultimately work with, the indigenous local associations.

Worship Service, YWCA Girls Camp, Chengdu, China, 1940

The YWCA of the U.S.A. and its Foreign Department were part of an international movement. When the National Association incorporated in 1907, its original Constitution and By-laws gave it the power to cooperate with YWCAs in other countries and to participate in the program and purpose of the World's YWCA (later World YWCA), which had been founded in 1894 to federate, develop, and extend the YWCA in all lands. The first convention in December 1906 reported that thirteen overseas secretaries were serving in India, China, Japan, and Argentina. The convention report also outlined the Association's policy of having secretaries develop indigenous work appropriate to the particular country rather than imposing their own structure. In 1908, of the twelve officers appointed to the Foreign Department, eight were members of the World's Committee, one of seventeen National Committees affiliated with the World's YWCA. Great Britain, Canada, and the United States were the three national committees sending secretaries to other countries.

In the first Foreign Department Annual Report (1907), the National Association was conceptualized as two "co-ordinate" departments "one for the home and one for the foreign work." The Foreign Department had two primary functions, "home cultivation" and "foreign supervision." Home cultivation encompassed visitation by foreign secretaries on furlough to local associations for fundraising, publicity, and recruitment; and work among "Oriental students" in the United States. These programs took place in close cooperation with the Home Department. The Foreign Department's "foreign supervision" function involved sending workers from the United States to "strategic points" across the globe. Finding, training, and supporting secretaries, and providing buildings and other equipment were the primary activities of staff and board members responsible for this function. The two arms of the division were intertwined in order to solicit contributions for support of the foreign secretaries from the local associations and to strengthen the "missionary spirit and religious life of those associations." Sometimes specific local associations in the U.S. were paired with overseas counterparts, for example when the Harlem Association assumed responsibility for supporting Bombay. The aim at this time was to eventually have each state and territorial committee have financial responsibility for a designated part of the overseas work and, in fact, it was an unwritten policy that student volunteers in association work provided a pool of candidates for overseas secretary-ships. From 1907 to 1916 fifty-nine secretaries were sent from North America to China, India, Burma, Ceylon, Japan, Latin America, and the Near East, and the budget for foreign work tripled. By 1929 there were ninety-five secretaries in those places, as well as the Philippines, Turkey, Europe, and the Caribbean.

Just as the Social Gospel influenced the work of the YWCA in the United States, it informed the work abroad. In 1906 the World's YWCA sent out a questionnaire to local organizations in all countries about what they were doing to address the social and industrial problems of women. In 1920 an industrial committee was appointed to oversee this work. Similarly, recreation and health education assumed greater importance in the United States and abroad as experts began to emphasize the importance of its role in building the character of young women. These changes in philosophy reflected the changing point of view of North American secretaries who served abroad. Their preparation was more technical and they brought less evangelical dedication and more professionalism to their work. Progressive era ideas combined with feminist principles influenced the mission of the National Association, prompting some secretaries to emphasize social rather than religious development, reversing the emphasis of many church missions. Moreover, the secretaries came to appreciate the cultural and spiritual resources of lands where they lived and worked, sometimes for years at a time, side-by-side with indigenous colleagues. Rapid institutional growth in the early years of the Foreign Department accelerated the transition from the original evangelistic purpose toward the emphasis on social reform. The influence of the Social Gospel, coupled with an internationalism generated by work abroad, eventually allowed for the accommodation of non-Christian faiths.

World War I significantly impacted the international work of the YWCA by diverting resources from places like Latin America and Turkey to organized relief efforts in Europe and elsewhere. The National Board organized the War Work Council in 1917, and the bulk of the National Association's war relief work in Europe and the Near East was carried out under the auspices of the War Work Council. [See World War I for more details] When relationships between national associations were renewed at the end of World War I, leaders from the U.S. became more involved in the councils of the World's YWCA Executive Committee and the YWCA of the U.S.A. began to participate regularly in the World's YWCA. In 1920 the work of the War Work Council combined with that of the Foreign Department under the Foreign and Overseas Department (re-named the Foreign Division in 1922). There were 118 secretaries in thirty-two centers in Asia and South America, and a larger number in fifty-nine centers in Europe and the Near East.

The International Survey of the YWCA and YMCA, a collaborative effort of the two organizations published in 1930, concluded that the aim of the Associations in North America in launching the foreign work was to assist in founding "self-supporting, self-directing and self-propagating national movements." This aspect of the YWCA's international work was at its apex between WWI and WWII, after which staff abroad decreased and programs in those countries increasingly came under the administrative purview of the World YWCA. This transition began in earnest in 1923-24 when the National Association checked expansion of its program abroad. Former colonies of the British Empire viewed themselves as equals of other nations. Control of the older national associations, i.e., in India, Japan, and China had indeed been shifting more to the hands of national leaders rather than secretaries sent by the YWCA of the U.S.A. Reconstruction in Europe and the programs in the Near East and Latin America were beneficiaries when the organization began redistributing its financial resources.

The decade of the 1930s and the Great Depression brought with it the need for further reduction of the Foreign Division's budget. Its high point in 1920 was $574, 040; by 1944 it had fallen to $112, 195. In the midst of steadily falling revenue, the Japan-China war broke out in 1937 and relief for the National Association in China became a priority. The devastation of World War II prompted eight years of special relief efforts in a number of European countries. [See World War II] In 1946 the YWCA of the U.S.A. launched the Round-the-World YWCA Reconstruction Fund campaign which successfully raised over $2,000,000 for aid to leaders in countries affected by the war.

Training leaders had always been an important emphasis in the Foreign Division, as in the larger YWCA, but it became even more of an organizational priority after World War II. In cooperation with the World YWCA, the National Association began to hold seminars and conferences to help form and run Associations under the direction of local staff in countries other than those where American secretaries were working. It also brought leaders from other countries to the U.S. for training. The National Association placed special emphasis on training volunteers to implement activities and classes that would increase membership in the various countries. Financial contributions to associations in other countries were sometimes enough, but in other cases U.S. staff acted as consultants to local staff. During 1949, forty-two staff members from the U.S. served in twenty countries. In 1957 the National Support staff raised $150,000 for buildings abroad and leadership training, including implementation of a training center for twenty-two Asian women in Japan.

YWCA cooperation with governmental and voluntary agencies increased during the post-World War II era. "Statement on Foreign Economic Aid," a Foreign Division report issued in 1956, noted that since 1949 the YWCA had expressed support for U.S. efforts toward improving the well-being of less economically developed areas through technical cooperation and assistance, the United Nations, and bilateral arrangements. Within the YWCA, there was a growing awareness that colonialism's day was over. An emphasis on joint planning, not only through World's YWCA, but in cooperative relationships with churches, and government and social work agencies having overseas work reflected the YWCA's grasp of changing realities. A 1957 women's education program in Ethiopia, for example, grew out of an application for funds to the U.S. Technical Cooperation Administration, discussions with the State Department, and a survey by a YWCA staff member in Addis Ababa.

The emphasis on international cooperation, including working with the UN, was closely linked to the YWCA's experience in World Fellowship, or World Mutual Service, a commitment of YWCAs across the world to a mission of helping one another by sharing staff, funds, and other resources. The YWCA General Secretary reported to the National Board in February 1957 that "[t]he current world situation and the tensions in the Middle East have pointed up again the need that some understanding of world relationships is becoming standard requirement for any citizen, for any mature girl or woman who is adequately prepared for life today . . . Let us not be apologetic in asking local Associations for contributions for support of a national and international organization but rather let us more fully realize the enormous potential of these facts and point them out to the public and our communities." Throughout the years, those responsible for the international work of the YWCA repeated similar refrains regarding their deep commitment to the idea of World Fellowship and the continual need to educate the local associations about their part in a world movement. They worked to incorporate this basic message into the work of all the other departments of the National Board, as well as the individual associations. [see also (?) for more about the role of World Fellowship in those departments.]

Though no longer the primary focus, Foreign Division field staff worked with local staff to help develop new YWCAs in Rhodesia [Zimbabwe], Uganda, Liberia, the Philippines, Thailand, Egypt, Lebanon and Japan in the late 1950s and helped raise funds for grants toward the budgets of others. In 1958 there were still fifteen overseas staff members. However, the International Division (re-named in 1961) continued to direct funds and other support toward creation of programs and projects that involved cooperation with other agencies, leadership training, and World Fellowship, and devoted fewer resources to supporting overseas secretaries. The 1961 Program and Budget Committee authorized the National Student YWCA to request funds from outside sources for student exchanges, including the USSR Exchange, and the College and University Division sought funds jointly with the World University Service for financing travel grants for a Travel Seminar for staff in Asia. The same year the National Board minutes noted that World Fellowship should be a year-round interest and that the Division's continuing aim should be to make each member of a local Association in the U.S. feel part of the world movement. The Latin America/USA Project placed teams of U.S. and Latin American participants at U.S. and Latin American locals for various portions of the leadership training project.

The Division staff also advocated with the National Association for increased funding for World YWCA for staff positions related to new buildings and international travel exchanges, study tours, work camps, and conferences. Through the Mutual Service Committee of the World YWCA, a number of cooperative projects with several countries participating and contributing to financing were developed. In 1962 the U.S. YWCA contributed staff or money to more than one-third of the associations helped by the World YWCA Mutual Service Committee and in the mid-1960s the U.S. was contributing over a quarter of the staff for mutual service positions even though it was only one of ten countries doing so. Another cooperative project begun in the early 1960s was the YWCA Peace Corps Project in Chile. Peace Corps officials were interested in working with voluntary agencies like the YWCA that had experience working abroad, and through the Peace Corps, the YWCA could reach new people.

The number of staff overseas continued to shrink in the 1970s-in 1970 there were nine staff members serving in advisory capacities overseas and by 1975 there were only two. One of the last places where a U.S. staff member continued in an advisory capacity was the American Girls Service Center in Turkey, which in 1989 celebrated its 65th anniversary. "Program for Action, 1973-76" proposed to "work deliberately to enable Third World women to participate fully in the YWCA and assume active leadership," as well as "promote support of Third World people to achieve self-determined social change." Symbolizing this emphasis, the International Division became the World Relations Unit (later Department) in 1971. As financial difficulties beset the larger organization, the staff produced position papers on issues of world peace and justice, and proposals for outside funding to promote education on world issues like disarmament and the reordering priorities of the U.S. military budget in an attempt to engage local associations with global issues. Concrete proposals to reawaken commitment to a world movement included "program models," such as the International Study Program, working papers, a task force to integrate world issues in the Five Year Plan of the Program Unit, World YWCA interpretation in member associations, and leadership development.

The International Study Program (ISP), begun in 1977, and initially focusing on Asia, was an effort to replace the professional overseas staff visits with exchanges of staffs from local associations in the U.S. and abroad for study tours and conferences. In 1984 only two overseas positions, in Turkey and Latin America, remained. In the 1980s the ISP planned programs involving YWCA staffs from Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East. The 1984 South Africa tour was designed "to foster a dialogue between members of the [U.S. associations and the YWCA of South Africa] on the root causes of racial and economic injustice and oppression; to share experiences of empowerment in the struggle for human rights and to formulate effective action plans . . . [and] to assist U.S. members to work for the end of apartheid."

As was the case in the larger organization, in the 1990s the international work of the YWCA diminished along with the level of financial support and staff cuts. PROJECT REDESIGN (1992) by KPMG Peat Marwick, a study of the National Office and what member associations wanted from it, showed that provision of program development and support services by the National Association were no longer wanted. A fifty percent staff reduction resulted. Staff and National Board members committed to the importance of international ties fought to keep its agenda of global responsibility in the forefront. A successful 1989 proposal to the U.S. Agency for International Development for a 3-year $150,000/year grant sought to institutionalize global education in the YWCA movement. The program it created, Education for Global Responsibility (EGR), held workshops for educators, service providers, and activists to teach strategies for global education; awarded grants to local YWCAs to create program models for education of volunteers, staff, and members; and conducted study-tours. The National Association created World Relations Volunteers in 1993 to assist the staff with former World Relations functions they wanted to continue despite diminished staff and program cuts.

The National Association continued to support the World YWCA by participating in the International Pilot Project, developed to promote international fundraising, with Japan, Tanzania, and Sweden. The Association also continued to send representatives to world events, for example the World YWCA Women's Summit in Seoul and the Fourth UN World Women's Conference in Beijing, both in 1994. In 1997 the YWCA of the U.S.A. co-sponsored the World conference on Family Violence in India. On the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, in 1998, the YWCA launched Human Rights Heroes campaign to identify and recognize twenty national and international heroes on Human Rights Day.

The new Global Affairs Unit was established under direction of the former project manager for EGR in 1996, and renamed the next year the Mary French Rockefeller World Relations Unit. A YWCA publication outlined its purpose: " . . . to establish a strong international presence for the YWCA of the U.S.A. through education, leadership development and advocacy initiatives for the empowerment of women, gender equality, racial justice, economic justice, and development and environmental justice." The study-tours or "immersions" were one way of accomplishing this purpose, by having YWCA volunteers and members visit countries struggling with racism, sexism, and poverty in order to reach a greater understanding of poverty's impact on women around the world. The YWCA's efforts to seek corporate support toward the end of the decade prompted it to work with major U.S. retailers to explore possibilities of funding childcare services in YWCAs in Latin America and Canada, and the focus on exchanges between YWCAs in the U.S. and abroad continued.

  • 1907 - Oct 1920 : Foreign Department
  • 1920 October - Nov 1920 : Foreign Department, Overseas Committee, and Committee, and Continuation Committee
  • Nov 1920 - 1921 : Foreign and Overseas Department
  • 1922 - Feb 1961 : Foreign Division
  • Mar 1961 - 1971 : International Division
  • 1971 - 1996 : World Relations Unit
  • 1996 - : Global Affairs Unit

From the guide to the YWCA of the U. S. A. Records, . Record Group 05. International Work Forms part of MS 324., 1890-2000, (Sophia Smith Collection)

Cartoon for YWCA training, 1930 National Convention

The establishment of the YWCA movement in the United States in the second half of the nineteenth century created an immediate need for women trained in "Association principles and methods" to staff the new Associations. Much of the training sponsored by the YWCA of the U.S.A's predecessor organizations took place in three-week summer study conferences where current and potential secretaries were given the opportunity "to grasp the principles of the work as fully as possible." Courses given included physical culture, recreational activities, Association principles and methods, and Bible study. Other training opportunities took place during the year at three-day to one month long Institutes held at Community Associations.

The need for trained staff continued to grow with the number of Associations, prompting the American Committee to establish a full-year, post-college training course for young women interested in making a career working in the YWCA. The course failed to attract enough students, struggled financially, and was abandoned after one year. A second attempt by the American Committee in 1904 met with more success. The Secretaries Training Institute in Chicago offered a three-term, year-long course that continued until 1908, when training activities moved to New York City to be near the new national headquarters of the merged Association.

The new National Association's Secretarial Committee was given authority for recruiting, training, and recommending individuals for employment as YWCA staff. It studied the various methods of training used by the predecessor organizations and recommended establishment of a National Training System. The System continued the tradition of summer training conferences, and a variety of short-term training institutes at Associations in various parts of the country. It also included the National Training School for intensive post-college study. The School, established in 1908, carried courses in four divisions: Bible, Christian and Social Teaching, The Association Movement, and Personal Efficiency (which included public speaking, and parliamentary procedure). As the organization grew, the School added specialized courses for different types of secretaries: student, industrial, foreign, city, etc. The general course for secretaries lasted one year, religious work directors attended for two.

The Secretarial Department also maintained a bureau of reference; and worked on "general cultivation" of the field through correspondence and "visitation to arouse interest in the question of professional training for Association workers and to bring valuable young women into line of preparation."

The tremendous growth of the Association during World War I, made the need for "an adequate supply of workers who are qualified personally, educationally and spiritually for positions of leadership in the YWCA" especially acute.

In 1923 YWCA staff formed the National Association of Employed Officers (NAEO) "to create and maintain a fellowship of employed officers who are seeking to carry out the purpose of the YWCA; to define standards of service; to encourage professional preparations; to promote that sacrificial spirit and unity which is necessary to the best development of individuals and the organization as a whole; to develop a Christian ethics for the profession that will nurture mutual confidence and loyalty." It was a dues organization with a membership that included anyone working for a salary in the YWCA of the U.S.A., whether on the national staff or working in Community or Student Associations. Through its committees, regional chapters, and constituent group and subject "sections," the group worked cooperatively with the National Personnel and Training Services Committees to raise levels of professional competence, giving input into the content and method of training. The group changed its name to National Association of Professional Workers (NAPW) in 1946. It disbanded in 1953.

By the mid-1920s, the National Training School was struggling. Few secretaries could afford to "give up" a year to a program that did not offer a graduate degree and potential candidates were much more likely to enroll in one of the growing number of Social Work graduate programs which offered credentials useful beyond the sphere of the YWCA. Beginning in 1926 the School's curriculum was broken into shorter "unit courses" which were offered both in New York and at summer conferences and in other regions of the country.

While the full-time, year-long course was losing enrollment, the shorter summer courses at Camp Maqua in Maine, at Asilomar in California, and later at Fletcher Farm in Vermont, were growing steadily. They offered general and specialized training for all types of staff with various degrees of commitment to the Association. Addressing the situation in classic YWCA style, attendees at the 1928 Convention appointed a Council on Professional Study to examine the situation and make recommendations about the future of the Training System to the following Convention. The Council's report to Convention in 1930 recommended that there should be "schools but not a school" with the result that the YWCA closed its National Training School in favor of more short-term and decentralized institutes, seminars, workshops, and conferences.

YWCA training staff was responsible for providing resources for "formal and informal learning in relation to program emphases." It emphasized the YWCA's mission, effective and efficient administration, and social group work, as well as basic personnel issues, such as recruitment, performance evaluation, hiring, and supervision. Training staff continued to offer a system of shorter courses or workshops at YWCAs around the country during the year and longer ones during the summer at one or two locations, such as college campuses. The content and method of the training was ever evolving as staff worked to find the most effective ways to meet the needs of the times. Training staff experimented with a multi-media "Venture" program in the late 1960s, incorporated units of "self-study," and established intern programs for lower-level staff to experience the job of the Executive Director. Because the Association as a whole depended on a core of dedicated volunteers, training for employed staff also focused on techniques for training and working with volunteers.

The Association made regular studies of salary ranges and educational qualifications of staff in its Community and Student Associations. When the studies revealed in the 1950s and 1960s that one quarter of the professional staff in Community Associations were not college graduates, the National Association worked to encourage college completion through scholarships and policies promoting leaves for educational purposes.

In response to changing trends, especially among the volunteer work force, the Association committed itself to a renewed emphasis on leadership training for the 1980s.

When the Max C. Fleishmann Foundation of Reno, Nevada, announced that it wanted to distribute all of its assets, the YWCA submitted a proposal for support of construction of a "leadership development center" located in the fast-growing southwestern U.S. Staff cuts in the mid-1970s had reduced staff in regional offices which left the membership feeling that National was out of touch with their concerns. Location of the center away from New York was an attempt to address that problem.

A site was selected in Phoenix, Arizona, causing some controversy among Association membership due to the apparent inconsistency of building in a state that had not ratified the Equal Rights Amendment, a YWCA public policy priority since 1973. Citing the need for a "strong presence…in areas which most need the commitment of the YWCA to racial justice and equality for women," the YWCA went ahead with the construction. Dedicated in 1983, the Leadership Development Center was a year-round, non-residential training center designed to take full advantage of state-of-the-art technology. Though primarily for YWCA staff, it could also be rented by similar groups.

The logistics of administering an operation that was at such a distance from headquarters, as well as the financial burdens of staffing and maintaining the facility, were always somewhat challenging for the shrinking national staff. Part of the National Association's renewed emphasis on leadership training included, as part of Member Association accreditation, required attendance at training sessions in Phoenix. At least some cash-strapped Community Associations objected to the expense involved in traveling to Arizona for training that had previously been offered regionally. Logistical and financial conditions did not improve over time and the Association ultimately decided to sell the Center as part of the major restructuring of the National Association in 1999-2000.

Once again feeling the need of an independent association for discussion of professional and organizational issues, staff members established the National Association of YWCA Executives (NAYE), in 1985. This group played a large role in the 1999-2000 reorganization of the structure of the National Association.

  • circa 1907 - 21 : Secretarial Department (includes National Training School, Extension Training Division, Personnel Bureau, Recruiting, and Recommendations)
  • 1922 - 23 : Personnel Division (includes National Training School, Recruiting and Placement Section)
  • 1925: Personnel Department under Business Division; National Training School under Education and Research Division)
  • 1925 - 32 : Personnel Bureau; National Training School under Education and Research
  • Apr 1932 - Oct 1943 : Leadership Division/Department (includes both Personnel and Department of Training)
  • Nov 1943 - Sep1948 : Leadership Services Department (includes both Personnel and Department of Study: Professional and Volunteer Training)
  • Oct 1948 - May 1950 : Personnel and Training Services
  • Oct1950-1952: Membership Resources (includes Personnel Services and Training Services [also Publications Services and Data and Statistics])
  • 1952 - 53 : Membership Resources (includes Leadership Services, Personnel Services [also Data and Statistics and Publications Services])
  • 1954: Membership Resources (includes Leadership Services and Personnel Services only)
  • 1955 - spring 1960 : Personnel Policies and Services Department and Leadership Services Department are separate, all under General Administration
  • Sep 1960 - 1971 : Bureau of Personnel and Training
  • 1972: National Personnel and Labor Relations; Membership-Leadership Development
  • after 1973: ??
  • 1992: Leadership Development and Mission Training under Member Association Services; Leadership Development Center under Operations Department
  • 1997: Human Resources/Administration

From the guide to the YWCA of the U. S. A. Records, . Record Group 06. Program: Series II. Training and Personnel Forms part of MS 324., 1870-2002, (Sophia Smith Collection)

Predecessor Organizations

The first student Young Women's Christian Association in the United States was founded in 1873 at Normal University, Normal, Illinois. "Goaded" into action by the growing Young Men's Christian Association movement on college campuses, the Normal University example was soon followed on a number of mid-western campuses. Some YMCAs at coeducational schools initially included women among their membership, but, by about 1881, the YMCA helped the women to form separate women's associations so that they could concentrate their efforts on young women-whose needs were outside of the mission of the YMCA. As the movement grew, the YMCA's first collegiate secretary, Luther Wishard, worked in conjunction with the International Board of Women's Christian Associations to organize and develop Student YWCAs on campuses all over the country.

Speaker at Student YWCA, unidentifed, undated

Like the work of Women's Christian Associations among working women in cities, Student Associations focused on young women away from the "steadying influences" of home. Yet, in contrast to WCAs in cities, Student Association program tended to be deeply and evangelically religious-especially in those Associations with close ties to the YMCA. In addition to Bible study, "united prayer," and "Christian conversation," the Student Associations aimed to translate the religious zeal of the campus and student summer conferences into commitment to a life of service either at home or abroad. The mission was "to lead students to faith in God through Jesus Christ, to lead them into membership and service to the Christian Church," to provide "character education" in order to counteract the permissive atmosphere of the campus, and to "influence them to devote themselves to making the will of Christ effective in human society, and to extending the Kingdom of God throughout the world." In a day when colleges and universities had little or no administrative staff responsible for student affairs, few student clubs, and no student government, student Christian Associations (including Student YWCAs) provided such services, activities, and experiences to the student body.

Student Associations differed from City Associations in that they tended to be smaller in size, their membership changed completely every four years, they usually made use of space provided by the institution, and they rarely had paid staff, relying instead on volunteer advisors from the college's faculty or administration.

In the 1880s, the existing national organization of Women's Christian Associations, the International Board, was a loose confederation of independent City Associations with no permanent staff or headquarters. The students were convinced that their associations needed the resources and continuity of an ongoing national organization with paid staff. In 1886, at a summer conference at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, the women students decided to form their own organization, the National Association of Young Women's Christian Associations. This organization eventually became known as the American Committee.

The Student YWCAs always worked in collaboration with other student Christian organizations. In addition to continued ties with the YMCA and a variety of denominational student organizations, they were part of the trio of organizations (YMCA, YWCA, and Inter-Seminary Missionary Alliance) that formed in 1888 the Executive Committee of the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions, an organization seeking "the evangelization of the world in this generation." In 1895, they were founding members of the World Student Christian Federation, the student branch of the world ecumenical movement.

Before long, alumnae of Student YWCAs began to found City YWCAs to serve their home communities. Rather than affiliating with the International Board, these Associations became members of the umbrella organization founded by the students, the American Committee. The American Committee saw itself as focused exclusively on the needs of young women--as opposed to the International Board, which served women of all ages. In addition, there were two ways that Associations belonging to the American Committee differed from those in the International Board: all members were required to be members of Protestant evangelical churches, and they were committed to supporting missionary work abroad.

Before long, the International Board of Women's Christian Associations, came to see the American Committee as in competition for its constituency and funding. Though it did not include the word "young" in its name until 1893 when it became the International Board of Women's and Young Women's Christian Associations, there were many YWCAs among the International Board's membership. Various attempts at merger were made, but it was not until 1906 that an agreement could be reached and the two organizations came together to form the Young Women's Christian Associations of the United States of America.

YWCA of the USA

When the two predecessor organizations merged, the new YWCA of the U.S.A. consisted of about 600 student associations with roughly 40,000 active members and 223 city and town associations with approximately 110,000 members. The work of the new national association was divided between the "Home" and "Foreign" fields. Its purpose was to conduct studies to identify needs of the Association's constituency, develop effective methods for meeting those needs, and set standards across the Association for work among that constituency. In the "Home" field, committees were formed to oversee the work of various types of Associations: City, Town and Country, and Student. Up until World War I, the Student work included any young woman in school, secondary as well as college. As the national staff grew, Student Secretaries were given responsibility for specific types of schools: church schools, professional schools, secondary schools, boarding schools, "colored" schools, Indian schools, state universities, and colleges. The first African-American members of the national staff, worked for the Student Committee beginning in 1907, visiting the existing "colored" student associations and helping to establish and develop new ones.

The formation of the new national organization meant that the relatively conservative Student Associations in the American Committee came into contact with the more progressive membership of the International Board and its emphasis on Christianity expressed through social action. Students were inevitably changed by the college experience and YWCA staff noted their difficulties passively accepting religion as it had been presented to them in their early life. To counteract the students' tendency to simply abandon religion, the Student Department developed techniques such as "round table discussions" for encouraging "honest questioning;" a Bible study curriculum and religious education at conferences that introduced more radical theology; and students were encouraged to undertake social service projects, "the most effective instrument in developing the consciousness outside oneself." (Student Committee Biennial Report, 1913-14.) The Student Department also produced publications for Bible study, such as the "voluntary study course" for use at the college level, and the Inch Library and Girl's Year Book for teenagers.

Regular regional and national YWCA meetings as well as the Student Associations' continued ties with other national and international student Christian organizations meant a continuous widening of experiences for the students.

The National Association saw the Student Department as a primary source of personnel for the growing national movement. It made an active attempt to "relate" student association graduates to some form of community service whether it was ultimately with the YWCA (as professional or volunteer staff) or with some other organization. Student Associations did not generally have an established board or fundraising capability but the National Association invested disproportionately in staff to foster Student Associations because so many of its leaders came out of the student movement.

The Council of North American Student Movements (consisting of the student YMCA and YWCA of the U.S. and Canada, and the Student Volunteer Movement) was formed in 1912 under the chairmanship of John R. Mott of the World Student Christian Federation and the YMCA, to create a "national attack" of the "un-Christian elements in our so called 'Christian Civilization'." ("The Students of North America and Social Action," Association Monthly, Jun 1914) From the beginnings of the student YWCA movement, Student Associations tried to "fire" undergraduates to action. Their zeal perhaps accounts for their tendency to push the Association as a whole toward more radical social change positions, particularly with regard to race relations, and economic conditions.

A May 1914 national Negro Student Convention, called by Christian student leader John R. Mott brought what was identified by Method Department Executive Louise Holmquist as a "new light" to the work of the YWCA. Up to that point, the social gospel promoted by the Federal Council of Churches had been defined primarily in terms of capital versus labor and efforts to bring justice to the working class. Convention speakers linked the social gospel to race issues and argued that it was the duty of Christian organizations to help bring justice to African-Americans. In her quarterly report to the Student Committee of September 1914, Colored Student Secretary Josephine Pinyon expressed her response to the Convention this way: "Now there is something that will make people realize that the colored work is . . . an integral and by no means negligible part of the responsibility assumed when the National Board was organized."

This conference was followed in 1915 by the YWCA's first national Conference on Colored Work in Louisville, Kentucky, where it was acknowledged that "leadership for the race must come from the student ranks." (Student Committee Annual Report, 1915) If the YWCA was going to contribute substantially to race relations, it must work hard to recruit and train leaders especially among its Black student membership.

Though it had been the student movement, through the American Committee, that had insisted on the more conservative evangelical basis of membership when the YWCA of the USA was formed in 1906, the students were the first to request a loosening of that policy, through the World Student Christian Federation in 1913. They proposed an alternative "personal" basis, meaning a personal commitment to the purpose of the YWCA rather than membership in a Protestant evangelical church. The first national student conference, in January of 1915, was called primarily for discussion of this change prior to its presentation to the full National Convention in May of that year. At Convention a Commission was appointed, the matter was considered and re-considered, and, at the 1920 Convention, the Constitution was amended to allow Student Association members this alternative basis of membership.

The academic calendar had always provided the YWCA and other Christian organizations with the opportunity to bring students together on a regional or national level during the summer months. Summer Conferences were highly popular from the very beginning of the movement and provided invaluable opportunities for all kinds of training, for inciting to action, and for taking the pulse of the students.

The National Association also took advantage of the students' summer recess by developing programs for students in its core program areas, such as leadership training, international relations, economic conditions, citizenship, race relations, etc. In the early years, these included the Eight Week Club Program under which college women from parts of the country (particularly rural areas) where there was no YWCA could use their time at home over the summer to foster interest in the YWCA and its goals by initiating club activities for high school girls.

When the U.S. joined World War I, the Student Movement (YM, YW and SVM) raised more than a million dollars for the Student Friendship Fund for work among prisoners of war, and to support the war needs of the World's Student Christian Federation, and the War Work Councils of the YWCA and YMCA.

The general feeling after World War I, was that the National Association should work to encourage self-governance by various of its 'constituent groups' particularly those (such as the students and the industrial women) who had made outstanding contributions to the war work. The students' war experience had primed them for greater participation in the Association and for self-governance.

In December 1919, the National Board Executive Committee approved a plan drawn up by the Committee on Student Administration and Student Initiative that established the National Student Assembly as the governing body of the students. This gave students the right to direct their own program and policies with the proviso that any matters affecting the entire Association required action of the full Convention. Time that had been set aside during the 1920 Convention for a student "sectional" meeting became the first meeting of the Assembly. [Though none of the 1920 Convention materials make note of it as the first National Student Assembly, a similar report in the 1922 Convention proceedings is titled Second National Student Assembly.] The Assembly's work was administered by the National Student Council, made up of students and faculty elected at summer conferences. Because it was difficult for full time students to meet regularly to work on plans and schedules, the Council's Executive Committee was given an unusual amount of decision-making authority. The Student Assembly was soon followed by the establishment of other self-governing Assemblies: Industrial in 1922 and Business and Professional in 1924.

The War experience also brought to the students a "new sense of kinship with the rest of the human family," and a "new sense of social responsibility" (Report of the Findings Committee of the 1919 National Student Conference in Evanston, Illinois). They saw the church as a medium for promoting Christian democracy and sought conscious alignment with the "constructive elements" of the labor movement.

As part of the post war recovery, the YWCA of the USA instituted a national program of interracial education with the hope of influencing public opinion through "earnest study" of race issues in terms of Christian doctrine. The students' participation in this effort was especially enthusiastic, particularly in the south and southwest regions where YWCAs existed in 3 out of every 4 colleges. As would often be the case, the students efforts pushed ahead of the National Association and far beyond public opinion. Some came to see these activities, such as holding interracial conferences in the south, as "jeopardizing the Association as a whole." In addition to challenging the status quo on race, the women were using religion not only as the basis of that challenge, but as a means to step into the public sphere in order to issue that challenge. In time, these efforts in the southern and southwest regions came to monopolize a budget and staff that was shrinking as a result of the 1930s economic crisis causing some resentment in other regions.

In addition to interracial education, the National Association facilitated student programming in leadership training, "social morality" (with an emphasis on sex education as well as ethical concerns for the roaring '20s), and economic conditions. Religious education was facilitated "by the presentation of Christianity in terms of life" (Student Department Annual Report, 1921-22) and Student-Industrial Clubs were formed to bring together college students and working women for joint study and Christian fellowship. National Summer Programs in the 1920s and 1930s focused on economic conditions with students learning about industry, agriculture, and rural communities. With the approaching war in Europe, the participation of some students in peace activities caused more controversy.

From its beginnings, the Student YWCAs had strong element of cooperation with other organizations. Some affiliations, such as the World Youth Congress, were used as "evidence" of the YWCA's communist leanings in the red-baiting 1950s. Student ties were especially close to the YMCA in parts of country where most colleges and universities were coeducational. In some periods, the Student YWCAs exhibited stronger affiliation with the concerns of college students than they did with more general women's concerns. An era of greater cooperation with the YM began with the founding of the National Intercollegiate Christian Council (first known as the National Intercollegiate Student Council) in 1935. NICC held national assemblies, produced program materials and other publications, and ran a variety of summer programs. For "a number of years" the National Student Assembly of the YWCA met at the NICC Assembly, rather than at the YWCA National Convention.

During World War II students participated in most of the YWCA's various war efforts, including programs for students at Japanese Relocation Centers, fundraising for foreign relief and reconstruction, and working in U.S.O. centers located near college campuses.

In response to the severe financial challenges caused by the Great Depression, in the late 1930s the YWCA undertook an extensive Program Planning Study with the aim of a more centralized planning of the work of the national Association. The advent of World War II slowed and, to a certain extent, altered this process because it was deemed "unseemly" to be engaged in "too introspective" a process while the world was at war. The end result was a set of recommendations about which subjects should remain in the YWCA program and how much staff would be needed to "carry the subject." The YWCA emerged from World War II with a less ambitious array of programs and the requirement that funding be in hand before new programs were undertaken.

The post-World War II era also brought major changes to colleges and universities where there was a dramatic increase in enrollment and related building boom. Larger student bodies came to be served by an increasing "student affairs" infrastructure within the college administration. In addition, a proliferation of student clubs and organizations of all kinds meant that many who traditionally would have joined Christian organizations had a variety of other options. Under these circumstances, YWCAs found it harder to reach a sizeable portion of the student body and the Association's presence in college life was substantially diminished.

Just as City Associations had to adjust their program due to rapid suburbanization, the Student Department had to adjust to the growth in junior and community colleges with their non-resident student community.

In the conservative 1950s when "narrow loyalties [were] left unchallenged," the Student YWCA attempted to be a place on campuses "where faith and doubt are both at home." "Because we are not a church, we can insist on an all open, free full search with all alternatives getting a hearing . . . but with room for a variety of affirmations and for expression of deep commitment" (February 1957 presentation to the National Board). 1950s Summer Projects included international exchanges, citizenship seminars in Washington DC, and at the UN, and urban service projects in various cities. In 1951 the NICC changed its name to National Student Council of the YMCA and YWCA (NSCY). The Student YWCA tended toward more collaborative work with the YMCA in the 1950s, but by the early 1960s, they were doing more work targeted at women.

Student Summer Programs, some run in conjunction with the Student YMCA, continued in the 1960s and 1970s with foundation and other outside funding. In addition to international exchanges, urban service projects, leadership training, and citizenship seminars in Washington D.C., there were also a number of regional summer programs such as the Middle Atlantic's program to combat Appalachian poverty, a migrant worker program in the Pacific Northwest, and a host of "human relations," school desegregation, and voter registration projects in the South.

The Students continued to be active on public affairs issues, participating in the civil rights movement and later advocating for racial justice; and demonstrating against the Vietnam war and the draft. Responsible for many of the more radical resolutions submitted to Convention, they worked to educate the National Association on issues related to the environment, women's liberation, and the Equal Rights Amendment.

Though the Student Assembly had the constitutional right to set policy and decide program for the Student Movement, the challenges of maintaining a full-time student schedule while also participating in the National Association in a meaningful way, meant that in reality the staff and volunteers did much of the work and the student members simply approved their plans. In the late 1960s, students became restless under this system and agitated for greater control over their movement. Following the 1970 "One Imperative" Convention, the Student YWCA amended its bylaws to institute a more pluralistic governing body by requiring that the Council include members from the each of the five ethnic caucuses, four geographic regions, students, non-students, and staff. The name of the Council was briefly changed to National Student Steering Committee.

The nation-wide economic crisis of the 1970s caused a reduction in university funding to campus organizations and in student activity fees. Because Student YWCAs did not collect membership fees, this meant that their primary means of financial support was greatly reduced or entirely eliminated. The same financial woes triggered a drastic reduction in the YWCA's national staff. What had been a student staff of 59 (to serve 414 Associations) in 1950, was reduced to 3.25 (for 59 Associations) by 1975. Coming at a time when student interest in "joining" was at a low ebb, the reductions were particularly devastating to the student movement. This trend was not unique to the YWCA. The YM experienced a similar decline in student membership and decided to close its Student Department in 1970.

One strategy for increasing the involvement of younger women in the YWCA was the formation of Young Women Committed to Action at a national Young Adult Conference in November 1969. This group brought together three groups (Students, Teens, and Young Adults) served by different departments and committees of the National Association. Though the press coverage and actions that came out of their initial meetings caused quite a stir, the group was disbanded after ten years due primarily to lack of participation.

Various studies, plans, and reports produced between the mid-1970s and early-1990s reiterated the combination of external and internal factors that contributed to the drastic decline in Student YWCAs. In addition to general postwar trends, by the later 1970s, the YWCA was suffering from students' general lack of interest in fostering or maintaining organizations and more and more students were troubled by the 'C' in YWCA. Because of its diminished profile, the YWCA was not perceived as an activist or feminist organization and it became ever more difficult to find skilled advisers. Primary YWCA issues related to the empowerment of women and racial justice were integrated into campus life through women's and multicultural centers and the institutionalization of women and minority/ethnic studies within the academy. And continued budget cuts at the national level meant the popular summer program opportunities were abandoned.

Lacking the staff and funding to found new Student Associations, in 1987 the Committee on Membership in the National Association (MINA) approved a plan to help establish a YWCA presence on campuses where none existed through the Registered Student Group plan. Registered Student Groups would function in cooperation with established (and often staffed) campus women's centers or organizations and offer a means for "relating in a structured manner" to the national student YWCA. RSG members could be elected to the National Student Council and attend regional and national meetings and events. A handful of such groups existed at least until 1998.

While all of the studies acknowledged the "historically invaluable contribution" and disproportionate impact of the Student YWCA on the movement as a whole, the National Association, which continued to experience severe budget restrictions, did not have the resources to address the particular problems of Student YWCAs, but also did not take action to eliminate the program. As of the 2001 Convention, 12 Student YWCAs were affiliated with the YWCA of the USA.

  • 1906 - 23 : Student Committee of the Home Departmentt, later Method Dept./Research and Method
  • 1923 - 24 : Student Department of the Field Division
  • 1940 - 53 : Student Division
  • 1953 - 71 : College and University Division
  • 1972 - 75 : Youth Constituencies Unit (includes Teens, Students, Young Adult)
  • 1975 - 92 : Services to Student Associations (SSA), sometimes listed under Field Services
  • 1992 - : Member Association Services (MAS) Office, Student

From the guide to the YWCA of the U. S. A. Records, . Record Group 07. Student Work Forms part of MS 324., 1906-2000, (Sophia Smith Collection)

The Public Advocacy activities of the YWCA represent the Association as a social force and have been described as "prayer in motion." They encompass "[a]ny issue affecting our common life which requires collective citizen action, legislation, or the development of public policy or efforts to change or improve the conditions or quality of life for all citizens, or correct inequities."

Cover of pamphlet by Joseph Camp, 1948

In a January 1911 report to the Department of Method, Economic Secretary Blanche Geary, spurred a new type of activity for the National Association when she pointed out that "preventative work for the girl who is not self-supporting is to a large degree futile if it is not coupled with a determined effort to secure her [a] minimum living wage." When Geary's argument was put before the membership later that year at the Third National Convention the YWCA went on record as in "sympathy with the great purpose of securing the determination by law of a minimum living wage for women." With this resolution, the National YWCA began to make use of its influence as a Christian organization in the public policy sphere.

From this point, part of the goal of the Department of Method was to make each Association, club, and committee within the YWCA "a force for social and industrial righteousness." Most of the National Association's earliest public advocacy activities were related to employment issues in the "economic" sphere. World War I prompted the YWCA to expand its longstanding efforts to foster international understanding (known as its "World Fellowship" work) to include public policy efforts in support of international peace.

At the 1920 YWCA National Convention (the first held after passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing women the franchise), the membership voted to "make a study of social and economic conditions affecting women, and of the possibilities of improving such conditions through legislation and that it use resources and influence to help secure such legislation as shall promote the welfare of young women." The National Board's recommendation for adoption of the "Social Ideals of the Churches" of the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America as the social platform of the YWCA, reads in part: "To secure the practical application of these Social Ideals, there will be needed intelligent public opinion, social reform and wise legislation. Through the experience of the last five years [World War I] women have discovered their potential power in public affairs, and with the granting of the franchise there has come to them the responsibility for active participation in the life of the body politic. Many women are not as yet prepared to meet these responsibilities. Many have need of guidance in adjusting their private life to the challenging demands of full citizenship. There is necessity for careful study of the contribution which women can bring to national and international problems." The result was a resolution to use YWCA resources "to further the preparation of women for responsible citizenship and to direct their energies toward the achievement of social righteousness."

When the Education and Research Division was established in the following year (1921), it coordinated the work of three committees concerned with public policy issues: the Legislative Committee, the Council on International Education (originally Council on International Peace), and the Council on Economic Relations. Acknowledging the "closely related and interwoven" aspects of the work of these three committees, the YWCA decided to merge them in 1929 to form the Committee on Public Affairs.

The Public Affairs Committee had responsibility for formulating the National Public Affairs Program for action at Convention. It was also responsible for "interpretation" and implementation of the Program through the development of educational materials for use by Community and Student Associations. The Committee kept abreast of legislation in Congress and the states, kept files of "current and reliable" information related to the Program, and worked with other organizations expert in particular issues. It had responsibility for initiating suggested action on public policy and drafting statements on public policy issues for the National Board. Committee membership included "resident" (local) members and members-at-large who represented the various regions of the country and all divisions and departments of the National Association.

The Committee worked in characteristic YWCA fashion, studying existing conditions, crafting resolutions or recommendations for Convention, and, once the program was approved by that body, working in various ways to advocate for legislation and sway public opinion through community education.

To formulate the National Public Affairs Program, the Committee solicited suggestions from all departments and divisions of the staff and all members of the Committee. The tentative Program was sent to each Association for comment. Changes were then made at Convention and the final version adopted as the basis for public advocacy work during the following biennium/triennium.

From early days, the Program was organized in categories called "sections" with a Subcommittee assigned responsibility for each section. Though the terms used to describe the various sections changed over time, they generally fell into the following broad, and often overlapping, categories:

-civil liberties and democratic rights (including lynching, prayer in public schools, campus unrest, the House Un-American Activities Committee, loyalty oaths, military conscription, voting rights, gun control, and racial and sexual discrimination).

-international relations (including post-war recovery/reconstruction, international labor issues, trade policy, United Nations, status of women, world government, and peace).

-social and economic welfare (including child welfare, consumers, economic opportunity, employment training, health care and health insurance, housing, labor issues, social security, status of women, and women workers).

-ethnic groups (including affirmative action, fair employment practices, race discrimination in the armed forces, segregation, exclusion laws, alien registration, anti-semitism, and refugee issues)

-government and politics (including political party platforms, citizenship education, and the Supreme Court)

-public education (including federal aid, and support for U.S. Department of Education)

-public health and safety (including health insurance, maternity and infant care, prostitution, reproductive rights, and violence prevention)

-youth (including employment opportunities, juvenile delinquency, and franchise)

Science and the Environment became a new category in the late 1960s.

Beginning in the 1930s through the end of the 1950s, Public Affairs was not so closely allied with other Program staff, being either a separate department or part of General Administration.

In the 1930s, the YWCA worked on issues related to the Fair Labor Standards Act, Social Security Act, lynching, support for public education and the establishment of U.S. Dept of Education, refugees, world peace, and the rights of workers to organize.

Issues in the 1940s included international peace, the relocation of Japanese-Americans during World War II, alien registration, fair employment practices, race discrimination in the armed forces, immigrant exclusion laws, European recovery, international human rights conventions, and the establishment of the United Nations. In the 1950s, the Public Affairs Office focused on legislation related to the restriction of civil liberties during the McCarthy era.

Creation of the Bureau of Research and Program Resources in 1960 again grouped Public Affairs staff with other Program staff. Public Advocacy activities during the decade related to civil rights, campus unrest, gun control, the environment, economic opportunity, fair housing, and health care.

The early 1970s Organization Renewal effort called for creation of a Program Development and Public Policy Unit focused on racial justice, religion, health, and the environment. The new "Public Policy Center" (one of various "centers" in the Unit) worked on issues related to women's rights, sex discrimination, affirmative action, school busing, the Vietnam war, reproductive rights, homelessness, agricultural migrant workers, and the minimum wage. Financial struggles prevented full implementation of plans envisioned as part of the Organization Renewal.

In 1991, the National Association established an office in Washington, D.C., to enable the YWCA to become recognized presence in the national capital. To strengthen these efforts, it created the Advocacy and Research Division in 1992. The idea was to aggressively seek opportunities to speak on public policy issues and issues of concern to the YWCA, particularly child care, women's health, racism, domestic violence, and women's political participation. The Division handled financial record-keeping for the Women's Vote Project '96 sponsored by the Council of Presidents of National Women's Organizations. This Project developed a political skills training program for women known as "I Lead." After this experience, the YWCA sought funding from the Ford Foundation for an expanded Women's Political Empowerment Program to develop "program resources" and "training modules" to increase women's political participation. The resulting "I Vote" voter participation program and the "I Speak Out" advocacy training program were designed to augment "I Lead" political skills training program developed by the Women's Vote Project '96.

  • 1911 - : Method Department, especially Economic Work Secretary
  • 1921 - 22 : Law Reporting Service in Research and Method Department
  • 1923 - 28 [ : Legislation and International Education in Education and Research Division
  • 1932: Economics, International Affairs in Laboratory Division; Public Affairs Correspondence in National Services Division
  • 1933 - 53 : Public Affairs Office in General Administration
  • 1954 - 59 : Public Affairs
  • 1960 - 70 : Bureau of Research and Program Resources
  • 1970: Office of Public Affairs
  • 1971 - 78 : Public Policy Center in Program Development and Public Policy Unit
  • 1978 - 84 : Public Policy Center in Program Unit
  • 1984 - : Public Affairs, Public Policy in Program Services Division
  • 1991: [Washington Office] Public Policy
  • Sep 1992: Advocacy and Public Policy in Advocacy and Research Division
  • 1922 - : Legislative Committee, under Education and Research Division
  • 1929 - 30 : Public Affairs Committee under Education and Research Division
  • 1932 - 33 : Public Affairs Committee
  • 1933 - 39 : Public Affairs Committee under General Administration
  • 1940 - 70 : National Public Affairs Committee
  • 1970 - 71 : Public Affairs Core Group [during Organization Renewal process]
  • 1971 - 73 : Public Policy Committee
  • 1982 - 96 : Public Policy Committee
  • 1998 - : Public Policy and Advocacy Committee

From the guide to the YWCA of the U. S. A. Records, . Record Group 06. Program: Series III. Public Advocacy Forms part of MS 324., 1870-2002, (Sophia Smith Collection)

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creatorOf Young Women's Christian Association of the U.S.A. Buildings exterior photographs, 1952 Aug 20, 190 Franklin St., 47 Southside Pkwy, 245 North St., Buffalo, N.Y. Buffalo History Museum, Research Library
referencedIn Periodicals Collection MS 537., 1784- (ongoing) Sophia Smith Collection
referencedIn Cook, Vivian Elma Johnson, 1889-1977. Vivian Johnson Cook papers, 1903-1977. Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University
referencedIn A young woman's photograph album of San Francisco Bay Area outings [graphic]. UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn Mott family. Papers, 1863-1942, 1966. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
referencedIn Adriance Memorial Library (Poughkeepsie, N.Y.). Pamphlet collection, 1829-1986. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
creatorOf YWCA of the U. S. A. Records, . Record Group 09. Photographs Forms part of MS 324., circa 1890s-2001 Sophia Smith Collection
referencedIn Judge Mattie Belle Davis Papers, 1936-1998 Special Collections & Archives, FIU Libraries
referencedIn Elizabeth Dodge Huntington Clarke Papers MS 599., 1915-1981, 1915-1966 Sophia Smith Collection
creatorOf Young Women's Christian Association of the U.S.A. YWCA of the Mid-Peninsula records, circa 1948-2003. Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
creatorOf YWCA of the U. S. A. Records, . Record Group 05. International Work Forms part of MS 324., 1890-2000 Sophia Smith Collection
creatorOf YWCA of the U. S. A. Records, . Record Group 06. Program: Series II. Training and Personnel Forms part of MS 324., 1870-2002 Sophia Smith Collection
referencedIn Hill, Ruth Lois, 1906-. Papers, 1952-1979. Smith College, Neilson Library
referencedIn Ticknor, Frances. Papers, 1938-1990. Smith College, Neilson Library
creatorOf Breading, Nathaniel, 1751-1822. Papers 1785-1914. Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, Heinz History Center Detre Library and Archives
referencedIn Margaret Ping Papers MS 700., 1933-1954 Sophia Smith Collection
referencedIn Young Women's Christian Association of the U.S.A. National Board. Records, 1876-1970 [microform]. Smith College, Neilson Library
creatorOf Young Women's Christian Association of the U.S.A. [Young Women's Christian Association and the war : pamphlet vol.] HCL Technical Services, Harvard College Library
referencedIn Genné, Elizabeth. Elizabeth Steel Genné papers, 1952-2008 (bulk 1957-1980) Smith College, Neilson Library
referencedIn McCulloch, Rhoda E. (Rhoda Elizabeth), b. 1884. Papers, 1880s-1978. Smith College, Neilson Library
referencedIn Jones, Brownie Lee, 1897-. Oral history interview with Brownie Lee Jones, 1978. Wayne State University. Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs
referencedIn Minnesota War Records Commission. YMCA and YWCA records, 1911-1920 (bulk 1918-1919). Minnesota Historical Society, Division of Archives and Manuscripts
referencedIn Claytor, Helen Jackson. Helen Jackson Claytor papers, ca. 1940-1985. Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Elisabeth Luce Moore Papers MS 225., 1928-1989 Sophia Smith Collection
referencedIn National Council on Household Employment records, 1908-1946, bulk 1928-1941. Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives
referencedIn Leevy, Isaac Samuel, 1877-1968. Isaac Samuel Leevy papers, 1905-1973. University of South Carolina, System Library Service, University Libraries
referencedIn Cotton, Bessie Boies, 1880-1959. Bessie Boies Cotton Papers, 1881-1983. Smith College, Neilson Library
creatorOf YWCA of the U. S. A. Records, . Record Group 06. Program: Series VI. Publications Forms part of MS 324., 1870-2002 Sophia Smith Collection
referencedIn Morgan, Julia, 1872-1957. Julia Morgan Papers, 1835-1958 1896-1945. California Polytechnic State University, Robert E. Kennedy Library, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
referencedIn Morton, Helen. Papers, 1920-1984 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf YWCA of the U. S. A. Records, . Record Group 01. General and History Forms part of MS 324., 1877-2003 Sophia Smith Collection
referencedIn Jeannette Rankin Brigade records, 1967-1968 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
referencedIn Boston Young Women's Christian Association (Massachusetts). Records, 1858-1988 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Morgan, Julia, 1872-1957. Julia Morgan-Sara Holmes Boutelle Collection, 1877-1958 1901-1940. California Polytechnic State University, Robert E. Kennedy Library, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
creatorOf Russell, Maud. Maud Russell Papers, 1914-1990, bulk (1918-1989). New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn McCormick, Nettie Fowler, 1835-1923. Nettie Fowler McCormick correspondence, 1775-1939. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
referencedIn Young Women's Christian Association (University of Washington). Young Women's Christian Association (University of Washington) records, 1903-1982. University of Washington. Libraries
referencedIn Anderson, Eleanor Copenhaver, d. 1985. Eleanor Copenhaver Anderson papers 1901-1993, bulk (1922-1955) Smith College, Neilson Library
referencedIn Diary (Portsmouth, Va.) 1901. William & Mary Libraries
referencedIn Calkins, Gladys Gilkey. Gladys Gilkey Calkins papers, 1895-1988 Smith College, Neilson Library
referencedIn George, Virginia Heim, 1908-. Papers, 1925-1981. Smith College, Neilson Library
referencedIn Oliver Iron Mining Company. Oliver Iron Mining Company records, 1901-1930. Minnesota Historical Society Library
referencedIn Taylor, Harriet Ethel Wilson, 1894-1941. Harriet Taylor collection, 1933-1941. John Hope and Aurelia E. Franklin Library. Special Collections & Archives
referencedIn Boutelle, Sara Holmes. Sara Holmes Boutelle Papers, 1972-1999 1983-1995. California Polytechnic State University, Robert E. Kennedy Library, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
referencedIn Christian family. Papers, 1864-1910. William & Mary Libraries
creatorOf YWCA of the U. S. A. Records, . Record Group 07. Student Work Forms part of MS 324., 1906-2000 Sophia Smith Collection
creatorOf Young Women's Christian Association of the U.S.A. Activities photographs, 1952 Sep 10 - 1953 Jul 28, 190 Franklin St., Buffalo, N.Y. Buffalo History Museum, Research Library
referencedIn Dorothea De Schweinitz and Louise De Schweinitz (Darrow) Papers MS 398., 1912-1997, 1970-1980 Sophia Smith Collection
creatorOf Young Women's Christian Association of the U.S.A. Luncheon Lounge photographs, 1952 Sep 9, 190 Franklin St., Buffalo, N.Y. Buffalo History Museum, Research Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Abel, Barbara person
associatedWith Abel, Barbara. person
associatedWith Adriance Memorial Library (Poughkeepsie, N.Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith American College for Girls (Istanbul, Turkey) corporateBody
associatedWith American Labor Education Service corporateBody
associatedWith Anderson, Eleanor Copenhaver, d. 1985 person
associatedWith arrangement person
associatedWith Barnard College. corporateBody
associatedWith Bingham, Ursula Griswold, 1908-1996. person
associatedWith Boston Young Women's Christian Association (Massachusetts) corporateBody
associatedWith Boutelle, Sara Holmes. person
associatedWith Boyd, Kate Hillis, 1885-1976 person
associatedWith Brooks, Gladys Sinclair. person
associatedWith Brooks, Gladys Sinclair. person
associatedWith Brownwood Public Library (Brownwood, Tex.) corporateBody
associatedWith Calkins, Gladys Gilkey person
associatedWith Calkins, Gladys Gilkey person
associatedWith Calkins, Gladys Gilkey. person
associatedWith Callis, Myra Colson, 1892-1979. person
associatedWith Christian family. family
associatedWith Clarke, Elizabeth Dodge Huntington, 1884-1976 person
associatedWith Claytor, Helen Jackson. person
associatedWith Coit, Eleanor G. person
associatedWith Committee on the Cause and Cure of War corporateBody
associatedWith Committee on the Cause and Cure of War. corporateBody
associatedWith Cook, Vivian Elma Johnson, 1889-1977. person
associatedWith Cotton, Bessie Boies, 1880-1959 person
associatedWith Craft-Trotter family. family
associatedWith Cratty, Mabel, 1868-1928 person
associatedWith Craven, Alice Holman. person
associatedWith Crow, Martha Foote, 1854-1924. person
associatedWith Cullen, Countee, 1903-1946. person
associatedWith Day, Cornelia, 1919- person
associatedWith De Schweinitz, Dorothea, 1891- person
associatedWith Dieson, Eldri, 1905-1984 person
associatedWith Dodge, Grace H. (Grace Hoadley), 1856-1914 person
associatedWith Donovan, Joanne, M. person
associatedWith Elliott, Grace Loucks, 1891- person
associatedWith Evans, Ben, 1895-1988 person
associatedWith Ferebee, Dorothy Boulding, d. 1980. person
associatedWith Genné, Elizabeth. person
associatedWith Genné, Elizabeth person
associatedWith George, Virginia Heim, 1908- person
associatedWith Gleason, Jerry. person
associatedWith Graham, Jewel person
associatedWith Graham, Jewel person
associatedWith Gregory, Mary E. C. person
associatedWith Hamilton, Alice, 1869-1970. person
associatedWith Hawkes, Anna Lorette Rose, 1890- person
associatedWith Height, Dorothy I. (Dorothy Irene), 1912- person
associatedWith Hill, Ruth Lois, 1906- person
associatedWith Hirth, Emma Pauline person
associatedWith Hirth, Emma Pauline person
correspondedWith Hocking, William Ernest, 1873-1966 person
associatedWith Ingraham, Mary T. Shotwell, 1887-1981. person
associatedWith Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations (University of Michigan--Wayne State University). Program on Women and Work. corporateBody
associatedWith Jeannette Rankin Brigade. corporateBody
associatedWith Jones, Brownie Lee, 1897- person
associatedWith Kent, Mabelle Smith, 1884-1947. person
associatedWith Knights, Garnet J., 1900-1985 person
associatedWith Lackey, Ina Ruth Hillis, 1909- person
associatedWith Leevy, Isaac Samuel, 1877-1968. person
associatedWith Lerrigo, Edith person
associatedWith Lerrigo, Edith. person
associatedWith Lerrigo, Edith Mary, 1910-1989 person
associatedWith Lucke, Elmina Rose person
associatedWith Lucke, Elmina Rose. person
associatedWith Lumpkin, Katharine Du Pre, 1897- person
associatedWith Lyon, Sarah Scudder, 1895-1966 person
associatedWith Markham, Edwin, 1852-1940, person
associatedWith Mary (Shotwell) Ingraham person
associatedWith Mathai-Davis, Prema person
associatedWith Mathai-Davis, Prema. person
associatedWith McCormick, Cyrus Hall, 1859-1936. person
associatedWith McCormick, Nettie Fowler, 1835-1923. person
associatedWith McCulloch, Rhoda Elizabeth, 1884- person
associatedWith Meares, Carrie Eliza person
associatedWith Meares, Carrie Eliza, 1899-1982. person
associatedWith Miami Dade Women's Archive corporateBody
associatedWith Minnesota War Records Commission. corporateBody
associatedWith Moore, Elisabeth Luce person
associatedWith Morgan, Julia, 1872-1957. person
associatedWith Morrow family family
associatedWith Morton, Helen. person
associatedWith Mott family. family
associatedWith National Council on Household Employment. corporateBody
associatedWith National Intercollegiate Christiain Council. corporateBody
associatedWith Neighborhood Union (Atlanta, Ga.) corporateBody
associatedWith Nordahl, Henry A. person
associatedWith Norris, Elizabeth, 1914-2003 person
associatedWith Norris, Elizabeth Downe, 1914-2003 person
associatedWith Oliver Iron Mining Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Oliver, Luella M. person
associatedWith Paine, Elsie Miriam. person
associatedWith Pew, J. Howard (John Howard), 1882-1971. person
associatedWith Phillips, Kathryn Sisson, 1879-1968. person
associatedWith Pickens, William, 1881-1954 person
associatedWith Ping, Margaret person
associatedWith Reno/Sparks YWCA (Reno, Nev.) corporateBody
associatedWith Rice, Anna Virena, 1880- person
associatedWith Rockwell, William Walker. person
associatedWith Roelofs, Henrietta, 1878-1942 person
associatedWith Roys, Mabel Milham, 1878-1956 person
associatedWith Rudin, Harry R. (Harry Rudolph), 1898- person
associatedWith Russell, Maud person
associatedWith Russell, Maud. person
associatedWith Ryland, Gladys, 1900- person
associatedWith Schwenkmeyer, Frieda, 1901- person
associatedWith Sharpley, Lilian person
associatedWith Sibley, Carol Rhodes, 1902- person
associatedWith Simms, Florence, 1873-1923 person
associatedWith Simons, Savilla (Millis) person
associatedWith Simons, Savilla (Millis) person
associatedWith Steilbert, Walter T., 1886-1974. person
associatedWith Student Christian Movement in New England. corporateBody
associatedWith Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions corporateBody
associatedWith Sweeney, Odile. person
associatedWith Taylor, Harriet Ethel Wilson, 1894-1941. person
associatedWith Thames, Elisabeth Moffitt. person
associatedWith Ticknor, Frances person
associatedWith Ticknor, Frances. person
associatedWith United Service Organizations (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith United States corporateBody
associatedWith United States corporateBody
associatedWith van Kleeck, Mary person
associatedWith Wickenden, Elizabeth, 1909-2001. person
associatedWith Williams, Frances H. person
associatedWith Wolfson, Theresa, 1897-1972. person
associatedWith Wood, Mary Elizabeth, 1902- person
associatedWith World's Student Christian Federation. corporateBody
associatedWith World Student Christian Federation corporateBody
associatedWith World Young Women's Christian Association corporateBody
associatedWith Wright, Sara-Alyce person
associatedWith Wright, Sara-Alyce person
associatedWith Wygal, Winnifred, b. 1884. person
associatedWith YMCA of the USA. corporateBody
associatedWith Young Men's Christian Association corporateBody
associatedWith Young Women's Christian Association of the University of North Dakota. corporateBody
associatedWith Young Women's Christian Association of the U.S.A. National Board. corporateBody
associatedWith Young Women's Christian Association (Oklahoma A & M College) corporateBody
associatedWith Young Women's Christian Association. Southwest-Belmont Branch (Philadelphia, Pa.) corporateBody
associatedWith Young Women's Christian Association, University of Nebraska-Lincoln corporateBody
associatedWith Young Women's Christian Association (University of Washington) corporateBody
associatedWith Young Women's Christian Association. Young Women's Christian Association of the U.S.A. San Diego County corporateBody
associatedWith YWCA of Greater Charleston, Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith YWCA of India corporateBody
associatedWith YWCA of the Mid-Peninsula. corporateBody
associatedWith Y.W.C.A. (Woman's College of the University of North Carolina) corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
North America
Latin America
East Asia
East Asia
East Asia
United States
Adult education
Adult education
African Americans
African American women
African American women
African American women
African American women
African American women
Anti-communist movements
Anti-communist movements
Camps Administration
Camps for girls
Child rearing
Civil rights movement
Civil rights movements
Companionate marriage
Companionate marriage
Consumer education
Consumer education
Group relations training
Group relations training
Health education of women
Health education of women
Sexual health
Sexual health
Indian women
Indian women
International education
International relations
Labor laws and legislation
Labor laws and legislation
Leadership in women
Leadership in women
Mothers and daughters
Mothers and daughters
Nature study
Nonprofit organizations
Physical education for women
Physical fitness for women
Professional associations
Race awareness
Race awareness
Race relations
Sociology, Rural
Rural women
Sex instruction
Sex instruction
Social service
Social work
Social work with immigrants
Social work with immigrants
Teenage girls
Teenage girls
Trade and professional associations
World War, 1914-1918
World War, 1914-1918
World War, 1914-1918
Women and religion
Women and war
Women and war
Women domestics
Women household employees
Women in charitable work
Women in charitable work
Women in Christianity
Women in Christianity
Women in development
Women in the labor movement
Women in the labor movement
Working class women
Working class women
World War, 1939-1945
World War, 1939-1945
World War, 1939-1945
World War, 1939-1945
Young Men's Christian associations
Young women
Young women
Young Women's Christian associations
Young Women's Christian associations

Corporate Body

Active 1884

Active 1994




Ark ID: w6wx1qqp

SNAC ID: 11563988