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History

The history of the YWCA is the history of progress in America and in our community.

Established in 1858 as a voice for women's issues, we opened the first employment bureau for women several years later. That was only the beginning of more than 150 years of active advocacy and programming for women's rights and civil rights.

We continue to evolve to meet today's challenges in eliminating racism and empowering women. We've shifted to a grassroots structure. We've launched a revitalized brand that reaffirms the mission of working aggressively for women and people of color. And we're engaging women 18- to 34-years old to carry on the YWCA mission for years to come.

The YWCA advocacy issues reflect our mission and the values of our organization. We promote solutions to improve the lives of women, girls and people of color across the country.

From lobbying for pay equity and hate crimes legislation to the increased funding for Head Start and the Violence Against Women Act, the YWCA advocates on Capitol Hill while employees and volunteers empower women and girls in our communities. 

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

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

1866
"YWCA" was first used in Boston, Mass.

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

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

1889
The first African-American YWCA branch opened in Dayton, Ohio

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

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

1903
The YWCA St. Joseph County Association was formed in South Bend, IN

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

1907
YWCA of the USA incorporated in New York City

1908
The YWCA Elkhart County Association was formed in Elkhart, IN  

1915
The YWCA held the first interracial conference in Louisville, Ky.

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

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

1921
Grace Dodge Hotel completed construction of a Washington, D.C. residence initially designed to house women war workers

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

1938
The YWCA in Columbus, Ohio, establishes a desegregated dining facility and is cited by The Columbus Urban League "for a courageous step forward in human relations."

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

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

1946
Interracial Charter adopted by the 17th National Convention

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

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

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

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

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

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

1982
YWCA establishes Fund For The Future

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

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

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

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

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

2008
The YWCA celebrates its Sesquicentennial Anniversary, 150 years of service, with the launch of the “Own It” campaign. The campaign focused on igniting a new generation of 22 million young women aged 18 to 34, inspiring them to get involved with important issues facing women and the country today

2011
 YWCA St. Joseph County and YWCA Elkhart County merge to become YWCA North Central Indiana