Throughout our history the YWCA has been in the forefront of most major movements in the United States as a pioneer in race relations, labor union representation, and the empowerment of women.


1855Young Women's Christian Association was formed in London by Emma Roberts and Mrs. Arthur Kinnaird.


1858The YWCA movement was introduced to the United States. New York City and Boston opened women's residences.


1860The YWCA opened the first boarding house for female students, teachers and factory workers in New York City as women moved from farms to cities.


1870sRecognizing women's needs for jobs, the YWCA held the first typewriting classes  for women, formerly considered a man's occupation, and opened the first employment bureau.


1890s First Black YWCA branch opened in Dayton, Ohio. First YWCA for Native American women opened in Oklahoma.


1894The US American Committee, England, Sweden and Norway joined together to create the World YWCA.


1894YWCA established Traveler's Aid. Implemented chaperones to liners' crews to protect women traveling in steerage.


1909 YWCAs International Institutes featured bilingual instruction to help immigrant women.


1915 YWCA held the first interracial conference in the south, at Louisville, Kentucky.


1919 The YWCA convened the first meeting of women doctors, the International Conference of Women Physicians, with attendees coming from 32 countries for 6 weeks to focus on women's health issues.


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


1930sYWCA encouraged members to speak out against lynching and mob violence, for interracial cooperation rather than segregation and for efforts to protect African-American's basic civil rights.


1930s and 1940sYWCAs trained New York City bus drivers, Rosie the Riveters, lathe operators and others.


1942YWCA extended its services to Japanese-American women and girls incarcerated in World War II Relocation Centers.


1946 YWCA adopted its Interracial Charter – eight years before the US Supreme Court decision against segregation.


1950sAs African countries became independent, the United States sent leaders who moved from village to village to tell the YWCA story and help women marshal their own leadership and resources to create indigenous YWCAs in Kenya, Uganda, Rhodesia, South Africa and elsewhere. Uganda achieved remarkable participation – 90 percent of women were YWCA members by the 1990s.


1960The Atlanta YWCA cafeteria opened to blacks, becoming the city's first desegregated public dining facility. Separate black YWCA branches and facilities were integrated into the whole.


1963The National Board of the YWCA became a sponsoring agency for the summer March On Washington in support of civil rights. The National Board voted support for A Direct Action Program, two-year project to complete desegregation of Community YWCAs.


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


1966 The National Board voted to participate in Project Equality and reassessed its business dealings with companies that have discriminatory employment practices. The National Board withdrew its funds from the Chase Manhattan Bank and others that overtly participated in the South African Consortium.


1967 After thoughtful and extensive debate, the 2000 delegates at the YWCA Convention adopted the first of three abortion resolutions leading to the freedom of choice position.


1969Racial Justice Institutes were held in eight locations around the United States.


1970The YWCA National Convention, held in Houston, adopted the One Imperative. “To thrust our collective power towards the elimination of racism, wherever it exists, by any means necessary.” The resolution passed and renewed effort went into racial justice work. The National Board's Office of Racial Justice convened four conferences for women of color seeking input; affirmative action workshops were held to teach YWCAs how to implement strategies; nationwide Web of Racism conferences helped members recognize the layering of racism in jobs, housing, schools, institutions and daily lives.


1975 The YWCA started the ENCORE program, exercise and support for women who have undergone breast cancer surgery.  The program was expanded in 1991, 1992 and 1994.


1980s and 1990sWork on racial justice continued through public policy action on legislation, through collaborations, and by hosting the YWCA Racial Justice Convocation  bringing together key civil rights leaders, public officials, and university representatives  to develop blueprints for racial justice training.


1998A major reorganization of the YWCA of the USA was inaugurated. The National Association of YWCA Executives convened a meeting where more than 400 members called for radical restructuring of the organization. During the next four years hundreds of volunteers and staff developed a plan entitled “Steps to Absolute Change.”


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 representatives to the National Coordinating Board. They also adopted a focus on Hallmark Programs – the Economic Empowerment of Women and Racial Justice, set in place the goal for a revitalized brand identity and put a renewed emphasis on advocacy, developing leaders under 30 and enhancing connections with the World YWCA.


2004YWCA of the USA became YWCA USA and the organization launched a revitalized brand that reaffirms the mission and firmly positions the organization for today and the future.




Since 1855, the World YWCA has been at the forefront of empowering women and girls to lead social, political, economic and civic change. We believe in women's unique ability to transform individuals, communities and societies in ways that change the thinking and actions of entire generations. We believe that women have the power to change the world.


To strengthen our ability to provide programs and services in communities throughout the world, the YWCA has launched the YWCA USA/Global Campaign to raise $30 million: $15 million to support the World YWCA's creation of a $25 million permanent fund to endow leadership development programs worldwide and $15 million to support capacity building of YWCAs in the United States.


There are many ways you can get involved in the Global Campaign to make a difference in the lives on women and girls in the United States and around the world.

The World YWCA reaches out to women all around the world. To find out more, visit www.worldywca.org