History of YWCA

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.


Financial Education

Through our Own It Financial Education program, we teach women to empower themselves financially. Classes are FREE.

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Women’s Empowerment

Holding multiple events a year, the YWCA AZ brings together leaders of the community offering inspiration and education.

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Young Women’s Forum

Connect with other young female leaders in the community, share strategies and create support networks.

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Senior Centers

We continually strive to develop new programs to improve the physical, mental and emotional health of our aging community.

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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


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

1907 – YWCA of the USA incorporated in New York City

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

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

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

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

1921 – Grace Dodge Hotel completed 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.”

History Through Posters

Throughout the YWCA’s history, we have provided services and programs that met the needs of the times. cultures and individuals; sometimes, out in the forefront while other times, working diligently and quietly behind the scenes to effect change and promote equity. We educate, empower and advocate for long-term systematic change to eliminate discrimination and promote equality for all.

We are fortunate to have had remarkable posters which were utilized throughout the years to bring awareness to the services that were available to the public. It is our pleasure to share a little part of our history with you through these vintage posters. Enjoy!


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.

PRESENT – Today over 2 million people participate in YWCA programs at more than 1,300 sites across the United States. Globally, the YWCA reaches 25 million women and girls in 125 countries.

JOIN OUR MISSION… Donate today and become part of the movement.