Christian Association (YWCA) is one of the world's oldest and largest multiracial women's
organizations. The YWCA is open to women and girls of all faiths and backgrounds. The
organization tries to meet its members' needs with a program that combines services and
social action. It works to eliminate racism and to increase the power of women, minority
groups, and young people. The YWCA provides services and training that help women become
equal partners with men in the continual development of their nations.
The YWCA has more than 21/2 million members and participants in more than 80 countries,
including the United States and Canada. This total includes men and boys, who may become
YWCA associates. The organization employs approximately 23,000 national and local staff
members, and it also has about 160,000 volunteer workers. The YWCA cooperates with, but is
not related to, the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA).
Programs. In the United States, the YWCA operates in all the states except Alaska. It
conducts programs in more than 4,000 locations throughout the nation--in cities, towns,
and rural communities; and on college campuses. Local YWCA's offer a wide range of
activities and services. They feature child-care centers, classes on various subjects,
discussion programs, food services, and health education. They also provide counseling,
job placement services, leadership training programs, recreational activities, and
The YWCA of the United States sponsors programs to fight crime and delinquency. Many local
YWCA's have a Y-Teen program for teen-age members (see Y-TEENS).
In Canada, YWCA's provide services in nine provinces and in the Northwest Territories.
Canadian YWCA's offer programs and services that are similar to those offered by YWCA's in
the United States.
History. In 1855, a group of London women led by Emma Robarts organized a young women's
association. Their purpose was to find housing for nurses who had returned from the
Crimean War (1853-1856). At about the same time, another women's group in London organized
prayer circles. The two groups united in 1877 as the Young Women's Christian Association.
In the United States, The Ladies' Christian Association, an organization similar to the
London groups, was founded in New York City in 1858. The first Young Women's Christian
Association was organized in Boston in 1866. The movement grew rapidly, especially in
industrial cities, where the YWCA provided housing for single working women. Later, the
YWCA became active on college campuses. The first student YWCA in the United States was
founded in 1873 at Illinois State Normal University (now Illinois State University) in
Normal, Ill. Separate organizations arose in the Midwest and in the East. In 1906, these
groups united as the Young Women's Christian Associations of the United States of America.
The YWCA of the United States has headquarters at 726-30 Broadway, New York, NY 10003.
The first YWCA in Canada was established in Saint John, N.B., in 1870. The organization's
purpose was to help meet the needs of young working women. In 1893, local YWCA's
established the national organization, the YWCA of Canada. The main office of the YWCA of
Canada is at 80 Gerrard Street East, Toronto, ON M5B 1G6.
The YWCA's of both Canada and the United States are members of the World YWCA. The
association has headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
Critically reviewed by the Young Women's Christian Association