Old Dominion University Libraries -- Women's History Month 2011 -- Perry Library Exhibit

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About the YWCA South Hampton Roads

The Young Women's Christian Association is the oldest and largest women's membership association. It began in London in 1855 and first came to the United States in 1858. Although similar in name, the YWCA has no affiliation with the YMCA.

The YWCA was an independent movement that arose out of women's church groups as a way of making life better for other women. These first YWCAs provided boarding houses, skills training, recreation, and a social environment for single, working women. After World War II, the YWCA's emphasis shifted to the family -- mother and children. In 1946, the YWCA adopted an Interracial Charter. Its purpose became the empowerment of women and the elimination of racism.

YWCA early logo

Throughout the world YWCAs are in 122 countries serving 25 million women and their families. The YWCA has been at the forefront of most major movements in the United States as a pioneer in race relations, labor union representation, and the empowerment of women. There are nearly 300 YWCA associations nationwide employing about 15,000 staff members and utilizing 70,000 volunteers.

The YWCA of South Hampton Roads started as housing for working girls in 1893 -- "the Girls Home of Norfolk." In 1899, the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA began offering community services to African-American women. By 1911, the Central YWCA of Norfolk was officially chartered by the national YWCA.

The following links are to a chronology highlighting some of the programs and services offered by the local YWCA over the past 100 years.

The First 50 Years: 1911-1961 The Second 50 Years: 1961-2011

Learn about the YWCA South Hampton Roads

View a Bibliography of Works for further study

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For information about the exhibit, please contact Karen Vaughan, kvaughan@odu.edu

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