The Young Women’s Christian Association is the oldest and largest multicultural women’s organization in the world. It was founded in England in 1855, and spread to the United States in 1858.
The YWCA has always provided educational and vocational training to young women. The idea to open such a training center in the west was born during the YWCA’s first western conference in 1897. In 1913, Asilomar opened its doors to the first group of YWCA women.
The YWCA boasts some remarkable achievements. Way back in 1860, it opened the first boarding house for women workers in New York City. In 1870, it became the first organization to teach women to type—formerly a man’s domain—and opened the first employment bureau. In 1894, the YWCA went international, and also started bilingual education programs to help immigrant women.
The YWCA has always stood for fair labor practices, civil rights, and women’s rights. In the 1890s, it opened branches for African American and Native American women. During World War Two, it aided Japanese American women imprisoned in relocation camps. In 1960, the cafeteria at the Atlanta, Georgia, YWCA became the first desegregated public dining facility in America. And in 1965, the group’s National Board created the Office of Racial Justice to lead its civil rights efforts.