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Records of the Young Women’s Christian Association (Group 29)
[34] Records of the Young Women’s Christian Association, 1899 (1940-58) -1962, 6 ft. 9 in.

Historical Note

The Oberlin YWCA was formed in 1894, when Lucy Wilson (1862-1925) led a group of young women to request the leadership of the weekly prayer meeting. This role formerly had been left to the dean of women. Three years later, Florence Fitch (1875-1951) directed Oberlin into the national Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) movement.

The governance of the YWCA rested with an elected executive board and with committees responsible for various activities. The YWCA reported to the Women’s Board and an advisory board. The latter was composed mainly of female faculty members and wives of faculty members. By 1904, a general secretary was hired to handle the administrative tasks, of the organization.

During the next 70 years the YWCA was active in many town and College activities. Over the years the YWCA worked with the YMCA on many social functions. Although during its early years membership was restricted to women who had an evangelical-church background, in the late 1920s the YWCA opened membership to any woman of Christian faith. The membership was consistently large and peaked in 1945 with 706 women. By 1953 the YWCA had developed five commissions to oversee the various functions of the organization: Religious Emphasis, Campus Life, Community Service, Public Affairs, and Publicity. With the closing of the Graduate School of Theology, the YWCA and YMCA took on the responsibility of religious life at Oberlin. During President Robert K. Carr’s administration, the board of trustees expanded religious activities on campus and established an Office of Chaplains, which among other responsibilities, oversaw the YWCA. In 1973 the YMCA/YWCA became defunct.

Scope and Content

The collection documents the purpose and activities of the YWCA. Among the minutes of the organization are those of the advisory board (1928-1944, 1958-1961) and those of the cabinet and executive meetings (1941-l958). Included in the reports are the annual reports of the Oberlin YWCA, 1923-1929, 1944-1947; reports of the president, 1941-1955; reports of the executive secretary, 1941-1950, 1961-1962; the treasurer’s reports and budgets, 1938-1957; and the reports of the advisory board, 1940-1942. Financial records also exist for 1899- 1904. Among the compiled lists is a membership list of advisory board, 1954-1960; and statistical data on membership for virtually the group’s entire history.

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