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YWCA Special Collections Resources

Materials related to the YWCA in Smith College Special Collections

YWCA in Smith College Special Collections

Materials related to the YWCA are found in the  the Sophia Smith Collection of Women’s History, a part of Smith College Special Collections. Smith College Special Collections comprises the Mortimer Rare Book Collection, the Smith College Archives and the Sophia Smith Collection of Women’s History.

Read the “Scope and Contents” and the "Biographical/Historical" notes in the finding aids for more information on each individual collection.

YWCA Record Groups Overview

Below the record groups are briefly described. For more extensive and detailed information, reading the following sections of the finding aid: Scope and Contents, Biographical / Historical, Additional Description

Record Group 1. General and history

This record group contains reference files compiled from the National Board Library collection and National Board Archives providing general historical information about the YWCA of the U.S.A., its organizational structure, requirements for membership, and affiliation with the World YWCA. Also included are biographical files on staff and board members and reference files on the World YWCA and national YWCAs in other countries. Historical notes for each series are not included in this record. Where applicable, the Series Descriptions refer researchers to relevant historical notes in other sections.

Record Group 2. Predecessor Organizations and national board

This record group contains records of the two national YWCA organizations that merged to form the YWCA of the U.S.A. in 1906-07; plus records of the YWCA of the U.S.A. National Board, Executive Committee, National Coordinating Board, Board of Trustees, and National Nominating Committee. Predecessor organization records include conference and convention reports, publications, minutes, and correspondence. YWCA of the U.S.A. National Board Records include minutes, reports, rosters, publications, memoranda, biographical, and financial records.

Record Group 3. National administrative office

Executive Secretary, later Chief Executive Officer), records on buildings and properties owned by the national organization, finance and development files, and records of the departments of data and statistics, library and archives, and publicity.

Record Group 4. National conventions and conferences

The National Conferences and Conventions records consist of planning materials, mailings, local arrangements, preparatory materials, reports, proceedings, addresses, programs, and newspaper clippings. The records covered by this group include some general and historical information, Minutes and Reports of the Conferences and Conventions Committee/Department, a few files from Regional Conferences, and extensive printed and planning materials from Conventions, 1906-2001.

As is the case generally with the National Association records, the bulk of the Conference and Convention materials date from 1906 to 1970, the interval covered by the microfilm of the Central File and Minutes and Reports. Though there is little conference material dated 1970 and 1988, the Convention files for these years are relatively large.

Because Convention business ranges from highly detailed discussions of the internal workings of the national organization to national and international issues that were part of the organization's public policy agenda, Convention records reveal something about most any topic connected with the National organization.

Record Group 5. International work

The records of the YWCA of the U.S.A.'s international work consist of minutes, reports, publications and other printed materials, studies and surveys, position papers and statements, historical materials, subject and reference files, correspondence, conference and training materials, rosters and other personnel files, lists, and memorabilia.
The bulk of the records of the international work are dated from 1907 to 1970, the interval covered by the microfilmed Central File and Minutes and Reports. After 1970 the surviving records are more scarce and fragmentary due to decreased attention to the central filing system and the reduction of international staff and program.
The bulk of the surviving paper records are dated from the 1920s through the 1980s. There is a great deal of duplication of records on the microfilm, which has been digitized and is available in our online repository, but they also include materials donated to the National Board Archives after the microfilming was completed that probably were not filmed, such as office files of individuals working on a particular project or program.

1970-2000 (post-microfilm) materials include published and printed materials about the international program of the YWCA, minutes (far more sparse than for earlier decades), records of numerous committees active in that period, and a large proportion of the Projects and Programs Series, reflecting the shift after World War II from focus on recruiting, training and supporting overseas secretaries to broader subject programs. Countries and Regions is a combination of older records, such as staff reports and minutes of various Sections that are duplicated on the microfilm; and reference materials about the various countries and regions that were collected by the National Board Library/Archives from various sources, including individual YWCA personnel.

Record Group 6. Program Records

This record group documents national staff and committees' work to achieve the overall goals and program of the Association as directed by the National Convention. The word "Program" is used to refer to the overall agenda of the Association, as well as efforts on behalf of specific "constituent groups" (such as employed women, girls/teens, and immigrants), and in various key areas of concern (such as international and interracial relations, religion, and health). It is also used when referring to the various materials and techniques used to communicate the Association's principles and carry out its mission of bringing "abundant life to all."

Record Group 7. Student work

The Student Materials consist of minutes; newsletters and other publications; reports; subject and reference files; mailings; a small amount of correspondence; work plans; conference and training materials; and files on individual Student Associations.
The Student YWCA was a unique 'constituent group' within the National Association, operating as its own organizational unit through most of the history of the organization. The various functions that were divided among multiple departments in service of the Community Associations were all carried out by the Student staff on behalf of Student Associations. The records, therefore, are somewhat like an association within the National Association.
As is the case generally with the National Association records, the bulk of the Student materials date from 1906 to 1970, the interval covered by the microfilmed Central File and Minutes and Reports. Little has survived for the period between 1970 and 1988. There are some 1988 to 2001 records, but because the Student movement was greatly reduced in size by that time. There are also files on individual Student Associations dating primarily from the mid-1970s to 2000. These include basic organizational documents such as constitutions, accreditation and other reports, records of staff visits, correspondence, and some information about the program.

Record Group 8. Community associations

This record group documents the National Association's interactions with local YWCAs and other types of general membership groups (such as Registered Groups). Materials include minutes; reports; publications; lists; forms, policies and procedures; correspondence and mailings; constitutions and by-laws; legal files; rosters; spreadsheets; studies and surveys; training materials; and files on individual Associations dating from 1884-2002.
The bulk of the materials in this record group comprise the YWCA's Community Association files from the post-microfilming period (1988-2002).

Record Group 9. Photographs

The National YWCA photographic print collection consists of approximately 24,000 photographic images taken within the United States and abroad from the late 19th century through the first few years of the 21st. The majority of the photographs were taken by professional photographers for publicity use. A good portion of these document activities at Community YWCAs and were submitted to the National Association for use in its main serial The Association Monthly/Womans Press/YWCA Magazine.

In addition to these publicity photographs, there are also a significant number of personal snapshots donated to the National Board Archives by retired staff members.

Record Group 10. Audiovisual materials

This record group includes professionally produced video and audio recordings of program materials, public service announcements, and training materials; audio soundtracks for slideshows. There are also in-house recordings of speeches, lectures, and panels; programs at local, regional, national, and World YWCA events, such as conferences and conventions; staff meetings; teleconferences; some YWCA-themed music; and a few interviews and oral histories. Topics include racism, child care, financial development and health.

Record Group 11. Microfilmed headquarters files

The microfilm records were digitized and described as part of a 2016-2018 CLIR Hidden Collections grant.
One of the goals of the YWCA of the U.S.A.’s National Association in the early 20th century was to model efficient and effective administrative procedures. To that end, it established a Central File at its headquarters to optimize sharing of information across the Association. Any records of importance to the Association as a whole were submitted for filing in the Central File. It was this Central File, consisting of Minutes and Reports, Subject Files, and Community (or "Local") Associations Files, that was microfilmed beginning in 1964.

The microfilmed records include materials relevant to topics covered in every Record Group in the YWCA of the U.S.A. records. A note has been added to the finding aid for each Record Group discussing how those records do or don’t overlap with and relate to the microfilmed records.
The final set of materials filmed in 1984 (minutes and reports) contains some items dated as late as 1975, but most sections of the microfilm include records only through 1970.

Under “Additional Description” on the main page of the finding aid for this individual collection you will find detailed descriptions of how the microfilm is organized, its condition, and the digitization process.


This record group includes objects created by and from the YWCA.

Other Collections

Regional YWCA Change Initiative records

The records are closely related to official records of YWCA USA but not part of the national organization -- they are instead records of various regional YWCAs. 

From 1998 to 2002, local associations forced a change in bylaws on the national board of the YWCA USA. This movement was called the Change Initiative and Christie Daly was involved. The changed bylaws created a structure organized around regions and in 2004, Daly became director of the Southwest/Delta Region. The regional structure was absorbed into the YWCA USA in 2013 when Daly joined national staff. These records are from the Change Initiative and the SWD Region from 2004-2013.


Dorothy Irene Height papers

Civil rights activist, YWCA worker. The Dorothy Height Papers, which appear to be a reference file compiled by YWCA of the U.S.A. archives staff from YWCA records and other sources, are primarily related to her work with the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) and the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), dating from 1937 to 2005.

Ruth Frances Woodsmall papers

The papers provide insight into the life and work of Ruth Woodsmall, an international women's rights advocate, overseas official for the Young Women's Christian Association, and author. Her papers also reflect the status of women in the Middle and Far East as well as post-war (World Wars I and II) conditions in Europe. Woodsmall was an International There is an extensive record of her work for the World YWCA (l9l7-1948) and as Chief of Women's Affairs for the US High Commissioner for Occupied Germany (HICOG) (l945-l959). Field surveys of the Balkans and the Near East and surveys of migration conditions in Switzerland, Italy, France, and Belgium are of particular interest as well as research notes and reports on the conditions of women compiled for the World YWCA. 

Odile Sweeney papers

YWCA worker. The Odile Sweeney Papers are almost exclusively related to her work with the Young Women's Christian Association and include correspondence, conference materials, financial records, flyers, newsletters, newspaper clippings, notes, press releases, and reports. Included are materials from Sweeney's years working for the Student department and on the western region staff of the YWCA of the U.S.A. and a complete packet of preparatory materials for the National Conference of Black Women in the YWCA in 1970. The bulk of the papers are related to Sweeney's work in 1982 as a National Volunteer Consultant to the New Harlem YWCA in New York City. In this capacity, Sweeney concentrated on membership and financial development.

Barbara Abel papers

Public relations specialist, Columnist, Journalist, YWCA worker, Editor. The papers primarily relate to Abel's professional life and include her magazine columns for the YWCA and Community Chests and Councils of America, scripts for skits and plays, and a variety of other pieces written in the course of Abel's work as editor and publicity director for a variety of organizations.

Grace Loucks Elliott papers

YWCA executive, Author, Lecturer. Papers primarily document her work with the YWCA. Nearly half of the volume is the contents of three looseleaf notebooks compiled by Elliott entitled "My Fifty Years with the Y.W.C.A., 1917-53," which includes a narrative, photographs, correspondence, reports, and memorabilia. The rest of the papers consist of speeches and writings by Elliott plus a small amount of general biographical information.

Hazel Vernon Miller papers

Hazel Vernon joined the staff of the YWCA in 1917. From 1919-1920, she worked for YWCA Turkey/Near East, after which she went on to help establish the YWCA in Czechoslovakia (1920-1922). The Hazel Vernon Miller papers consist of biographical materials, as well as items from her work with YWCA abroad.

Ina Ruth Hillis Lackey papers

YWCA overseas secretary, YWCA official, USO regional director. Papers document some of her YWCA work, primarily in Brazil, and include circular letters sent annually to friends and relatives plus photographs of YWCA activities. Majority of material found within 1909-1988.

R. Elizabeth Johns papers

YWCA worker, Social worker, Social reform advocate. Papers are primarily related to her professional and public life, dating from 1932 to 1972. Organization files make up the bulk of the materials, documenting Johns' employment and volunteer work with a variety of liberal religious organizations from the mid-1950s to the early 1970s, for economic, social, and racial justice; her work in the YWCA of Burma-Ceylon in the mid-1950s; a 1966 trip to Asia and Africa while working for the United Church of Christ; and her involvement with the Pan Pacific Southeast Asia Women's Association.

Edith M. Lerrigo papers

YWCA executive, YWCA worker, Social welfare worker. The Edith M. Lerrigo Papers are primarily related to her professional and public life, dating from 1922 to 1989. Types of materials include correspondence, sermons, prayers, meditations and worship services, photographs, reports, subject files, and writings. The bulk of the papers date from 1930s to 1981 and consist primarily of notes, outlines, and texts for Lerrigo's many speeches and presentations, the bulk of which were given at YWCA.

Lilian Sharpley papers

YWCA worker. The Lilian Sharpley Papers are primarily related to her research on the history of the YWCA's work with business and professional women. Types of materials include research files, photographs, and writings. Her research on the history of the business and professional work includes an unfinished typescript history, correspondence, notes on conversations with Business and Professional program participants, copies of pertinent documents from the YWCA records, and an audiotaped oral history with Elsie West of the Business and Professional Council. The Papers also contain a microfilm copy of Sharpley's 1944 thesis "Married Women at Work" and research notes on the unionization of national YWCA staff.

Norma H. Stauffer papers

Norma H. Stauffer worked as both teacher and staff member at the YWCA in Honolulu, Denver, Cleveland, Grand Rapids, Chicago, and Minneapolis from 1919 to 1963. Her papers include correspondence to family members, about daily life and work, and printed material.

Rhoda Elizabeth McCulloch papers

Editor; YWCA worker; Women's rights advocate; Pacifist. Papers include McCulloch's published writings and notes on education, religion, social progress, working women, marriage and the women's movement; speeches; biographical material; memorabilia; photographs; a scrapbook kept by McCulloch's mother; and writings by close friend and pacifist Henrietta Roelofs.

Carrie Eliza Meares papers

YWCA worker. The Carrie Eliza Meares Papers are primarily related to her professional and public life. Types of materials include correspondence, memorabilia, press releases, reports, journal and newspaper articles, and subject files. The bulk of the papers focus on Meares' work in South Africa for the World YWCA, 1950-53; in Ethiopia for the YWCA of the U.S.A., 1960-61; and on the August 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The papers include general background reference on South Africa, Ethiopia, and race relations, as well as correspondence, reports, financial records, newspaper clippings, and memorabilia from Meares' work. In addition to official reports and correspondence, the files contain some personal correspondence with reflections on Meares' experiences in Africa.

Winnifred Wygal papers

YWCA worker. The Winnifred Crane Wygal Papers are primarily related to her professional and public life and include biographical materials, correspondence, memorabilia, notebooks, administrative planning files, subject files, and writings. The bulk of the papers date from 1932 to 1958 and focus on Wygal's work planning religious services, writing religious program materials, and as a speaker and discussion leader for the YWCA and for other religious groups. Wygal's notebooks (1932-58) document her part in wide variety of conferences, councils, meetings, worship services, courses, seminars, discussion groups in the YWCA and other national, international, and local organizations. They also include notes on lectures and conferences she attended and books and articles she read. The main subject of Wygal's writings, most published by the YWCA's Womans Press, is the development of meaningful worship services, and relevance of religion in twentieth-century life.

Eleanor Copenhaver Anderson papers

YWCA worker, Labor reform advocate. The papers are primarily related to her professional and public life and focus on her work for the YWCA of the U.S.A. Types of materials include correspondence; writings; photographs; press releases; reports; journal and newspaper articles; transcripts of interviews; and memorabilia. Included is a copy of her 1933 Columbia masters thesis on working women in San Francisco. The correspondence is revealing of Anderson's intensely religious family background. Of particular note is a small amount of revealing behind-the-scenes correspondence between YWCA staff members, and a small amount of Sherwood Anderson scholar Charles Modlin's research materials on Eleanor.

Eldri Louise Dieson papers

YWCA executive and overseas official. The Eldri Dieson Papers consist of biographical materials, correspondence, diaries, memorabilia, newspaper clippings, photographs, research notes, and scrapbooks primarily related to Dieson's work for the YWCA of the U.S.A. The bulk of the papers focus on Dieson's work for the YWCA's Foreign Division in Japan and in Chile.

Carolyn Adelia Boynton papers

YWCA worker. Papers consist primarily of letters and postcards, written by Boynton during her stay in Europe, to her three sisters in Massachusetts. The correspondence gives lively and detailed descriptions of her work at the "Y"--in the canteen, library, and women's department--and her time spent in France, during the war and on Armistice Day.

Mabel Milham Roys papers

YWCA worker and missionary. Collection documents Chinese culture, social conditions, and politics; and the family's social and domestic life. Other subjects include student life at Smith College, early work as YWCA traveling secretary, work at Wells College, and other post-China activities. Materials include correspondence, writings, memorabilia, and photographs.

Bessie Boies Cotton papers

YWCA overseas official. The bulk of the Bessie Boies Cotton Papers focus on her work in the YWCA, particularly during her time in Russia, and the courtship between Cotton and her husband, Thomas. Cotton's papers provide valuable insight into the work of the YWCA in Russia from 1917 to 1919 as well as the conditions in Russia during the Revolution and World War I.

Mary Alletta Crump papers

Owner, Crumperie Tea Room; Red Cross volunteer; YWCA volunteer; Suffragist. Collection includes guest books and memorabilia from the Crumperie Tea Room (Greenwich Village, N.Y., 1916-26) with entries from theatrical and literary personalities; and materials from Mary Alletta Crump's volunteer work with the Grenfell Mission (Labrador) and American Women's Voluntary Service in World War I.

Polly Babcock Feustal papers

YWCA overseas secretary. Primarily photographs of YWCA members and activities in the Philippines and Brazil, circa 1930s-40s, with descriptive notes. Images include a YWCA Girls' Camp in the Philippines, and war-torn Manila in 1945.

Frances Ticknor papers

YWCA overseas official. The collection consists primarily of approximately 75 letters Ticknor wrote home to her family from Europe, Lebanon, and Egypt, describing her life and work overseas with the YWCA. In addition there are letters from friends; reports to the YWCA; and 39 photographs of her travels.

Elizabeth Steel Genné papers

YWCA volunteer, Reproductive health advocate. The Elizabeth Steel Genné Papers are primarily related to her professional and public life. Types of materials include biographical materials, correspondence, minutes, reports, news clippings, notes, press releases, speeches, and memorabilia. The bulk of the papers date from 1957 to 1980 when Genné was a member of the National Board of the YWCA of the U.S.A., including a term as President, 1973-79. There are significant materials generated by Genné's committee work in the College and University Division of the YWCA in the 1950s and 60s. Genné served on the influential Committee to Study YMCA-YWCA Cooperative Experience (1959-60) which worked with Professor Dan Dodson to examine whether the YWCA should merge with the YMCA. There are also materials from the YWCA's Teen Sexuality Education Advisory Committee from the early 1980s.

Elizabeth Dodge Huntington Clarke papers

YWCA volunteer, Volunteer. Papers are primarily related to her work on behalf of the YWCA in the U.S. and around the world, particularly in the Near East. Her memoir, The Joy of Service, chronicles her New York City upbringing, initiation into YWCA work, and her years in Turkey. The correspondence contains small amounts of correspondence with U.S. and World YWCA leaders such as Ruth Rouse, Emma Bailey Speer, Doris Boss, Anna Rice, Theresa Wilbur Paist, Ruth Woodsmall, and Marion Robinson. Among the YWCA materials are various minutes, reports, clippings, and publications.

Elisabeth Luce Moore papers


Journalist; Editor; Trustee, State University of New York; YWCA official; and International relations specialist. Papers include an scrapbooks; oral history; correspondence; photographs and clippings; travel files from trips to Asia, Europe, Australia, and China; speeches and writings; and files pertaining to organizations concerned with international relations, education, and international development, among them the Young Women's Christion Association and SUNY.

Elmina Rose Lucke papers

Professor of social work and social studies, founder and director of the Dehli School of Social Work, consultant for social work education, and YWCA official. The Elmina Lucke papers focus on her work abroad as educator, administrator, and consultant for social work. Materials include correspondence with former students and associates in Egypt, India, and Pakistan; photographs of her travels; speeches; writings, including an unpublished memoir; and a transcript and tapes of an oral history.

Robert Foust collection of materials from 1962 YMCA/YWCA trip to the Soviet Union


This collection contains records from Robert Foust's trip to the Soviet Union (USSR) with the YMCA/YWCA in 1962. Materials include personal diaries, reports, evaluations, postcards, tourist materials, maps, photographs, correspondence, and souviners.