Organizational History of YWCA
Language of Material:
SJSU Special Collections & Archives
Title: YWCA of Silicon Valley Records
Identifier/Call Number: MSS.2006.01.01
18.0 Linear Feet
Date (inclusive): 1905-2005
Abstract: The Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) of Silicon Valley was established in 1905 to provide fellowship, mutual aid,
and spiritual and professional guidance to young working women. The records included in this collection range from 1905 to
2005 and include budgets, clippings, correspondence, financial statements, minutes, memoranda, photographs, printed material,
registries, reports, scrapbooks, slides, and videos.
The Young Women's Christian Association of Silicon Valley (YWCA) was established in 1905 to provide fellowship, mutual aid,
and spiritual and professional guidance to young working women. The YWCA pioneered services to poor and working women in the
valley, and continues to offer an array of educational resources and programs designed to improve the community. The records
included in this collection, range from 1905 to 2005 and include budgets, clippings, correspondence, financial statements,
meeting minutes and memoranda, photographs, printed material, registries, reports, scrapbooks, slides, and videos.
Series I contains materials related to the history and administration of the YWCA of Silicon Valley, including Board of Director
minutes dating back to 1915, financial records, personnel records, press coverage, and history files created by the organization.
These records reveal the founding, development, and growth of the YWCA in what is now called Silicon Valley.
Series II includes correspondence, minutes, newsletters, pamphlets, press coverage, and printed material that document the
YWCA’s programs for children, adolescents, parents, working women, and seniors. This mission was met through clubs and programs
such as the Girl Reserves, which offered opportunities for charity work as well as camping and picnics; the Business Girls’
League, which offered vocational counseling, classes, and clubs for working women; and the Hi-Spot, a social, recreational,
and civic club governed by local teens. This series documents the activities and administration of these programs.
Series III includes clippings related to YWCA events, programs, and campaigns; photographs of YWCA clubs, outings, and events.
Prevalent in this series is a well-kept and organized scrapebook collection, rich with documents, filers, and pictures of
the periods they represent.
Organizational History of YWCA
The Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) originally formed in England in 1855. In the United States the YWCA combined
evangelism and pragmatic activism to provide for the physical, social, mental, and spiritual needs of young women living on
their own. The organization strove to provide “wholesome” activities for women and girls living in cities and to develope
civic-minded female leadership. In addition to Christian guidance, local YWCA braches offered residences, cafeterias, job
training, daycare, exercise, crafts, camping, dances, and other services. By 1906 the U.S. YWCA had over 186,000 members.
In 1907 it incorporated and established its headquarters in New York City. Today YWCA branches function fairly autonomously
and respond to local needs and conditions. Currently, there are nearly 300 U.S. branches
serving some 2 million women, and there are chapters in more than 122 countries.
The YWCA of Silicon Valley was organized in 1905 and incorporated in 1914. The organization struggled initially, disbanding
in 1909 because of debt, but by 1914 local women were in the midst of a $75,000 fund drive to match a $25,000 donation by
Maria Schofield for a YWCA building in San Jose. Julia Morgan, architect for a number of YWCA buildings on the west coast,
was hired to design the building and in 1915 the cornerstone was laid on Second and San Antonio Streets in San
Jose. An annex was added in 1926, and the expanded building included residences, a cafeteria, a gym and pool, and club rooms.
The Morgan building was demolished in 1973 to make way for the San Antonio Plaza urban renewal project. The current YWCA facility,
Villa Nueva, opened in 1993 after a $3,000,000 capital campaign matched by state, local, and federal funds. The Villa Nueva
facility includes low-income housing, childcare facilities, and administrative offices.The agency was renamed the YWCA of
Silicon Valley in 2004.
The YWCA pioneered services to poor and working women in the valley. The national YWCA worked to improve the conditions of
girls working in factories, passing resolutions at their 1920 convention calling for an 8-hour day and the right to organize
and collective bargaining. The YWCA started the Girl Reserves in 1918, a club devoted to patriotic work and charity, as well
as picnics, hiking, and camping at Ayun Mapu in Big Basin and Asilomar in Pacific Grove. The Business Girls League, founded
in 1930, offered vocational counseling, classes, and clubs for working women. Between 1942-1946 YWCA, the Red Cross, and the
United Service Organization recruited Victory Girls to attend dances with soldiers. When Japanese Americans were interned
during World War II, the YWCA accompanied single women and set up branches in the internment camps. By the 1950s the Girl
Reserves had become the Y-Teens, with groups at local high schools and conferences at Asilomar and other locales. This shift
reflected local youths’ interest in more social and co-educational activities. The Hi-Spot (1944-1959, re-opened briefly in
1961) was a popular teen center governed by a council of high school students with an adult advisory board. The Hi-Spot offered
a snack bar, classes and discussions, sports, games, dances, and a
Sunday column in the San Jose Mercury entitled “Hi-Spot News.” By the 1950s the majority of its members were Latino youth.
The YWCA also served the needs of older women in this period through programs such as “Ladies Day Out” and clubs such as
the Y-Wives. While local programs had served the racially diverse population as early as the 1930s, in the 1960s the YWCA
began to address the issue of racial justice more aggressively. Responding to pressure from local branches, the national YWCA
passed an "Interracial Charter" in 1946. The charter mandated the active integration of women of color into
programs, facilities, and governing bodies. In 1965 the national YWCA created the Office of Racial Justice, and in 1969 the
first of eight Racial Justice Institutes was held in Palo Alto. In 1970, the national YWCA adopted the One Imperative: “To
thrust our collective power toward the elimination of racism, wherever it exists, by any means necessary.” Locally, the YWCA
established a Racial Justice Committee, which published a Directory of Black Businesses, it held race dialogues, and
it developed youth programs and multicultural curriculum. In 1973 Inez Jackson became the first African American to be elected
Board President of the YWCA.
The YWCA offered a number of innovative programs in this era, including the Young Mother’s Education Program (1967), which
partnered with the San Jose Unified School District to keep young mothers in school; the 24-hour Rape Crisis Hotline (1973);
and the Hispanic Outreach Program (1978), which offered childcare, youth programs, clubs, and citizenship and English as a
Second Language courses. Rape Crisis services expanded in the 1970s, developing a speaker’s bureau and collaborating with
police, the district attorney, and the county hospital to assist victims of sexual assault. In the 1980s and 1990s YWCA programming
expanded to include Child Assault Prevention, Parent Education, Career Development, and two major outreach and fundraising
events, a Tribute to Women in Industry (1985) and the Professional Women’s Luncheon (1991). More recent organizational activities
and programs include the election of the first men to the Board of Directors (2004), Walk a Mile in Her Shoes (2003); an event
at which male community leaders walk a mile in women’ shoes to raise awareness about sexual assault. The Social and Racial
Justice Program (2006), an anti-bias education program, New Options, a multilingual after school program, and TechGYRLS (2007)
and an after-school program that teaches girls technological and engineering skills. Fran Smith was commissioned to write
the history of the YWCA of Silicon Valley. Her book,
Breaking Ground: The Daring Women of the YWCA in the Santa Clara Valley 1905-2005, was published in 2005.
This collection is arranged into three series. I. Administrative Files, 1905-2005; II. Programs and Events, 1910-2002; III.
and Visual Materials, 1910s-2000s.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
Young Women’s Christian Association (Association: San Jose, Calif.) – History
Young Women’s Christian Association of the U.S.A. – History
Women – California – Santa Clara County – History