Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) Of Albany, New York Records, 1863-1996
- Young Women's Christian Association (Albany, N.Y.)
- The collection documents the history of the YWCA of Albany, which was founded in 1888 by a group of women led by Mrs. Acors Rathbun in order to provide housing and recreational activities for young women searching for work. Through the years, the organization expanded to include classes, childcare, athletics, essay contests, teen issue programs, and an annual awards dinner honoring women. Strengths include the extensive photographic material and meeting minutes from the board of trustees and directors. The collection is weakest at the beginning and end of the YWCA of Albany's existence.
- 20.21 cubic ft.
- English and English
- Preferred citation:
- Preferred citation for this material is as follows: and Identification of specific item, series, box, folder, Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) Of Albany, New York Records, 1863-1996. M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York (hereafter referred to as [shortened name]).
Access and Use
- Conditions Governing Access:
Access to this record group is unrestricted.
The researcher assumes full responsibility for conforming with the laws of copyright. Whenever possible, the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives will provide information about copyright owners and other restrictions, but the legal determination ultimately rests with the researcher. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the Head of Special Collections and Archives.
- Scope and Content:
The collection documents the activities of the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) of Albany, NY, from its creation in 1888 to 1995. The organization was originally formed to provide reasonably priced housing for women and a number of professional and recreational activities. Through the years the organization expanded its operations to include clubs, day care programs, aerobics, karate, and ballet classes, essay contests, teen issue programs, and an annual awards dinner honoring women, both local and national.
The collection includes administrative files such as account reports, annual reports, bills of sale, program operating expenses, correspondence, grant applications, insurance policies, incident reports, membership ledger books, mortgages, deeds, bonds, and history of the YWCA papers. Also included in the collection are board of director meeting minutes and correspondence, board of director treasury reports, board of trustee meeting minutes and correspondence, executive committee meeting minutes, various other committee meeting minutes, brochures, programs, newsletters, news clippings, scrapbook material, photographs, negatives, slides (not extensive), videotapes, and posters. The memorabilia includes pins, ornaments, handkerchiefs, inscribed brass plates, banners, a seal imprinter, and a gavel.
The YWCA of the USA is documented in brief. This material consists of several posters, public service announcements, photographs, ornaments, pins, stickers and a history of the organization.
One strength of the collection is the extensive amount of photographic material, including a framed portrait of the founder of the Albany chapter. Other strengths are the board of director and trustee meeting minutes, from 1933 to 1995 and news clippings and scrapbooks from the 1910s to the mid 1990s. The news clippings and much of the scrapbook material were preservation photocopied.
The collection is weak at the beginning and end of the chapter's 108-year history. Correspondence is also limited in quantity. Some papers, such as programs and fliers glued into disintegrating scrapbooks, are extremely brittle. The earliest annual reports are hard bound and vary in condition. Record books and Annual Reports from the turn of the century are damaged. The covers and bindings are broken and pages are loose. They are extremely fragile.
- Biographical / Historical:
In 1888, a group of women in Albany, New York, led by Mrs. Acors Rathbun, formed an organization that would provide inexpensive housing for the young women who were searching for work in the city. This was a national trend for many women coming from rural communities who were forced to look for work in bigger cities. This was during the time of the Industrial Revolution when many of the products produced at home, such as cloth, were being replaced by factory-made materials.
The solution of Rathbun and her committee members was to rent a house at 128 State Street and hire a matron to be in charge of the house. The committee members performed the housekeeping duties. Evening classes were offered to residents in embroidery, penmanship, English and bookkeeping. This marked the beginning of the Albany chapter of the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA). In 1891, a house at 5 Lodge Street was purchased for the organization's purpose, and in later years, houses at 2, 3, and 4 Lodge Street were also purchased. The Rathbun Memorial Gymnasium and pool were constructed to provide women with physical education classes as well. In 1926 the last private residence on Lodge Street was purchased for the YWCA. In 1964, a major renovation took place, creating two more floors of residential rooms, a new cafeteria and a lobby. ["History of the YWCA of Albany, New York", Series 1, Box 9, Folder 14].
In 1906 the Albany YWCA became a charter member of the national YWCA organization. Like the Albany YWCA, the national organization "literally began as a movement; its name [coming] later. The pulse of the movement was felt first in England in 1855, and then in the United States in 1858". [Jennifer Chiu, 1999. The Early Years . Washington, D.C.: YWCA of the U.S.A. http://www.ywca.org/html/B5b1.asp (19 February 2003). The first American YWCA was formed in New York City]. The organization in Boston, MA, formed in 1859, would be the first American organization to officially use the name YWCA in 1866. [Jennifer Chiu, 1999.The First Associations . Washington, D.C.: YWCA of the U.S.A. http://www.ywca.org/html/B5b3.asp (19 February 2003)].
The early years of the YWCA brought a number of services to the women of the region. A Glee Club was formed of State Normal College students in 1907. The Y House, a dormitory for women opened in 1918 for students of the State College for Teachers on South Lake Avenue. In 1926, the YWCA rented a building at 219 Ontario Street from the State College for Teachers for use as the Y House. [Geoffrey P. Williams, 2003. Chronological History of the University at Albany, SUNY. Albany: University at Albany Libraries. http://library.albany.edu/speccoll/chronology.htm (26 February 2003)].
The first half of the twentieth century brought a number of clubs and programs to the women of the region. The Industrial League brought together girls working in factories, homes, restaurants, and other service industries to offer programs in physical education, citizenship and social activities. The Girls Reserve, a program for junior and senior high school girls, emphasized community service and socializing. ["Albany, New York YWCA 1929-1930", Series 3, Box 1, Folder 5]. The Federated Business and Professional Club promoted citizenship, leadership and cultural education for professional women. ["Business and Professional Clubs, YWCA, 1941, Handbook", Series 3, Box 1, Folder 6]. The Thursday Afternoon, consisted of young married women who learned dressmaking, knitting, family care, and home decoration. The Club was also involved in war relief work during World War II. ["Scrapbook, Thursday Afternoon Club", Series 4, Box 3, Folder 1]. The Outing Club, formed in the 1950s, provided trips to New York City, hiking and skiing trips, picnics, bowling, square dancing, and horseback riding to men and women. ["Scrapbook, Outing Club", Series 4, Box 3, Folder 5].
In 1977, faced with financial pressures and deteriorating buildings, the Albany YWCA sold their Lodge Street facilities to the City and County of Albany. They moved to 28 Colvin Avenue and renovated the rented quarters in 1982 to provide an updated childcare space, exercise room, kitchen, and offices. In 1988, the YWCA bought the building and renovated the building yet again to meet the current standards and needs of the community.
In 1996, due to a drop in membership and financial troubles, the Albany chapter of the YWCA cancelled all but two programs, and let go 14 of its 17 staff members, transferring many of the programs to the Schenectady YWCA. In 1997, the Albany YWCA sold off its facility at 28 Colvin Avenue, thus closing its doors after 108 years of service to the community. ["Albany YWCA suffers from lack of fiscal fitness". (April 17, 1996) Times Union, p. A1].
- Acquisition information:
All items in this manuscript group were donated to the University Libraries, M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, by the Schenectady YWCA in June 2002.
- Processing information:
Processed in 2003 by Beth Sheffer, 2002, Heather Harrington, March 2003.
- African Americans and Civil Rights Organizations
Social Activists and Public Advocates
Neighborhood and Community Associations
Athletics and Sports
Albany, New York
Young Women's Christian Association of Albany--History
Young Women's Christian Association of Albany--Buildings
Women--Religious life--New York (State)--Albany
Women college students
Women--Education--New York (State)--Albany
Women--Housing--New York (State)--Albany
Women--Services for--New York (State)--Albany
Women--Societies and clubs--New York (State)--Albany
Women--New York (State)--Albany
- Young Women's Christian Association of the USA