Celebrating Women’s History Month

women mask

The Y serves all genders, races, ages, beliefs, and backgrounds. Women have been part of the Y Movement for more than a century, and we're digging deeper into their impact during National Women's History Month.

The first woman is believed to have joined a YMCA in the 1850s in Brooklyn, and there were several female Y members by the 1860s. Two decades later, Ellen Brown became the first female employee of a YMCA and the first "boys' work secretary." The night class she taught grew so rapidly it became a department of the Y.

Locally, the Women's Auxiliary was perhaps the most significant group in the early history of our association. Its members raised funds, furnished rooms, and provided music and refreshments for meetings.

When the U.S. entered World War I in 1917, the YMCA was involved in running military canteens in the United States and France. More than 5,000 women worked in the canteen service, which eventually became the USO.

Gender barriers relaxed during and after the world wars. By 1946, women made up around 12 percent of membership nationwide. Today's number is closer to 50 percent nationwide and 52 percent locally.