The Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) originated in England in 1855, and was begun and financed by women. The goal of the organization was to assist those girls and women who had left the protection of their home for wider fields of activity. The YWCA, a membership organization with a religious purpose, was open to any girl or young woman, providing them with the opportunity for physical, social, mental, and spiritual growth.
The Grand Forks YWCA was organized on December 30, 1903, when a committee of women met at George B. Winship's home to study the needs of young women in Grand Forks living away from home. A constitution was adopted in January, 1904. Due to prevailing financial conditions, there was no effort to solicit funds from the public, depending entirely upon membership dues and voluntary gifts. A YWCA Board of Directors was chosen and a General Secretary was hired at a salary of $30 a month. The Grand Forks YWCA received its national charter in October, 1906.
The blue triangle of the YWCA symbolizes the three main points of the organization: mind, body, and spirit. Over the years, both YWCA branches tried to offer a well-rounded and flexible program to fit the needs of the university and the community. Traditionally, emphasis was placed on working with pre-teen and teenage girls, but by 1954 a co-ed program was developed. Membership in the YWCA was divided into groups, including the Girl Reserves, the Junior YW's (fifth and sixth grade girls), Y Teens (Junior High School girls), Tri-Y (Senior High School girls), the University YWCA, and the Business and Professional Girl's club. A camp was held each summer for the Girl Reserves, with the first camp at Camp Rotary, Union Lake, Minnesota. Classes expanded over the years from physical culture class and shirt waist class to bridge, ballroom dancing, fencing, and swimming.
The first home of the Grand Forks YWCA was two rooms on the second floor of the Security Building (101 North Third Street), moving to the basement of the same building in 1905. In 1906, the YWCA moved to 211 North Fourth Street. By 1911, the YWCA was located on the second floor of the E.J. Lander building, where they had twenty bedrooms, three baths, two parlors, a dining room, and a kitchen. In 1939, the YWCA accepted a gift from the Community House association and moved to 311 North Fourth Street. On December 14, 1947, the YWCA announced plans to build at the corner of North Fifth Street and Second Avenue North. A community-wide campaign to raise funds was started in 1949, with the goal set at $298,000. The construction of the new YWCA was started in 1951, with the shell completed in 1952. At this time, due to lack of funds, construction was halted until a drive to raise additional funds was launched in 1955. Although the basement of the unfinished YWCA building was utilized by September, 1954, the entire YWCA building was not dedicated until September 22, 1957.
In early 1969, the YWCA faced a financial crisis, forcing it to secure a loan of $11,000. Revenue from the rental of the YWCA gymnasium and the pool for high school swimming classes was cut about in half, due to the division of Grand Forks high schools. Due to the YWCA's financial trouble, a proposal to merge the YWCA and YMCA into a Y Family Center was passed in 1970. The Y Family Center, located at North Seventh Street and University Avenue, was formally dedicated on November 7, 1970.
The YWCA Records regards only the Grand Forks YWCA. The records consist of scrapbooks dated 1905 to 1970 and minutes of meetings from 1925 to 1963. The scrapbooks contain newspaper clippings, programs, pamphlets, invitations, flyers, and photographs of various YWCA activities. Some of the scrapbooks depict daily YWCA activities, while other scrapbooks were devoted to a single group within the YWCA organization, such as the Girl Reserves and the Business and Professional Girl's club. The collection also includes newspaper accounts of the various activities carried on by the Grand Forks YWCA during the Second World War, especially noteworthy was the Junior YWCA group's efforts in selling war bonds and stamps.
Several of the scrapbooks cover the 46-year effort of the Grand Forks YWCA to construct a new YWCA at the corner of North Fifth Street and Second Avenue North. In 1911, a group of local women made a down payment on the site, receiving the deed for the lot six years later. World War I, the Depression, and World War II interfered with their plans to build until 1949. A fund drive conducted that year was not sufficient, with only the shell being completed by 1952. In 1955, a second fund drive was conducted and the new YWCA was completed in 1957.
Board of Directors minutes of meetings and the scrapbooks are filed chronologically. The loose items that were removed from the scrapbooks and placed in folders are also filed chronologically. Box two contains a single scrapbook. Due to its fragile condition, the pages were removed from the binding and placed in separate folders.