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History of the YWCA

1915 Through Today

1915: YWCA got its start when Marie Brake, a traveler with the group Biederwold Evangelical Party, roared into town and fired up area women to come together. She organized the Young Women’s Christian League, and “invited all interested women to live together with a common goal of the mental, physical and spiritual welfare of girls and women, whose desire it is to help, unselfishly and intelligently, all girls and women in the community.”

1915: The League rented a house on 36 Boylston Street, which was eventually donated to the League in 1924. Activities included dressmaking, china painting, Bible study, cooking, first aid, home nursing, and dramatics. The intent of the home was to provide young working women with a place to go to connect with other women and to rest and relax. A “house mother” was employed.

1916: Miss Lois G. Scott is employed as the first “General Secretary”

1920-1930: Grace Emery becomes heavily involved in the League/Association, both in a leadership capacity and a philanthropic capacity. Ms. Emery was one of the YWCA’s first Presidents. The Strawberry Festival begins.

April 28, 1924: The League receives its charter to become the Young Women’s Christian Association. Some of the first charter members were Grace Emery, Sarah Hamsher, Helen Schonblom, Ethel Andrus, Genevieve Curtis, Ida Sloan, Janet Brooks, Maude Moore, and several others.

May 1924: The YWCA rents the second floor above the South Penn Oil company’s garage to headquarter its offices and activities until April 1, 1945. The home at 36 Boylston Street was retained as a dormitory

1930: The YWCA purchases property at 34 Boylston Street

1940: The YWCA acquires property at 38 Boylston Street

1945-1947: A fund drive raises $213,000 to erect a new building to provide more space for growing activities. However, due to rising construction costs and area floods, the funds were used to purchase the Webb property, located at 24 W. Corydon Street, the YWCA’s current location. The other properties were sold.

October 21, 1948: Groundbreaking on the new property began to connect the original home with the stables, with the cornerstone being laid on December 12, 1948.

November 14, 1949: Dedication Ceremony and official opening of the new space on Corydon Street were held. Numerous clubs move into the new building, including the Business and Professional Women’s Club, the Triangle Club, Judy Club, Married Mixers, Mothers’ Club, Teen Age Club, and YW Wives.

1950s: Classes continue to be held, including bridge, painting, health, crafts, child care, Bible study, sewing, and others. Fundraising is ongoing, including rummage sales, card parties, an antique show, and a “Tour of Homes” in 1955, and of course, the Strawberry Festival is ongoing.

April 1979: A Capital Campaign to raise funds for renovations is undertaken. Programs at the time included a residence for single women, shelter, and counseling, the ENCORE program for post-mastectomy women, Head Start, gymnastics, and several clubs and educational programs.

1985: The YWCA begins to focus more on needed services and less on clubs and social activities. A formal childcare program is instituted. The transition from a social organization to a services organization begins.

1987: The YWCA purchases property and begins renovations to help women who need somewhere to stay due to a loss of a spouse, loss of income, or other situations.

Today: The YWCA continues to provide vital resources to our community, including services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, assistance to those with mental health and/or developmental disabilities, shelter for the homeless, and a food pantry. Every day, we live our mission: eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all.

Capital Campaign - After a century of service to Bradford and McKean County, the YWCA is at a pivotal point, and we are turning to you for support. Safe and secure space for our programs and services benefiting thousands is vital to the continuation of empowerment and stability.

After the unexpected death of our first design architect in 2018, the YWCA revamped and reorganized its Capital Campaign, including hiring a new design firm, LARSON • KARLE  ARCHITECTS. The Board of Directors explored the full breadth of its building options and the costs associated with the Second Ward School property, located on Congress Street in Bradford. The substantial cost savings realized by erecting a new, one-story building versus renovating the 85-year-old structure designed for educational purposes, are related to both construction and to ongoing and long-term operating costs.

As the most responsible option, the Board ensures that critical YWCA services are uninterrupted and guarantees the longevity of the vital services critical to the communities in McKean County continue. We are confident with our decisions and look forward to sharing future progress.

Join in with over 200 of your community neighbors and nationwide supporters, who have already committed over $3 million towards our campaign goal of $4.7 million. By making a tax-deductible donation to our capital campaign, you will be directly contributing to people struggling to cope with domestic violence, homelessness, and mental health issues.