On November 17, 1909, the Yakima chapter of the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) is organized in Yakima at a banquet held at the First Methodist Church. The board of directors meets immediately and elects Sue Lombard as the first board president.
For Young Women
Yakima had a branch of the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) with a facility that had been completed in September 1908. A group of Yakima women participating in a women's gymnasium class held at the YMCA began the push for an organization and facility of their own.
The YWCA movement was introduced in the United States in 1858. In 1894 chapters in the United States, England, Sweden, and Norway formed the World YWCA. The Young Women's Christian Associations of the United States was founded in 1906 by heiress Grace Hoadley Dodge (1856-1914). In its early years the organization offered assistance, continuing education, and a safe haven to young women coming alone to urban environments to seek employment.
The Yakima women appealed to the YWCA National Territorial Headquarters in Seattle for assistance in starting their own chapter. Headquarters appointed Frances Gage, state YWCA secretary, to shepherd the Yakima women through this process. In order to be granted a charter the women were required to produce a minimum of 500 members, hold a meeting of young women who were ready to take up the work of the organization, confer with the local ministers and leading women in Yakima to secure their support for the project, and organize and advertise an evening mass meeting. The banquet at First Methodist was the evening mass meeting.
Membership stood at 575, 75 more than the minimum number.
A Home Of Their Own
The board of directors immediately rented four second-floor rooms over Sawbridge's Hardware Store and an unused building that had served as the Yakima Baptist Church. The former church became their gymnasium. Initially the meeting rooms contained only one table and chair, so attending YWCA meetings meant sitting on the floor. The Yakima community soon remedied this, donating furnishings and funds.
The organization offered classes in languages, art, singing, sewing, cooking, and Bible study. The gymnasium offered young women the chance to exercise, relax, and build their physical stamina. YWCA members also organized and staffed a Traveler's Aid Service at the North Yakima train depot. Volunteers staffing Traveler's Aid met trains and offered assistance to young women traveling along, the elderly, children, and travelers who were ill, as well as helping travelers find safe hotels. YWCA members wore white middy blouses with a distinctive blue scarf.
In the early 1930s Yakima philanthropist Alexander Miller funded construction of a permanent facility for the Yakima YWCA at 15 N Naches Avenue. The building, designed by the organization's first membership director and founding board member Mary Remy, was dedicated on May 12, 1935, and underwent renovation in 1975.