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YWCA Greater Cincinnati – History

The YWCA, the largest women’s organization in the world, is an international movement with associations in 122 countries and more than 300 American communities. YWCA Cincinnati, the fifth association in the United States, was founded in 1868 to address the needs of working women. The agency provided housing to young women who left their homes in rural areas to work in factories in the city.

In its early years, the YWCA established an employment bureau to find jobs for young women. It worked for minimum wage for women and championed protective labor laws for women and children. The YWCA also advocated for women’s suffrage, was an early leader in job training for women of all races and was at the forefront of racial justice advocacy.

In its efforts to serve the ever-changing needs of women, YWCA Greater Cincinnati has established many “FIRSTS”:

  • FIRST Women’s Employment Bureau (1876)
  • FIRST to provide leadership in forming the Associated Charities of Cincinnati, now called the United Way and Community Chest (1878)
  • FIRST physical fitness classes for women (1890)
  • FIRST women’s basketball team in the city (1915)
  • FIRST to introduce the concept of training women in auto mechanics and telegraphy during World War II (1917)
  • FIRST integrated cafeteria in the city where interracial groups could eat and meet (1950s)

During the 1970s, the YWCA led Cincinnati into a new realm of understanding of women’s issues by advocating for the needs of battered women and children through local hearings and advocacy.

In 1974, an ad hoc committee of YWCA Greater Cincinnati was appointed to research and identify the most serious problems facing women and girls in American society and our community. This committee determined that the battering of women was the single most unreported crime in the United States and Cincinnati.

In August 1976, a public hearing on spouse abuse was held in the YWCA auditorium. These hearings helped to identify the need for domestic violence services and emphasized the responsibility of individuals and communities to provide services to battered women and their children.

YWCA Greater Cincinnati was instrumental at both local and national levels in advocating for survivors and their children. The YWCA’s efforts led to the opening of Cincinnati’s first domestic violence women’s shelter, the Alice Paul House, in January 1978. In March 1979, YWCA opened the House of Peace Shelter that serves survivors of domestic violence and children in the rural counties of Clinton, Clermont and Brown.

In 1998, YWCA purchased and renovated a new shelter in Hamilton County. The YWCA Domestic Violence Shelter can serve triple the capacity of the former Alice Paul House.

In 2012, YWCA changed the name of the shelter to the YWCA Domestic Violence Shelter. In 2015, the YWCA Domestic Violence Shelter expanded in-shelter services to include all survivors of Domestic Violence, including men and transgender individuals.

Since its founding in 1868, the YWCA has been a keystone for positive change in the lives of hundreds of thousands of women and their families. Consistently identifying the needs of women, the YWCA then meets them head-on. YWCA programs and services empower individuals to enhance their lives-whether it’s escaping from abuse, learning to read, or training for a job.