Records of Young Women's Christian Association of Cambridge, 1881-1981
Office files, photographs, publications, etc., of the Young Women's Christian Association of Cambridge.
- Young Women's Christian Association (Cambridge, Mass.) (Organization)
Language of Materials
Materials in English.
Access. Unrestricted, except for folder #446, which is closed until January 1, 2025. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.
Conditions Governing Use
Copyright. Copyright in the records created by the Young Women's Christian Association of Cambridge is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Quotations longer than one paragraph in length must be approved by the Executive Committee of the Young Women's Christian Association of Cambridge as long as the organization exists. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.
Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.
Extent36.9 linear feet ((20 cartons, 23 card files, 8 folio boxes) plus 2 folio folders, 4 oversize folders, 2 supersize folders, 7 oversize volumes, 2 audiotapes, and electronic records)
The collection consists of the records (1881-1925) of the Cambridgeport Woman's Christian Temperance Union, founded in 1874, and of photographs, clippings, publications, and office files of the YWCA of Cambridge from 1891 on. The records document all aspects of the YWCA's foundation, organization, development, and programs. They also indirectly document the lives and experience of many Cambridge women, including the volunteer activities of upper class women, and the employment opportunities, and leisure activities of young working women, of blacks, and immigrants. The records also shed light on community and business life in Cambridge.
In June 1891, members of the Cambridgeport branch of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union established the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) in Cambridge "to promote the temporal, moral, and religious welfare of the young women of Cambridge." The organization received its charter and was incorporated in February 1892.
The YWCA's first concern was to provide inexpensive, safe accommodation for women who were newly employed, strangers, or transients. This was achieved by the purchase, in 1897, of the Pray Estate, 11 Temple Street. The "genteel" location of Central Square was preferred to the "far too dangerous" area near Harvard Square, according to YWCA historian Frances Donovan. Further residences were purchased at 144 Austin Street and 7 Temple Street (1902), and 5 Temple St. (1905); in 1911 the present headquarters was built at 7 Temple Street by the architectural firm of Newhall and Blevins. Administrative offices, program facilities, and lodgings for working women were provided, and a few rooms set aside for short stays for the homeless. Extensive additions and renovations to the building were carried out in 1954 and 1961 by the firm of Anderson and Beckwith.
The programs offered initially by the YWCA included music, dressmaking, cooking, Bible study, watercolors, German, hygiene, and physical culture. This focus on education, physical education and health has continued, although new programs have been adopted, adapted, and dropped to meet changing needs.
In the 1890s vocational courses in millinery, dressmaking, nursing, cooking, shorthand, and typing were popular; vocational guidance was offered after 1926.
From 1899 to 1928 the YWCA maintained an Employment Office for domestic help and a Woman's Exchange, where locally made crafts and handwork were sold. Youth programs, the Wives' Club with day care center, and senior citizen programs have been added over the years; and most recently a Woman's film series. The facilities for physical education were expanded in 1961 with the construction of the swimming pool; a barn in Marshfield first loaned in 1944, became the summer day camp. Margaret Fuller House on Cherry Street was purchased in 1902 to be an area recreation center, and became an independent settlement house in 1944. War work in both World War I and II concentrated on entertainment of troops stationed in the greater Boston area. The YWCA has sponsored programs of community and civic interest: study groups on public affairs have issued reports on legislation, social trends, and racial integration, and committees have cooperated with the local League of Women Voters to encourage voter registration.
The Cambridge YWCA is self-governing; it is administered by a volunteer Board of Directors, which appoints committees of volunteers that have both consultative and administrative functions. A small professional staff is headed by an Executive Secretary. The total budget of the YWCA was originally funded by membership fees, benefits, lectures, and bazaars. Beginning in 1938 the budget was in part funded by United Community Services, and since 1974 by the United Way.
The Cambridge YWCA has always been non-sectarian in practice and philosophy. Members of the Board were selected from seven major branches of the Protestant church: Universalist, Unitarian, Episcopalian, Baptist, Methodist, Swedenborgian, and Congregational. The YWCA offered Bible study and prayer meetings, but avoided competition with local churches, believing its primary function to be the practical application of Christian principles. It delayed affiliation with the national organization until 1935 when the National YWCA's statement of purpose became more broad and inclusive.
The collection is arranged in eight series:
- I. History and organization (1-34, E.1). Photographs, foundation documents, including records of the WCTU. The YWCA of Cambridge's web site is being captured periodically as part of Harvard University Library's Web Archive Collection service (WAX); searchable archived versions of the web site will be available through this finding aid in 2010.
- II. Publications and publicity (35-81at). Scrapbooks, clippings, and other publicity.
- III. Administration (82-307). Annual and departmental reports, 1892-1917, 1937-73, minutes of the Board of Directors and Executive Committee, and correspondence of the Executive Secretary.
- IV. Programs (308-604). Committees and programs; records of Margaret Fuller House, the Burlington and Marshfield branches of the Cambridge YWCA, arranged alphabetically by program or committee title.
- V. Building Committee, (605-655). Building and renovation records. See also Series VII.
- VI. Finance Committee (656v-803). Financial records, United Community Services, United Way, and reports of financial Trustees. Includes Margaret Fuller House.
- VII. Architectural plans and blueprints (804+ -806o)
- VIII. Card index files (boxes 22-43). Fundraising, membership, and volunteer leaders.
Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Accession numbers: 82-M141; 83-M11
The records of the Young Women's Christian Association of Cambridge were given to the Schlesinger Library in July 1982 and January 1983.
- Carton 1: Folders 15v-39
- Carton 2: Folders 40-56v
- Folio Box 2a: 44vf, 46vf
- Folio Box 2b: 48vf
- Folio Box 2c: 49vf
- Carton 3: Folders 57v-79
- Carton 3: Folders 57v-79
- Folio Box 3a: Folders 63vf-71vfo
- Folio Box 3b: Folders 63vf-71vfo
- Folio Box 3c: Folders 77vf
- Carton 4: Folders 82-187
- Carton 5: Folders 188-216
- Carton 6: Folders 217-253v
- Carton 7: Folders 254v-263, 265-270, 272-304
- Folio Box 7a: 264vf
- Folio Box 7b: 271vf
- Carton 8: Folders 305-343
- Carton 9: Folders 344-376
- Carton 10: Folders 377-404v
- Carton 11: Folders 405v-443
- Carton 12: 444-445, 447v-486v
- Carton 13: Folders 487v-525
- Carton 14: Folders 526-578
- Carton 15: Folders 579-616
- Carton 16: Folders 617-655
- Carton 17: Folders 656v-680v
- Carton 18: Folders 681v-716
- Carton 19: Folders 717-755
- Carton 20: Folders 756-803
- Card file Boxes 21-43: Membership files
Preliminary index of subjects, authors, and organizations:
- Afro-Americans 196-197, 185, 242, 308
- Amicae Club 10, 62vo, 309-313m
- Anderson and Beckwith, Inc. 626-633, 805
- Architectural drawings 804+-806o
- Building Committee 605-655
- Board of Directors 251v-307
- Burlington branch of YWCA-Cambridge 6, 315-330, 806
- Business and Industrial Club 61v, 62v, 331-337
- Business and Professional Women's Club-YWCA 338-343
- Cambridge Community Council 346-354
- Cambridge Community Federation see Cambridge Community Council
- Cambridge Community Services see Cambridge Community Council
- Cambridge (Mass.)--Buildings 188, 605-665
- Cambridge (Mass.)--Economic conditions 185
- Cambridge (Mass.)--Social life and customs 185 and passim
- Council of Social Agencies 360-363
- Dining Room Committee 369-371
- Donovan, Frances (Cooper-Marshall) 34, 527
- Education 372-373
- Ethnic groups 185
- Ethnic relations 196-197
- Executive Committee 251v-307
- Executive Director 212-250v.
- Girl Reserve 11, 50v., 51, 57v., 58, 374-375
- Health, recreation and physical education 49v., 59v., 349, 351, 365, 372, 376-379
- History and organization of YWCA-Cambridge, 34
- Margaret Fuller House 383-388, 665, 668, 692v
- Marshfield branch of YWCA-Cambridge 7, 389-397
- Membership Committee 408-421
- Mormons 212, 213
- Newhall and Blevins, Inc. 609v-616, 804+
- Personnel Committee 429-460
- Public Affairs Committee 464-467
- Public Relations Council 468-474
- Publicity Committee 475-482
- Residence Committee 485v-503
- The Reminder 35, 83-135
- Woman's Christian Temperance Union-Cambridgeport 14 -22
- United Community Services 776-782
- United Way 783-792
- Volunteers 515-524, file box 30, and passim throughout Board and Committee minutes
- World Fellowship 526-533
- World War I 1914-18--war work 48vf
- World War II 1939-1945--war work 67vf, 367-368, 513
- Youth (includes Young Adults) 8, 12, 534-546 passim, 600
Preliminary inventory: January 1987
By: Barbara Harris, Jane S. Knowles
- African American women
- Architectural drawings
- Asian American women
- Cambridge (Mass.)--Buildings, structures, etc.
- Cambridge (Mass.)--Economic conditions
- Cambridge (Mass.)--Social life and customs
- Electronic records
- Ethnic relations
- Health education
- Homeless women
- Physical education and training
- Physical fitness for women
- Race relations
- Religious education of girls
- Social service
- Social service
- Vocational guidance
- Web sites
- Women volunteers in social service
- Women--Massachusetts--Cambridge--Societies and clubs.
- World War, 1914-1918--War work
- World War, 1939-1945--War work
- Young Women's Christian associations--Massachusetts
- Youth--Societies and clubs
- Young Women's Christian Association (Cambridge, Mass.) (Organization)
- Young Women's Christian Association of Cambridge (Mass.). Records of the Young Women's Christian Association of Cambridge, 1881-1981: A Finding Aid
- Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
- Language of description
- EAD ID
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