In 1870, seven women joined together to ask of themselves and of the Dayton community what they could do to “elevate women in our midst.” Their response became the foundation for YWCA Dayton.
As part of the oldest and largest women’s organization in the nation, YWCA Dayton has been at the forefront of the most pressing social movements for more than 150 years — from voting rights to civil rights, from affordable housing to pay equity, from violence prevention to health care reform. Today, we combine programming and advocacy to generate institutional change in three key areas: health and safety of women and girls, economic advancement of women and girls, and racial justice and civil rights.
To put that in perspective: We’ve been On A Mission for all women and children since five years after the Civil War ended. Learn more by exploring the timeline below.
Through the Years
- The Dayton Female Association is formed in February 1844 to provide for the comfort, maintenance, and proper education of destitute children.
- A small brick house on Magnolia Street (where Miami Valley Hospital is today) is built, serving as the Dayton Female Orphans’ Asylum on Charity Hill. The citizens of the county contributed means to buy the land and erect a small brick building for the asylum. It was used as an orphan’s home until the erection of a new one across the Miami River on Summit Street.
- World YWCA is founded in the United Kingdom by Lady Mary Jane Kinnaird and Emma Roberts.
- Nancy Trotter Bates – mother of Susan Bates Winters, the first president of YWCA Dayton – moves to Dayton from Cincinnati and becomes head of the Dayton Female Association.
- YWCA USA is founded in the United States on Feb. 10, 1858.
- Under an act passed by the legislature on March 20, 1861, authorizing the establishment of children’s homes, the commissioners of Montgomery County took charge of the children in the Dayton Orphan Asylum.
- On April 13, 1867, five acres of land were purchased in Harrison Township, upon which to build a children’s home, and it opened the same year.
Melissa Beall, Mrs. J. Davis, Mary Hammond, Eliza Hoglen, Julia Jacobs, Ann Martin, and Mary Mitchell ask what they might do to “elevate women in our midst.” Their answer becomes the Women’s Christian Association of Dayton, Ohio, which is formally organized on Nov. 26, 1870. The average age of our founders was 36, and we are the third YWCA founded in Ohio, following Cleveland and Cincinnati.
Earlier that year, Nancy Trotter Bates — Susan’s mother, and head of the Dayton Female Association — had recognized the high number of Civil War widows, and acquired the former Orphans’ Asylum property to house these women (see “Prelude” above).
She then worked to transform the DFA into the Women’s Christian Association for the furtherance of such work. She died one month before W.C.A. was officially organized, and in her honor, the group asked Susan to serve as its first president, a position she held for 21 years.
The Widows’ Home opens (at what is now Miami Valley Hospital) to provide shelter and support to destitute and single women; an Employment Committee assists residents in finding jobs, food, and clothing. The Widows’ Home is owned and operated by YWCA Dayton until July 1961, when it becomes its own separate nonprofit that still operates today.
Its original policy was as follows: “Any widow or destitute women of good moral character being over the age of 60 who has also resided in Dayton for the past 5 years, is eligible to become a permanent resident.” Rooms were made available for the price of $7.50 a month.
The first Industrial School is formed on Dec. 6, 1875, to teach in-need girls (ages 8-15) sewing and leadership skills at no cost. From an initial class of just eight girls – who met in Amelia Louisa Connelly’s home in East Dayton – more than 1,000 girls enroll by the end of the 1870s.
The Martha Jane Dickey School was located in downtown Dayton at the W.C.A. Martha was the sister-in-law of Susan Bates Winters, YWCA Dayton’s first president.
34 women reside at the Widows’ Home, with some spending years of their lives there, and others only staying overnight.
The original brick house was starting to become too small, so Susan Bates Winters decided to give $5,000, while two unnamed friends gave $1,000 each, to help reach a goal of either buying new property or making renovations.
An English as a Second Language program for Mongolian refugee women begins, later becoming our Americanization Department (1916) and then our International Institute (1924).
The Nursery Basket Committee provides clothing for newborn babies in homes of “mothers who from sickness, desertion, or destitution have nothing in store for the coming babe.”
The Widows’ Home moves to a new location at 50 S. Findlay St., where it remains today. Dayton banker, William P. Huffman, donated 2.5 acres of land on which a new, 3-story Victorian brick house was built for about $20,000.
Our first Girls’ Home and a lunchroom open, as does the Women’s Exchange, providing ways for women to earn income by using their skills in cooking, baking, and handiwork. It continues for more than 30 years.
Our work to prevent and respond to domestic violence begins when we petition the Ohio General Assembly for “better legal protection for women against assault.”
The Educational Department opens with classes in spelling, penmanship, and arithmetic (sewing courses followed). Tuition is $1 per year.
A sewing club founded by a group of Eaker Street African Methodist Episcopal Church* women started the nation’s first YWCA branch for African-American women and girls, calling themselves Women’s Christian Association No. 2. While relations with the central YWCA were strong, they would not be formally recognized by the main branch until 1918.
The founders include: Clara Avery, Mrs. William Bates, Elizabeth Bush, Maggie Cannon, Florence Chatman, Jessie Cralle, Alice Durham, Marie Gaines, Jewelia Galloway Higgins, Emma Jackson, Cordelia Johnson, Mollie Jones, Pearl Pryor, Lena Stewart, Louise Troy, Mary Ward, and Rose Ford Willis.
They conducted their work initially from the church basement. Susan Bates Winters, YWCA Dayton’s first president, noted, “I believe we are the only association in our city organized for the relief of women and children, caring for them without regard to color or nationality.”
*The Eaker Street A.M.E. Church, located near the southwest corner of Eaker and Perry streets, was a congregation of the first Black church and first A.M.E. Church in Dayton, Ohio. It became Wayman AME.
The Young Women’s Department opens, offering classes in grammar, bookkeeping, stenography, choral training, Latin, German, English literature, dressmaking, wood carving, drawing, and geography.
During the fall of this year, it was decided to purchase the Valentine Winters Home located on 130 W. Third St. The property was bought for a total sum of about $50,000.
We move into a home of our own at 130 W. Third St. (Prior to this, W.C.A. activities were housed in extra rooms at the YMCA on Fourth Street.) It was Jan. 31 when the building was finally dedicated.
The Busy Girls’ Half Hour program is started at National Cash Register to provide classes in health, dress, and morals and provide women with opportunities for community service.
YWCA Dayton celebrates its 25th anniversary.
A YWCA group is organized at Wilberforce “to form a more perfect union, to promote general welfare and to aid in the preparation for the great responsibilities of life.” In addition to holding prayer services, YWCA women at Wilberforce furnished a “rest room” for women students, helped purchase books and clothing for needy students.
Our first newsletter, the C.A. Record, is published in October. The publication was paid for by advertising and was a monthly paper aimed at distributing association news to its members.
Edward Barney donated the use of a beautiful park on Forest Avenue to the W.C.A. Any member of the W.C.A. was eligible to use this park and it became the site of many activities sponsored by the W.C.A.
An East Dayton Industrial School branch opens in the South Park neighborhood, meeting at NCR on Stewart Street.
Our Kitchen Garden program starts, filling a gap in services for pre-teen and teenage girls.
A room is set aside for travelers to use for rest; it later becomes a separate national organization, the Travelers’ Aid Society.
The East Dayton Industrial School branch is named after Amelia Louisa Connelly.
Following a successful fundraising campaign, the West Dayton YWCA purchases its first building at 800 W. Fifth St.
Our East Dayton Branch opens at Fifth and Columbus streets. It provides a third Industrial School, a Mothers’ Club, sewing classes, a reading circle, and social entertainments.
1,236 clients were served through the Relief Department, which provides care, housing, employment, fuel, and burial assistance for the sick and widowed. 1,575 pieces of clothing are distributed to those in need. 200 girls are enrolled at the Martha Jane Dickey Industrial School.
We become the first W.C.A. to employ a Bible secretary.
First Home for Self-Supporting Young Women opens with space for 30. Regular boarders paid $2.50-$3 per week, including breakfast and supper; transients and business women, 25 cents per day; and non-business women, 50 cents per day.
W.C.A. membership sees highest numbers at 1,438 adults and 164 juniors.
During this time period, around December, one of the most important events in the history of the W.C.A. in the United States took place. The merger between the American Committee and the International Board completed the organization of the National Board of the Young Women’s Christian Association. The Dayton association would go on and vote for the union of these two groups and became a charter member of the new organization.
The ground for what would become our Central Building – still in operation today – is purchased on the corner of West Third and North Wilkinson streets.
The Women’s Christian Association (W.C.A.) officially changes its name to Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) of Dayton, Ohio.
The cornerstone for our new central building is laid on Sept. 29, 1912.
Seven Camp Fire groups are organized.
Our central building at 141 W. Third St. opens with five floors; it still functions as our main office location today. It was constructed by Dayton Structural and Concrete Co.
An Americanization Department (later the International Institute) is established to “help foreign women and girls to assimilate with the better side of American life; to preserve in them the fine things they have brought with them; and to make as easy as possible the hard period of transition from the old home to the strange new environment here.”
A Hostess House is built at Wright Field to help with the World War I effort.
A Community House opens at Third and Summit streets for use by the Americanization Department. Primary populations served included immigrants from Hungary, Romania, and Poland.
Girl Reserves, a nationwide program for teen girls, is established at YWCA Dayton.
YWCA Dayton celebrates its 50th anniversary.
Two additional floors are added to our Central Building to accommodate increased demand for safe, affordable housing for women.
Y’s Acres, a girls’ summer camp, is purchased near Tipp City from the Miami Conservancy District for $2,500. It features six acres of land with two cottages “in a beautiful wooded setting on the Miami River.”
The Fifth Street YWCA branch has more than 300 members.
The International Institute headquarters are moved to 10 N. Jefferson St. with a staff of five, including two nationality workers who could speak multiple languages. A center is opened at Summit and Dakota streets.
The Montgomery County Branch of Girl Reserves is officially organized; clubs also operate in Miamisburg, Fairmont, Germantown, West Carrollton, and Johnsville. By 1929, there are 14 Girl Reserve clubs with a membership of 400 girls and 130 adult members.
YWCA Dayton sees 3,085 members on its rosters, the most to date.
Y’s Acres is sold.
Dayton’s YWCA Activities Model for Other Groups – YWCA Dayton was being watched by associations all over the country, leading by example.
It cost $13 for an adult to get a doctor’s examination, a membership to the YWCA, a full-year gym membership, 8 swimming lessons, and 35 plunges.
First African-American woman, Mabel Evens, joins our Board of Directors.
The Daytime School is organized to provide free recreational and educational opportunities for young adults age 18-24. There were 31 classes and 25 faculty, with more than 300 enrolled in its first year.
The Vocational Department interviews 2,429 girls needing assistance as the Great Depression rages on.
The Cosmopolitan Club is organized for women of foreign background.
A capacity number of permanent guests, 196, is now registered at the central building; there are also available a few rooms for transients. A recent survey shows that of the permanent guests now housed by YW, 78 are business girls, 35 are industrial girls, 25 are waitresses and 24 are students.
The minimum fee for an annual adult membership was $1 and for an annual junior membership, $0.50. Bowling also cost $0.15 per game.
In April, YWCA Dayton Board of Directors approve the purchase of the former Harry Kuhns’ family home at 236 S. Summit St. for use by the West Dayton YWCA. The three-story stone building was built in 1833, had approximately 25 rooms, and was directly across from Dunbar High School.
Plans for remodeling both the house and its carriage house were pushed as rapidly as possible due to a critical need for both housing and food service for Black women and girls in Dayton. It featured a dormitory for 30 women, administrative offices, and an employment bureau. The carriage house held rooms for 25 women and a cafeteria open to the public. Rooms were all filled immediately upon opening, with another 67 names on a waiting list.
Its formal opening takes place Oct. 2-3, 1943.
YWCA Dayton celebrates its 75th anniversary.
At the 17th National Convention, Dayton delegates had joined with others in the adoption of The Interracial Charter. The charter stated, “Wherever there is injustice on the basis of race, whether in the community, the nation, or the world, our protest must be clear and our labor for its removal, vigorous and steady. In response to pressure from within YWCA branches, notably black women activists in and around Washington, D.C., the YWCA National Convention passed an “Interracial Charter” at Atlantic City in 1946 and took a strong public stand against racism. “Wherever there is injustice on the basis of race, whether in the community, the nation or the world,” read the Charter, “our protest must be clear and our labor for its removal, vigorous and steady.”
October 14, 1947, is named National YWCA Day.
Camp Wy-Ca-Key is founded in Morrow, Ohio, after a site near Fort Ancient is purchased for $25,000. A contest was promoted to find a name; the winning title used the YWCA initials plus the word “key” to indicate that camping would be a key to many new experiences. The camp was dedicated June 17, 1949.
Dayton was one of the 20 associations in the United States which was offered the opportunity to have a foreign YWCA for several months to come.
Young adult dance classes begin in November, starting at $0.25 per class.
More than 2,000 teenage girls take the Y-pledge, committing themselves to community services and to God.
The first African-American staff member was appointed to the professional staff at Central Building; YWCA Dayton staff has been diverse since that date.
Camp Wy-Ca-Key memberships cost $0.50 for those 12-18 years in age, and $1 for adults. Pool suits and towels cost $0.05.
It was during this year that businessman, William F. Neff, donated enough money for more renovations, this time including another dormitory, a fully equipped infirmary wing, a new dining room, and a modern kitchen and solarium.
The former Salem Avenue home of Alice M. Doren was offered to the YWCA, as a site for program in the northwest section of the city
The YWCA World’s Fair was held on Oct. 18, 1958.
YWCA receives a $70,000 donation from the Rike-Kumler family.
“Career Clinic” program introduced for professional women.
First program in Montgomery County specifically designed for unwed mothers begins.
The YWCA served its ties with the home during this time period and because of this, the committee elected to become incorporated as the Widows Home of Dayton, which has since operated independently.
A Dayton Y-Teen was asked to represent Ohio at the National World Fellowship Service in the Washington, D.C. National Cathedral
During this time period, a house on Hickory Street near Emerson School was rented out for the East Dayton Neighborhood Center
More than 1,500 girls in 19 Dayton and Montgomery County schools participate in Y-Teen clubs.
New Y’s Buys shop opens on the third floor of the central building. The nearly-new items in the shop are open to the public.
YWCA revises its policy to include a watchman, who will be on duty late into the night located in the central building.
A whole new YWCA area which serves the DMHA De Soto Bass Courts begins.
Child care opens in September for the first time at the East Dayton YWCA; about 40 children are enrolled. An expanded summer program to help working mothers also begins.
A new YWCA East Dayton Neighborhood Center, given by an anonymous donor, opened on Hickory Street.
YWCA Dayton hosts first meeting of what becomes ACTION Ohio Coalition For Battered Women, our state’s grassroots advocacy organization for domestic violence survivors.
Volunteers with e YWCA English Emergency Program begin to teach English to Vietnamese refugees arriving in Dayton.
On May 13, 1976, the original West Dayton YWCA building at 800 West Fifth Street is added to the Ohio National Register of Historic Places. The building was later razed in 2007.
In June 1976, YWCA Dayton hires its first male employee, Dan Philabaum, to work at its summer camps. At this point, there wasn’t even a male restroom at any of the camp sites.
The Dayton YMCA and YWCA announce plans for their first combined facility by agreeing to purchase nine acres of land from the University of Dayton. The money given to buy the land and build the facility was given to the YWCA anonymously from a women named Mrs. Kampf. Gifts from Virginia Kettering Kampf helped make it possible of the construction of the jointly operated YMCA-YWCA facility.
July 9, 1976 – The YWCA of Dayton begins to plan for a shelter to house battered and beaten women.
We open the first domestic violence shelter and crisis hotline in Montgomery County. It remains the only such shelter, and longest-running such hotline, in the county.
Thanks to a donation from the Older Americans Act, the central building converts part of its facility in November 1977 into an elderly daycare center.
The first support group for battered women is held at the East Dayton YWCA.
The Board of Directors pass a resolution urging the membership of the Dayton Woman’s Club to reverse their action of rescinding an anti-discrimination policy.
The South area YWCA decided to marge with the East YWCA in order to form the south-east YWCA on Hickory Street.
The Prime Time Day Care Center for the elderly opened this year, accepting adults who were 60 years old or handicapped adults.
The Dayton YWCA was in cooperation with Children’s Medical Center and the local chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and have established an exercise program for children who are affected by this disease.
The Dayton YWCA sponsored a Career Women of Achievement Luncheon in May, and the president of the National YWCA made introductory remarks and presided at the awards ceremony.
YWCA Dayton’s popular coffee shop closed on June 26, 1980, after 20 years in operation.
The Kresge Foundation awards YWCA $100,000 toward Central Building renovations.
YWCA Dayton receives its first VOCA (Victims of Crime Act) award, providing a new funding stream to support domestic violence shelter and services.
The Battered Women’s Program received an $18,000 grant to upgrade conditions and practices.
In 1993 alone, the YWCA Shelter and Housing network provided more than 26,000 nights of shelter to almost 1,800 individuals, while the Teen Connection served nearly 18,000 teens under the age of 19.
The central building’s child care area is renovated.
The Citizens Forum, a coalition of women’s groups, holds a political rally on Courthouse Square in September.
Governor Voinovich and 200 other dignitaries were welcomed on April 30, 1995, for contributing $5.3 million toward the renovation.
Artemis Center partners with YWCA Dayton to operate its 24/7 crisis hotline during business hours; YW maintains the hotline equipment, training, and responds to calls occurring on nights, weekends, and holidays.
Our first Women of Influence awards are held.
We receive a $2,500 grant from the Mary Kay Foundation in Dallas on Oct. 21.
We receive a $60,000 grant from the Iddings Foundation in March to initiate Girls’ Inc.
We are granted accreditation for child care by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) in March
We receive $4,800 from the Attorney’s General Office in result of a settlement.
Our website launches on Aug. 15, 2000.
The Junior League of Dayton founds Hope’s Closet, which still serves as our in-house thrift store.
YWCA Dayton takes ownership of the Preble County domestic violence shelter.
September 29, 2008 – YWCA Dayton wins state child care award by receiving its first star in the Step up to Quality achievement award process.
YWCA Dayton receives a $10,000 donation from former WNBA player Tamika Williams Raymond, who graduated from Chaminade Julienne High School.
Our Women of Influence awards – now the largest nonprofit luncheon in Dayton – celebrates its 20th
We reclaim full ownership and operation of our 24/7 crisis hotline and open a brand-new, state-of-the-art call center.
Girls Inc. becomes Girls LEAD! (Leadership Education Activism Development).
Our sexual assault program is accredited by the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence (OAESV) as the only Rape Crisis Center serving Montgomery and Preble counties.
Our central building’s first full-scale renovation since 1961 begins.
YWCA Dayton is re-accredited by the Council on Accreditation, receiving two new accreditations in social justice advocacy and behavioral health. We are the first YW to be accredited for our social justice work.
Summit Street West Dayton YWCA building added to the National Register of Historic Places (SHPO approved September 20, 2019). Located at 236 Paul Laurence Dunbar Ave.