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YWCA of Brooklyn Collection

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: 2011-001
The collection of the YWCA of Brooklyn contains materials from the organization since its opening in 1888, until the records were transferred to Brooklyn College in 2010. These records span nearly 125 years, and include documents related to administration, governance, finance, legal cases, facilities, security, educational and health programs, publications, IT and telecommunications, public relations, events, photographs, newspaper clippings, multi-media, and ephemera.

Of particular importance for this collection are the minutes and reports: they document the trajectory of this institution, as well as the ways they fought to help meet the needs of the community of Brooklyn through the years. In addition, the Brooklyn YWCA maintained an extensive collection of photographs, over six thousand of them, which reflect their programs, members, events, and residences. Newspaper clippings and scrapbooks are also a crucial part of this collection, as they reveal the Brooklyn YWCA’s efforts both from the point of view of local media and from their own institution.


  • 1888-2018, bulk 1888-2005


The collection is open for research.


274 Linear Feet ( 356 archives boxes and 11 objects)


The YWCA of Brooklyn opened in 1888, and continues to operate today as a strong voice for the economic empowerment of women and social justice for all. The collection holds records of the operations, programs, classes, and activities of the YWCA of Brooklyn and its members.

Historical Note

In Dec. 1887, thirty Brooklyn women met to establish a Young Women’s Christian Association. As with related Associations in other cities, the goal of the Brooklyn group was to provide young women with opportunities for job training, recreation, socializing, and eventually, safe and respectable places to live. The Constitution of the Association stated “The object of the Association shall be to promote the temporal, mental, moral and spiritual welfare of young women, particularly of those dependent upon their own exertions for support.” It’s first President was Harriet Judson.

The Brooklyn YWCA opened the first School of Practical Nursing in the United States in 1890 with a Training Course for Nurses, designed to provide skilled women for home-based care. The first class graduated in 1892, and the last in 1971.

It 1899 it created an Employment Bureau where employers could post job openings. The YWCA of Brooklyn offered many types of classes, a number of which helped the women gain the skills necessary for the jobs listed at the Employment Bureau. Courses included millinery, stenography, typing, dressmaking, English, and more. The Bureau operated well into the mid-20th century.

An African-American branch was established in 1903. Contemporary newspaper clippings show the creation of a “colored” branch met with resistance from residents of the first intended neighborhood location on Lafayette Avenue. The first location for the branch was on Lexington Avenue. It later moved to Ashland Place.

An historic event occurred in 1943, when Brooklyn became the first YWCA in the country to fully integrate. In response to a February 1943 statement from the Executive Board of the YWCA of the USA and the long-term efforts of some members of the Ashland Place branch, the Board of Directors for the Brooklyn YWCA appended the national Board’s statement to its March 1943 meeting minutes, and voted to integrate programs and activities. Integration of residences followed in 1946.

The statement said in part, “…there has been clear evidence that the vitalizing and steadying influence of the Young Women’s Christian Association is urgently needed in working for elimination of the heavy injustices experienced by the Negro people. A world-wide struggle for freedom is meaningless, the sacrifice of life in the war will be of little avail, unless democracy is made real for all people.” The national YWCA did not integrate until 1946, when it issued its Interracial Charter.

The Brooklyn YWCA operated as many as twelve different facilities over the years (see below). Some provided women with housing, while others offered educational and fitness classes, social gatherings, health and employment counseling, childcare, English classes, and support from social workers. In 1971 the YWCA of Brooklyn opened one of the nation’s first drop-in centers complete with social workers and daycare for the children of women in crisis. Although most of the residences operated by the Brooklyn YWCA have long since closed, for a variety of reasons, today the YWCA of Brooklyn building on Atlantic Avenue has housing for 300 low-income women. During the 1970's the organization became a secular organizaion, and became simply the YWCA of Brooklyn. As the decades passed, and the skills sought after by employers changed, the Brooklyn YWCA adjusted and offered courses to meet the needs of the job market. The Brooklyn YWCA also expanded its advocacy activities – for women’s health and reproductive rights, social justice, racial equality, and more – and is a thriving organization today. It is a strong source of support and encouragement to young women of color seeking to go to college.


Ashland Place (221 Ashland Place, for African American women before integration)

Bush Terminal Cafeteria (40th St. and 2nd Ave., serving moderate priced lunches for business and industrial girls)

Central Branch (first at 376 Schermerhorn St., and later at 30 3rd Ave.)

Eastern District (575 Bedford Ave.)

Post Hall (510 State St., residence for business and professional women)

Gould Club (94 Prospect Park West, a residence operated by the YWCA in conjunction with the Edwin Gould Foundation)

Greenpoint (138 Milton St. – in the 1920’s this branch had a social worker speaking Polish, as 40% of the population of this section was Polish at the time)

Harriet Judson (50 Nevins St., a residence for 350 girls)

Harriet Judson Apartments (417-419 State St.)

International Institute (94 Joralemon St., a branch for foreign girls)

New Utrecht (1854 83rd St., an apartment for club activities and recreational work)

Robin Hood Camp for girls (a summer camp in Central Valley, N.Y.)

All of these branches performed crucial activities that provided women with housing, educational and fitness classes, social gatherings, health and employment counseling, childcare, English classes, and support from social workers. In addition, several of their programs included boys and men.


Beckford, Lillian, 1983-1986

Bell, Helen Locke, 1953-1961

Best, Christina, 1989-1990

Ceravolo, Donna 1988-2000

Christy, Catherine D. 1944-1953

Gosnell, Lilian 1961-1966

Harris, Joan 1983-1986

Hunter, Sylvia 1986-1988

Ingraham, Mary 1922-1938

Judson, Harriet 1888-1922

Kamber, Martha 2006-present

Maynard, Virginia 1939-1953

Miller, Doris 1966-1978

Oppenheim, Juanita, 1988-1989

Thomson, Sandra, 1986-1988

Turk, Barbara 2002- 2006

Weller-Jones, Wendy 1987-2002

Wiley, Patricia 1990-1992

Collection Outline

Series 1 – Administration and governance Subseries a) Board of Directors and Board of Trustees Subseries b) Bush Terminal Branch Subseries c) Correspondence & Memoranda Subseries d) History Subseries e) Human Resources Subseries f) Membership and Registration Subseries g) Minutes Subseries h) Reports Subseries i) Policies and by-laws

Series 2 – Finance and Legal Subseries a) Audits Subseries b) Bank accounts Subseries c) Bequests and legacies Subseries d) Contracts & Agreements Subseries e) Financial Reports & Budgets Subseries f) Fundraising Campaigns & Events Subseries g) Gifts & Donations Subseries h) Grants Subseries i) Leases Subseries j) Mortgages & Indentures Subseries k) Payroll Subseries l) Purchases & Invoices Subseries m) Various

Series 3 – Facilities and Security Subseries a) Complaints & Incident Reports Subseries b) Construction, Renovations & Repairs Subseries c) Various

Series 4 – Programs Subseries a) Beauty School Subseries b) Camps Subseries c) Classes & Course Schedules Subseries d) Encore Plus Subseries e) Graduates Subseries f) Health and Fitness Subseries g) Montessori Day School Subseries h) On-to-Work Subseries i) Partnerships & Collaborations Subseries j) Residences Subseries k) School of Practical Nursing Subseries l) Skills Get Jobs Subseries m) Various Classes and Programs Subseries n) Young Women’s Leadership Project

Series 5 – Publications Subseries a) Books and Pamphlets Subseries b) Newsletters Subseries c) Yearbooks

Series 6 – IT and Telecommunications Subseries a) Computer Systems & Networks Subseries b) Hardware & Software Subseries c) Phone Systems Subseries d) Websites

Series 7 – Public Relations Subseries a) Advertising Subseries b) Press Releases

Series 8 – Events Subseries a) African American History Month Subseries b) Women’s History Month Subseries c) Anniversaries Subseries d) Exhibits Subseries e) Fairs Subseries f) Moving Past Trauma Subseries g) Flyers, Pamphlets and Brochures Subseries h) Women’s Power Luncheons Subseries i) Women of Influence Subseries j) Various

Series 9 – Photographs Subseries a) Branches 1. Ashland Place 2. Central branch (Schermerhorn St. and Flatbush Ave.) c. 1911 3. Central branch (3rd Ave.) 4. Greenpoint 5. International Institute

Subseries b) Camps 1. Day Camps 2. Robin Hood 3. Stay-at-Home 4. Various

Subseries c) Events 1. Anniversary Celebrations 2. Campaigns 3. Miscellaneous (undated and unnamed) 4. Various events – 1930’s to 2000’s 5. Women of Distinction Power Luncheon 6. Women of Influence

Subseries d) Fitness 1. Archery 2. Ballet 3. Basketball 4. Canoeing 5. Dancing 6. Fencing 7. Fitness Classes 8. Golf 9. Gym 10. Gym Renovation 11. Gymnastics 12. Martial Arts 13. Miscellaneous 14. Skating 15. Stretching 16. Swimming 17. Table Tennis 18. Tennis 20. Winter Sports 21. Yoga

Subseries e) Portraits

Subseries f) Programs 1. Arts and Crafts 2. Beauty School 3. Bay Ridge Homemaker’s Holiday 4. School for Business Training 5. Citizenship Classes 6. Cooking 7. Counseling 8. Drama 9. Father’s Employment Program 10. Health screening 11. Homemaker’s Holiday 12. Typing Classes 13. Millinery Classes 14. Music 15. Montessori Day School 16. School of Practical Nursing 17. On-to-Work 18. Sewing 19. Skills Get Jobs 20. Subway mechanics 21. Various Programs 22. Worship services

Subseries g) Residences 1. Harriet Judson 2. Judson Hall 3. Post Hall 4. International

Subseries h) Various 1. Children 2. Clubs/Social Gatherings 3. Multicultural Activities 4. Postcards 5. Scrapbook/ Staff 6. Teenagers/ Young Adults 7. Unidentified 8. War Time

Subseries i) Mounted Photographs

Subseries j) Negatives

Subseries k) Slides

Series 10 – Newspaper clippings

Series 11 – Memorabilia Subseries a) Awards and proclamations Subseries b) Ephemera Subseries c) Pins, & T-shirts Subseries d) Various physical objects

Series 12 – Multimedia Subseries a) Audio cassettes Subseries b) CD-ROMs Subseries c) VHS cassettes, Open Reel Audio & 16mm Film

Series 13 – Oversized Subseries a) Banners Subseries b) Blueprints Subseries c) Ledgers Subseries d) Newspapers & Newsletters Subseries e) Oversized ephemera Subseries f) Posters Subseries g) Scrapbooks Subseries h) Various


This collection was donated to Brooklyn College in 2011 by the Brooklyn YWCA.

Related collection

YWCA of the U.S.A.: Smith College, Sophia Smith Collection, Women’s History Archives:

Processing Information

This collection was processed through grants from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (May 2017-April 2019) and the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation (2014). Processing archivists were Stephen Calco (2014), Sheana Corbridge (2019), Juliana Magro (2017) and Amy Roberts (2018). The Noyes Foundation grant covered processing of materials from the 1920's and 1930's, and the remainder was processed with the NHPRC grant.
Young Women's Christian Association of Brooklyn, 1888-2018
Colleen Bradley-Sanders, Sheana Corbin, Juliana Magro, Amy Roberts
©2019 by Brooklyn College. All rights reserved.
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Brooklyn College Archives and Special Collections Repository

Brooklyn NY 11210 United States