Our Founder, Maybelle Sloss, had a dream in 1903 of a Young Women’s Christian Association to give “hundreds of noble working girls influences which will keep them sweet and womanly in adverse circumstances.” While the language reflects a different time, the message of helping women in “adverse circumstances” is as relevant today as it was at the turn of the last century.
Our YWCA Central Alabama ‘s future builds upon its past – one filled with vision, risk taking, responsibility and high ethical principles. This history retraces the steps of the YWCA from the agency’s beginnings in 1903 to the vital programs currently underway.
Idea Becomes A Reality
Maybelle Sloss persuades her Bible class at First Methodist Church to support the city organization. After a visit from the Traveling Secretary of the YWCA, each class member commits to raise $100 annually on its behalf. On March 24, the YWCA Central Alabama becomes incorporated.
The YWCA rents the F. Y. Anderson home at 720 North 21st Street. Even without indoor plumbing or electricity, it becomes home to many young women when they come to the city in search of employment.
The Legacy Begins
Anna Somerville McLester becomes President, serving until 1933. She takes the YWCA from its infancy to a stable, vital social service agency.
Purchased three years earlier, the Pollock-Stephens Institute needs an annex built to accommodate the growing needs of the clientele. On May 11, the annex, complete with gym, pool and dormitory, opens to serve women “of small salary.” This facility served the YWCA for 35 years.
An Independent Beginning
For many years, Pauline Jackson has sought to establish a YWCA for black women. In 1912, the Negro Secretary of the National Board of the YWCA, Eva Bowles, visits and helps establish this branch with over 800 members. A rich variety of recreational and vocational programs are offered.
The Tea Room
Serving the working girls in the downtown area, the YWCA opens this cafeteria since there are so few facilities open to women.
Answering The Call
With men overseas fighting World War I, women join the work force in greater numbers. The YWCA’s boarding and training programs are filled to capacity. Birmingham industry is booming. Mary Davis Stradley leads this period of growth for the YWCA and serves as Executive Director for the next 30 years.
Wholesome Camp Life
Another dream is realized with the gift of a campsite by Rosa Earle Munger, a former Board member. Located outside of Trussville on the banks of the Little Cahaba River, Camp Mary Munger serves young girls for more than 40 years.
The 8th Avenue Branch formally affiliates with the YWCA Central Alabama, opening communication among black and white women. Records indicate that this affiliation is one of the first of its kind in the National Association.
1930s – 40s
Working With Teens
Girl Reserves is a popular teen service program for hundreds of black and white girls. The first GED classes in the city are offered by the YWCA.
A Bold Move
The previous year, city officials had purchased the 19th Street location, leaving the YWCA homeless. After a temporary stay with the YMCA, the Board purchases the Dixie Carlton Hotel, investing almost a million dollars in refurbishing. This building continues to be the home for the YWCA. Lucille Crabtree becomes Executive Director.
Camp Mary Munger is serving up to 125 girls each summer. The residential program houses 200 young women and has a waiting list. As many as 90 classes for fun and learning are offered each week. Carrie B. Allen becomes Director in 1956. The Y-Teen program replaces Girl Reserves, and teens from across the city enjoy dances at Calico Corner. Summer Fun and the child care program start.
Two Decades Of Leadership
At 24 years of age, another young woman takes up the vision of the YWCA. Ethel Gibson becomes Executive Director and leads the agency for the next 21 years.