The YOUNG WOMEN'S CHRISTIAN ASSN. (YWCA) in Cleveland was founded as the Women's Christian Assn. of Cleveland 21 Nov. 1868 (inc. April 1869). One of the earliest such groups in the U.S., it promoted the temporal and spiritual welfare of the city's growing numbers of self-supporting women. Initially located at Superior and W. 3rd streets, the WCA, under the presidency of SARAH FITCH, offered a retreat program directed toward the city's poorer homes and coordinated with local Evangelical churches. Any female member of these churches could join the WCA for $1. The organization also received money from the city council, endowment interest, and donations from individuals such as LEONARD CASE, JR., AMASA STONE, JOSEPH PERKINS, and ELIZA JENNINGS. Over the next 2 decades, the WCA expanded to include industrial training and recreational facilities. In 1893 it changed its name to the Young Women's Christian Assn. of Cleveland, Ohio. A division, the Educational & Industrial Union, supervised education and recreation. In addition the YWCA founded the Retreat for "erring" girls—unwed mothers—(1869), the Home for Aged Protestant Gentlewomen (1876, later the AMASA STONE HOUSE), and merged with the Young Ladies' Temperance League to offer nurseries for children of working women through the WCA Young Ladies' Branch (1882, later the CLEVELAND DAY NURSERY AND FREE KINDERGARTEN ASSN.). By the late 1800s, the WCA had a library and an educational department staffed by 9 full-time instructors. It also operated (1888-1922) the ELIZA JENNINGS HOME for chronically ill and aged women and a girls' camp (beginning in 1895).
In 1906 it affiliated with the new YWCA of the U.S. In 1903 a Committee on Factory Work had been established. In 1906 the YWCA built a building at 1245 Euclid Ave., and its central offices relocated to Prospect and E. 18th St. In 1912 the Mary Eells Vacation Farm opened, a memorial to Mary (Mrs. DAN PARMELEE) EELLS, past YWCA president. Religious restrictions on membership lessened and proposals to merge with the African American PHILLIS WHEATLEY ASSN. failed in 1917 and 1922. The two homes for the elderly formally separated from the YWCA in 1922. During the Depression, the association offered employment services. Since World War II, the YWCA has attempted to improve race relations and to promote peace through international understanding, and women's activities and rights. In 1977 the Cleveland YWCA started PACT (Peer Approach: Counseling by Teens), later adopted by the national association, and, with WOMENSPACE and Women Together (later the CENTER FOR THE PREVENTION OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE), began the Domestic Violence Outreach project. In the 1950s and 1960s the local YWCA and YOUNG MEN'S CHRISTIAN ASSN. entered into a joint relationship, sharing facilities until competition for clients led to the partnership's formal dissolution in 1986. In 1995 the Cleveland YWCA operated 3 branches and its central office in the Metropolitan at 3101 Euclid Ave.
Margaret Mitchell became president and CEO in 2011. In 2018 the YWCA assumed management responsibility for the Norma Err Women's Center.
Updated by Gretchen Norton
YWCA Records, WRHS.
Edgar, Mildred H. Women Involved in the Real World: A History of the YWCA of Cleveland, Ohio; 1868-1968 (1968), WRHS.