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YWCA of the U.S.A. Records.
Record Group 6. Program: Series II. Training and Personnel, 1870-2002
Collection number: Forms part of MS 324

Records in this series document the overall coordination of training, and national training programs. Materials include minutes; reports; correspondence; course catalogs; training handouts, packets, manuals, and kits; conference, programs and projects files; publications; studies; and subject files. Forms part of the YWCA of the U.S.A. Records. Record Group 6. Program.

Terms of Access and Use:

Restrictions on access:

The records are open to research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection without any additional restrictions.

Access to audiovisual materials may first require production of research copies.

Restrictions on use:

The YWCA of the USA retains copyright ownership of the records, but has authorized the Sophia Smith Collection to grant permission to publish reproductions or quotations from the records on its behalf.

Copyright to materials authored by persons other than YWCA staff may be owned by those individuals or their heirs or assigns. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights for permission to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use."

Sophia Smith Collection
Smith College
Northampton, MA

Historical Note
Cartoon for YWCA training, 1930 National Convention

Cartoon for YWCA training, 1930 National Convention

The establishment of the YWCA movement in the United States in the second half of the nineteenth century created an immediate need for women trained in "Association principles and methods" to staff the new Associations. Much of the training sponsored by the YWCA of the U.S.A's predecessor organizations took place in three-week summer study conferences where current and potential secretaries were given the opportunity "to grasp the principles of the work as fully as possible." Courses given included physical culture, recreational activities, Association principles and methods, and Bible study. Other training opportunities took place during the year at three-day to one month long Institutes held at Community Associations.

The need for trained staff continued to grow with the number of Associations, prompting the American Committee to establish a full-year, post-college training course for young women interested in making a career working in the YWCA. The course failed to attract enough students, struggled financially, and was abandoned after one year. A second attempt by the American Committee in 1904 met with more success. The Secretaries Training Institute in Chicago offered a three-term, year-long course that continued until 1908, when training activities moved to New York City to be near the new national headquarters of the merged Association.

The new National Association's Secretarial Committee was given authority for recruiting, training, and recommending individuals for employment as YWCA staff. It studied the various methods of training used by the predecessor organizations and recommended establishment of a National Training System. The System continued the tradition of summer training conferences, and a variety of short-term training institutes at Associations in various parts of the country. It also included the National Training School for intensive post-college study. The School, established in 1908, carried courses in four divisions: Bible, Christian and Social Teaching, The Association Movement, and Personal Efficiency (which included public speaking, and parliamentary procedure). As the organization grew, the School added specialized courses for different types of secretaries: student, industrial, foreign, city, etc. The general course for secretaries lasted one year, religious work directors attended for two.

The Secretarial Department also maintained a bureau of reference; and worked on "general cultivation" of the field through correspondence and "visitation to arouse interest in the question of professional training for Association workers and to bring valuable young women into line of preparation."

The tremendous growth of the Association during World War I, made the need for "an adequate supply of workers who are qualified personally, educationally and spiritually for positions of leadership in the YWCA" especially acute.

In 1923 YWCA staff formed the National Association of Employed Officers (NAEO) "to create and maintain a fellowship of employed officers who are seeking to carry out the purpose of the YWCA; to define standards of service; to encourage professional preparations; to promote that sacrificial spirit and unity which is necessary to the best development of individuals and the organization as a whole; to develop a Christian ethics for the profession that will nurture mutual confidence and loyalty." It was a dues organization with a membership that included anyone working for a salary in the YWCA of the U.S.A., whether on the national staff or working in Community or Student Associations. Through its committees, regional chapters, and constituent group and subject "sections," the group worked cooperatively with the National Personnel and Training Services Committees to raise levels of professional competence, giving input into the content and method of training. The group changed its name to National Association of Professional Workers (NAPW) in 1946. It disbanded in 1953.

By the mid-1920s, the National Training School was struggling. Few secretaries could afford to "give up" a year to a program that did not offer a graduate degree and potential candidates were much more likely to enroll in one of the growing number of Social Work graduate programs which offered credentials useful beyond the sphere of the YWCA. Beginning in 1926 the School's curriculum was broken into shorter "unit courses" which were offered both in New York and at summer conferences and in other regions of the country.

While the full-time, year-long course was losing enrollment, the shorter summer courses at Camp Maqua in Maine, at Asilomar in California, and later at Fletcher Farm in Vermont, were growing steadily. They offered general and specialized training for all types of staff with various degrees of commitment to the Association. Addressing the situation in classic YWCA style, attendees at the 1928 Convention appointed a Council on Professional Study to examine the situation and make recommendations about the future of the Training System to the following Convention. The Council's report to Convention in 1930 recommended that there should be "schools but not a school" with the result that the YWCA closed its National Training School in favor of more short-term and decentralized institutes, seminars, workshops, and conferences.

YWCA training staff was responsible for providing resources for "formal and informal learning in relation to program emphases." It emphasized the YWCA's mission, effective and efficient administration, and social group work, as well as basic personnel issues, such as recruitment, performance evaluation, hiring, and supervision. Training staff continued to offer a system of shorter courses or workshops at YWCAs around the country during the year and longer ones during the summer at one or two locations, such as college campuses. The content and method of the training was ever evolving as staff worked to find the most effective ways to meet the needs of the times. Training staff experimented with a multi-media "Venture" program in the late 1960s, incorporated units of "self-study," and established intern programs for lower-level staff to experience the job of the Executive Director. Because the Association as a whole depended on a core of dedicated volunteers, training for employed staff also focused on techniques for training and working with volunteers.

The Association made regular studies of salary ranges and educational qualifications of staff in its Community and Student Associations. When the studies revealed in the 1950s and 1960s that one quarter of the professional staff in Community Associations were not college graduates, the National Association worked to encourage college completion through scholarships and policies promoting leaves for educational purposes.

In response to changing trends, especially among the volunteer work force, the Association committed itself to a renewed emphasis on leadership training for the 1980s.

When the Max C. Fleishmann Foundation of Reno, Nevada, announced that it wanted to distribute all of its assets, the YWCA submitted a proposal for support of construction of a "leadership development center" located in the fast-growing southwestern U.S. Staff cuts in the mid-1970s had reduced staff in regional offices which left the membership feeling that National was out of touch with their concerns. Location of the center away from New York was an attempt to address that problem.

A site was selected in Phoenix, Arizona, causing some controversy among Association membership due to the apparent inconsistency of building in a state that had not ratified the Equal Rights Amendment, a YWCA public policy priority since 1973. Citing the need for a "strong presence…in areas which most need the commitment of the YWCA to racial justice and equality for women," the YWCA went ahead with the construction. Dedicated in 1983, the Leadership Development Center was a year-round, non-residential training center designed to take full advantage of state-of-the-art technology. Though primarily for YWCA staff, it could also be rented by similar groups.

The logistics of administering an operation that was at such a distance from headquarters, as well as the financial burdens of staffing and maintaining the facility, were always somewhat challenging for the shrinking national staff. Part of the National Association's renewed emphasis on leadership training included, as part of Member Association accreditation, required attendance at training sessions in Phoenix. At least some cash-strapped Community Associations objected to the expense involved in traveling to Arizona for training that had previously been offered regionally. Logistical and financial conditions did not improve over time and the Association ultimately decided to sell the Center as part of the major restructuring of the National Association in 1999-2000.

Once again feeling the need of an independent association for discussion of professional and organizational issues, staff members established the National Association of YWCA Executives (NAYE), in 1985. This group played a large role in the 1999-2000 reorganization of the structure of the National Association.

Administrative History
circa 1907-21 Secretarial Department (includes National Training School, Extension Training Division, Personnel Bureau, Recruiting, and Recommendations)
1922-23 Personnel Division (includes National Training School, Recruiting and Placement Section)
1925 Personnel Department under Business Division; National Training School under Education and Research Division)
1925-32 Personnel Bureau; National Training School under Education and Research
Apr 1932-Oct 1943 Leadership Division/Department (includes both Personnel and Department of Training)
Nov 1943-Sep1948 Leadership Services Department (includes both Personnel and Department of Study: Professional and Volunteer Training)
Oct 1948-May 1950 Personnel and Training Services
Oct1950-1952 Membership Resources (includes Personnel Services and Training Services [also Publications Services and Data and Statistics])
1952-53 Membership Resources (includes Leadership Services, Personnel Services [also Data and Statistics and Publications Services])
1954 Membership Resources (includes Leadership Services and Personnel Services only)
1955-spring 1960 Personnel Policies and Services Department and Leadership Services Department are separate, all under General Administration
Sep 1960-1971 Bureau of Personnel and Training
1972 National Personnel and Labor Relations; Membership-Leadership Development
after 1973 ??
1992 Leadership Development and Mission Training under Member Association Services; Leadership Development Center under Operations Department
1997 Human Resources/Administration
Scope and Content

Forms part of the YWCA of the U.S.A. Records--Record Group 6. Program.

NOTE: For the most part, the Microfilmed Records and the Original Format Records do not duplicate each other and both should be consulted. This description covers materials in both formats. See the Contents List for a folder-level inventory of the Original Format Records. See the Microfilmed Records Reel Lists for a detailed inventory of the microfilm.

Training and Personnel records consist of minutes; reports; correspondence; conference, programs and projects files; publications; studies; and subject files on recruitment and retention, the Leadership Development Center, and scholarships. The extensive records of Training include minutes and reports, course catalogs, flyers and handouts, packets, manuals, and kits used for general training in "Association principles and methods" and for training on specific topics.

Because training was one of the core functions of the National Association, training publications and materials appear throughout the records. Training materials related to specific subjects or constituencies were usually generated by staff of that unit and are filed with other related materials (e.g., training for teen leaders with Teen Age and Younger girls; financial development training with financial, etc.).

The records described in this Series deal with the overall coordination of training, and the subjects that were the responsibility of the Personnel and Training staff, such as Association history, "principles and methods," and effective administrative techniques, particularly those related to personnel matters including techniques for training others to work effectively in committees and groups.

The records contain many studies and discussions about employment standards and opportunities within the YWCA, both in the departmental records and in the records of the two organizations of professional YWCA workers, the NAEO/NAPW and the NAYE.

The many versions of "handouts" about the Association provide insight into the way the Association "interpreted" its purpose to its own staff and members and how that changed over time.

As is true elsewhere in the records, very few 1971-88 records have survived.

Microfilmed Records, 1906-70 only

[see Microfilmed Records Reel List]

With the exception of the Minutes and Reports, which are available both on the microfilm and in original format, there does not appear to be a great deal of overlap between the two formats, and both should be consulted.

Records relating to Training and Personnel can be found on the microfilm under:

  • Minutes and Reports
    • Leadership Services Division
    • Membership Resources Committee
    • National Volunteer Leadership Committee
    • Personnel and Training Committee
    • Personnel Policies and Services Committee
    • Personnel Services Committee
    • Personnel Bureau Committee
    • Scholarship and Loan Committee
    • Scholarship Fund Committee-Florence Sims Memorial
    • Scholarship Department
    • Training
    • Vocational Council
    • Volunteers Committee
    • Volunteer Leadership and Training Committee
    • Volunteer Workers Bureau
  • Subject Files
    • Group Work
    • Leadership
    • Leadership Services
    • Membership Resources
    • National Board, National Employed Personnel
    • Personnel Policies and Services
    • Personnel and Training
    • Speakers
    • Vocational Guidance

Original Format Records, 1907-99, 13 linear feet

[see Original Format Records folder list]

The Original Format Records contain a number of items that were donated to the National Board Archives after microfilming was completed. These include some student notes and papers from the National Training School.

There are also many training records, particularly handouts, manuals, and kits, which post-date the microfilm, particularly given the Association's commitment to re-emphasize leadership training in the 1980s and 1990s.

The Original Format Records are arranged in four sections as follows:

Department and Committees consists of general historical information, committee records, correspondence, files on conferences and consultations, a small amount of information about the Leadership Development Center, programs and projects files, staff newsletters, staff recruitment and retention materials, reports, files on scholarships, and a couple of studies.

Training consists of general historical information; a chronological file of records related to various training programs from the Secretaries' Training Institute of 1906-08 to Leadership Development Institutes in the late 1990s. Included are substantial materials about the National Training School. The last two sections under Training consist of publications, handouts, kits, manuals, etc., prepared for specific training sessions, and general publications, resource materials, manuals, etc., on a variety of subjects including parliamentary procedure, group work, performance evaluation, personnel administration, salaries and benefits, and many others.

Volunteers consists of general historical information, committee and department records, files on the Career Volunteer Development Project (an attempt to tackle the problem for the Association of the shrinking volunteer work force in the early 1980s), and training publications, manuals, and packets for volunteers and their supervisors.

Miscellaneous consists of records of the National Association of Employed Officers (NAEO)/National Association of Professional Workers (NAPW) and the National Association of YWCA Executives (NAYE).

Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

The records are open to research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection without any additional restrictions.

Access to audiovisual materials may first require production of research copies.

Restrictions on use:

The YWCA of the USA retains copyright ownership of the records, but has authorized the Sophia Smith Collection to grant permission to publish reproductions or quotations from the records on its behalf.

Copyright to materials authored by persons other than YWCA staff may be owned by those individuals or their heirs or assigns. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights for permission to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use."

Preferred Citation

Please use the following format when citing materials from this collection:

YWCA of the U.S.A. Records, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Mass.

Additional Formats

A copy of the microfilmed records of the YWCA of the U.S.A. Records is available to borrow from the William Allan Neilson Library at Smith College via Interlibrary Loan.

To request the microfilm from our library you will need to submit the following information to your library's Interlibrary Loan department:

  • Author: Young Women's Christian Association of the U.S.A. National Board
  • Title: Records, 1876-1970 [microform]
  • WorldCat Accession Number: OCLC 57415795
  • Notes: "Call # 689" and reel number(s) you want to borrow

Full descriptions and reel lists of the microfilm are available online.

History of the Collection

The YWCA of the U.S.A. donated a portion of its records to the Sophia Smith Collection in 1964 and the remainder in 2002 and 2003.

Processing Information

Processed by Maida Goodwin, Amy Hague, Kara McClurken, Amanda Izzo, 2008 FY 07-08

Record Groups

Additional Information
Contact Information
Sophia Smith Collection
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: (413) 585-2970
Fax: (413) 585-2886

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