YWCA of the U.S.A. Records. Record Group 6. Program: Series V. Program Subjects
Scope and Content
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.
Forms part of the YWCA of the U.S.A. Records--Record Group 6. Program.
This Series is divided into five Subseries:
SUBSERIES A. CAMPING AND OUTDOOR RECREATION
Many young women had their first exposure to the YWCA through Summer Camps run by Community Associations all over the United States. Though camps were primarily the province of Community Associations, the National Staff served as consultants on the educational philosophy of camping and outdoor recreation and produced publications and other program materials for use at camps and in recreational programs. Staff in the Business Department also consulted with locals on administrative and property management issues.
At times during its history, the National Association owned some camp properties and major summer conferences and councils took place at various regional camps, such as Camp Maqua in Poland, Maine and Camp Okoboji in Milford, Iowa.
The National Association hired specialist staff to consult on camping for two rather brief periods, from 1925 to 1932, and 1965 to 1969. The latter period coincided with general Association concern over declining membership among the young, a growing environmental movement, and increased interest in outdoor recreation and conservation. During this period the YWCA sponsored two national conferences on Outdoor Recreation and Conservation. An associated Y-Teen Pilot Work Camp in which campers built a trail in the Teton National Forest became the subject of a film and garnered quite a bit of press coverage.
Scope and Content
The Camping and Outdoor Recreation records consist of general historical materials; brochures and general information about some of the camps used for national conferences and councils; minutes and reports of national and regional camp committees and commissions from the 1910s and 1920s; correspondence, Conference and Program files primarily from the 1960s; publications; reference materials; and miscellaneous scrapbooks and memorabilia. Publications cover topics such as administration and educational philosophy of camping, nature study, and outdoor activities.
Microfilmed Records, 1906-70 only
Microfilmed records include minutes and reports of various Camp committees and commissions, 1912-27; general information files on the camps Altamont, Canadohta, Makonikey, Maqua, Nepahwhin, Okoboji, and others; and files on the two national recreation and conservation conferences and the film "Aim, Achieve, Action" made at the Y-Teen Pilot Work Camp in 1966. The records do not contain a copy of the film itself. They can be found on the Microfilm in:
Original Format Records, 1912-71, n.d., 3 linear feet
In addition to the Minutes and Reports (which were not discarded after filming), the Original Format Records contain 1960s working files of the Camping and Outdoor Recreation Consultant that were transferred to the National Board Archives after microfilming was complete. They include a sample of her consulting work with individual camps and her files on the national conferences and Y-Teen Pilot Work Camp. The Miscellaneous materials include an assortment of scrapbooks, memorabilia, and records of individual camps run by Community Associations.
The Original Format Records are arranged as follows:
Elsewhere in this Series
The YWCA often had specialist staff for indoor (vs. outdoor) recreation. Similar materials about the philosophy of recreation and play are in Subseries B. Health and Recreation.
Elsewhere in this Record Group
The AssociationMonthly/Womans Press/YWCA Magazine in SERIES VI. PUBLICATIONS is an excellent source for most topics. It tended to have a special Camp issue each summer.
There are many camp-related records in Subseries D. Teenage and Younger Girls Program in SERIES IV. CONSTITUENT GROUPS
See also files about Summer Conferences, in SERIES IV. CONSTITUENT GROUPS
There are reports on and discussion of camps in Education and Research minutes in SERIES I. DEPARTMENT, STAFF, AND COMITTEES.
In other Record Groups
Data and Statistics regularly collected and compiled information on Community Association Camp programs. These are in SERIES IV of RECORD GROUP 3. NATIONAL ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE.
Files on Camp properties owned by the National Association are in SERIES II of RECORD GROUP 3. NATIONAL ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE.
Lillian Rifken Blumenfeld's memories of Camp Winola are in SERIES V. BIOGRAPHICAL FILES in RECORD GROUP 1. GENERAL AND HISTORY.
RECORD GROUP 9. PHOTOGRAPHS includes a smattering of camp photographs and an especially rich set of files on the Y-Teen Pilot Work Camp.
SUBSERIES B. HEALTH AND RECREATION
The YWCA of the U.S.A. defined health, which it considered "the right of every individual" as physical, mental, and social well-being. Its program of "positive health" a term coined by its first Secretary for Health, Dr. Anna L. Brown encompassed not only activities related to physical health, such as health examinations, health education, and physical recreation opportunities; but also the opportunities Community YWCAs provided for creative expression, cultural enrichment, rest and relaxation, social interaction, and other forms of personal fulfillment and spiritual growth.
Such a wide-ranging assortment of activities, though a core concern of the YWCA, were never the province of a single department. While the National Association had staff, usually medical doctors, for overseeing health education, responsibility for all of the other aspects included in the concept of "positive health," was spread over many staff members in various departments.
The first Health Secretary, Anna Brown, had been General Secretary of the predecessor organization to the YWCA of the U.S.A. known as the International Board. Brown was "called" to national leadership for physical education and hygiene by the National Association's first President, Grace Dodge. An early student of psychology, Brown appreciated the importance of psychological as well as physical and spiritual health and established a program emphasizing normal growth for the whole individual, as a defense against physical, mental, and moral ills. Her program included hygiene, physical education, nutrition, sex education, and a campaign promoting "health shoes," a topic Brown approached with particular zeal. "Under [her] leadership…a program of health was evolved which radically differed from all others. For the first time health was seen as freedom, vital force, power, energy and not a lack of it. Health was a bank account for life's possibilities, not the commonly held idea which limits it to attacking handicaps and diseases." (typescript "History" author unknown, circa 1930) Dr. Brown pioneered the concept of "health examinations" or check ups, and incorporated them into YWCA program as part of physical education classes.
In its report to Convention in 1913, the Commission on Social Morality from the Christian Standpoint recommended establishment of a program "in the social training of women and girls with particular reference to sex education." Four lecturers were carefully chosen for a pilot program to speak on the subject to young women college and university students. Lecturers stressed "knowledge of normal sex life" and addressed their audiences with unusual frankness.
As was the case in many other areas of YWCA Program, World War I brought a huge expansion in the physical education and recreation work. Some of the core activities provided in Industrial Service Centers and Community Associations through the war years, were physical and recreational activities to relieve stress and keep workers fit.
The YWCA organized a Bureau of 150 women physicians to give sex education lectures to young women in communities surrounding military camps and industrial plants. Because of its experience in this area, the U.S. Government asked the YWCA to assist its Social Hygiene Division in setting up a similar program. The Bureau of Social Education, established at the end of the war in 1919, continued the work through the reconstruction period through lectures, publications, charts, films, etc.
As a result of this work, the YWCA organized the first International Conference of Women Physicians in 1919. Attendees came from 32 countries for six weeks to focus on women's health issues, including such topics as general problems of health, industrial health, children's health, moral codes and personality, adaptation of the individual to life, and conservation of the health of women in marriage.
Women's health issues became one of the Convention emphases in 1920 with a resolution stating that poor physical health was one of the greatest barriers to social and economic progress for women. The YWCA pledged to change prevailing notions of women's physical incapacity.
In response to the deepening economic Depression, the 1930 Convention passed a resolution giving renewed emphasis to a program of play and recreation as an antidote to despair. Yet, the staff cuts necessitated by the Depression resulted in a much-reduced health and recreation program.
Though physical recreation remained a bread-and-butter activity at Community YWCAs, and perhaps the area most associated with the YWCA in the public mind, the major reduction in Program staff that began in the 1930s meant that the national effort languished. What had been a national staff of 23 in 1920 had been reduced to a single consultant by 1954. The Health, Physical Education and Recreation Consultant facilitated establishment of new programs in the 1950s, such as judo and family recreational activities, including canoe and boat handling and fly fishing.
In the late 1980s the National Association received funding for Teen Sexuality Education and Pregnancy Prevention Programs [see Teenage and Younger Girls Program in SERIES IV. of this Record Group.]
In the 1980s and 1990s, the National Association sought U.S. Government Grants and corporate sponsorship for women's health programs. One was the ENCORE (Encouragement, Normalcy, Counseling, Opportunity, Reaching out, Energies Revived) post-mastectomy and exercise program for women with breast cancer. Originally developed at the Princeton YWCA, the National Association obtained Rippel Foundation funding for a pilot program in thirty Community Associations in 1974. ENCORE was adopted as an official national program two years later.
The National Association began a collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 1992 to enhance the effectiveness of the CDC's National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, known as "Project Awareness." Beginning in 1993, CDC and the YWCA developed a program to foster collaborative relationships between Community YWCAs and state health departments to provide education and screening to underserved women. In addition to creating educational materials, the collaboration included two demonstration projects: the Maryland Partnership and the Lesbian Demonstration Project to test methods and techniques for effective collaboration.
Through this program, the YWCA expanded the traditional ENCORE post-mastectomy program to include breast and cervical cancer education, and screening and early detection services. The revised version is known as ENCOREplus.
Oct 1993 Avon launched a three-year cause-related marketing initiative "Avon's Breast Cancer Awareness Crusade" designed to generate funds to support community-based activities that promote access to screening and early detection services especially for medically underserved women. ENCOREplus was one of two programs chosen to receive funds from the initiative.
The National Association established an Office of Women's Health Initiatives in 1994 to oversee these various initiatives. Initially part of the Executive Office, the staff joined the Office of Health Promotion and Sports Advocacy in the Division of Advocacy and Research in 1995.
In the mid-1990s with funds from Nike Products, Inc., the National Association developed the YWCA/Nike Sports and Fitness Project, to provide grants to Community YWCAs for basketball, volleyball, and "New Face of Fitness" fitness training programs. The team sports programs stressed the educational and social benefits of discipline and team work as well as physical benefits of participation in sports.
Given the YWCA's longstanding advocacy on behalf of working women, some Community Associations objected when the National Association accepted funding from Nike, a corporation somewhat notorious for its unfair labor practices overseas. Their concerns prompted creation of a Corporate Partnership Policy in 1998. [see RECORD GROUP 3. NATIONAL ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE]
Scope and Content
The records in this series document national efforts related to health, health education, sports, exercise, and recreation. Included are minutes, mailings, reports, studies, correspondence, surveys, and publications. These tend to be somewhat scattered items brought together for the Central Subject File, rather than comprehensive records of health and recreation activities. Prior to establishment of the Office of Health Promotion and Sports Advocacy in 1992, national staff responsible for health and recreation were a part of other departments of the YWCA. See Related Materials below for locations of additional records. The post-1992 records give a somewhat more comprehensive picture of national staff activities related to health and recreation.
Major topics include physical health, mental health, sex education, marriage and family life education (consisting of relationships education, sex education, and balancing work and family); menopause; "health" shoes; nutrition; exercise and sport; and various forms of indoor recreation, such as arts, crafts, dancing, and parties). Materials about outdoor recreation can be found in Subseries A. Camping and Outdoor Recreation.
Among the records are the publications produced out of the groundbreaking International Conference of Women Physicians hosted by the YWCA in 1919.
Programs and Projects files include a modest amount of materials from the early 1920s when the work was supported with World War I continuation funds and a substantial body of records of 1990s cancer-related and sports and fitness programs.
The publications are especially extensive and diverse. They deal with such topics as the administration of health programs; feet and shoes; menopause; sex education; marriage and family life (including jobs and marriage); the development, needs and interests of young girls and adolescents; arts; crafts; parties; and games.
Microfilmed Records, 1890-1970
The Health and Recreation records on the microfilm include general historical information; conference and training materials; publications, including the Health Education Bulletin (1935-44); reference files; and records of the work of the Bureau of Social Education.
Health and Recreation records can be found on the microfilm under:
Original Format Records, 1890-2002, n.d., (bulk 1919-36, 1993-99), 15 linear feet
The Original Format Records contain substantial post-microfilm materials which are primarily women's health and recreation Programs and Projects files from the 1990s. the Minutes and Reports and roughly half of the records microfilmed under "Health" (reel 96, microdexes 2 through 6) were not discarded after filming and are available in original format. The Womans Press published an array of hardcover books on various health and recreation topics, many of which were not included in the microfilm.
The Original Format Records are organized as follows:
General and history includes historical essays; reports; general and policy statements; bibliographies; and radio scripts about the YWCA health program.
Committees, Commissions, Offices contains minutes, reports, mailings, and some correspondence and memoranda produced by the major YWCA Committees and Commissions, and the staff and offices responsible for the health program.
Conferences and Workshops, is divided into internal YWCA events and national and international "non-YWCA" events in which YWCA health staff participated. Included are reports and planning materials as well as a complete set of publications from the 1919 International Conference of Women Physicians (hosted by the YWCA).
Programs and Projects files are primarily records of women's health programs, such as ENCORE and ENCOREplus, and recreation programs, such as YWCA/Nike basketball, volleyball, and New Face of Fitness programs in the 1990s.
The Publications are arranged in two broad categories: Health (which includes General, Administration, Marriage and Family Life Education, Mental Health, and Sex Education) and Recreation (which includes General, Arts and Crafts, Dance, and Parties and Games). General serials are filed at the end of the section.
Reference Materials consists primarily of general articles and pamphlets on marriage and family life, recreation, adolescent development and sex education.
Training includes texts of "Social Morality" lectures from 1915 and 1917, a few health training materials from the 1990s, and some other miscellaneous items.
Elsewhere in this Series
Subseries A. Camping and Outdoor Recreation had related records about recreational activities outdoors and the philosophy of play and recreation.
Subseries D. Pageantry and Drama contains a number of scripts related to various health issues.
Later records related to creative arts and crafts can be found in Subseries C. Music Program, as the creative arts aspect of "recreation" became the responsibility of Music Secretary in 1950s.
Elsewhere in this Record Group
Health secretaries were based in the Department of Method and Division of Education and Research up to 1928, their work is described in the Minutes and Reports in SERIES I. DEPARTMENT, STAFF, AND COMMITTEES.
SERIES III. PUBLIC ADVOCACY has files on a variety of health-related topics including health care, health insurance; and domestic violence as a public health issue.
YWCA programs paid particular attention to health education for teens and the psychology of adolescents. Records of these activities can be found in SERIES IV. CONSTITUENT GROUPS, Subseries D. Teenage and Younger Girls Program. There are also records of teen pregnancy prevention and other teen programs related to health, such as Peer Approach Counseling by Teens (PACT).
SERIES VII. WAR WORK AND DEFENSE SERVICES contains records about recreational activities for servicemen, industrial war workers, and the general membership. The World War I Subseries includes records of the Bureau of Social Education and its sex and health education work. The World War II Subseries also has sex education items as well as publications written for women about the potential psychological problems of returning soldiers.
In other Record Groups
In addition to the minutes and reports noted above in SERIES I of RECORD GROUP 6. PROGRAM, Health secretaries reported to the City Department in early years, the Field Division, 1928-31; the National Services Division, 1932-39; and the Community Division in the 1940s. Their reports can be found in RECORD GROUP 8. COMMUNITY ASSOCIATIONS in the Minutes and Reports in SERIES I. SERVICES TO ASSOCIATIONS. There are also files related to pool audits, and legal files related to pool accidents in the Community Associations files in SERIES IV.
Studies on YWCA gymnasiums and pool facilities can be found in RECORD GROUP 3. NATIONAL ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE in SERIES IV. DATA AND STATISTICS.
RECORD GROUP 5. INTERNATIONAL WORK has many reports on health and recreation work in YWCAs in other countries.
There are many photographs of the health and sports programs in the community associations in RECORD GROUP 9. PHOTOGRAPHS
The YWCA made extensive use of Videotaped public service announcements and training materials for its ENCORE and Nike/YWCA Sports and Fitness Programs in the 1990s. These materials can be found in RECORD GROUP 10. AUDIO-VISUAL MATERIALS along with news coverage of these programs.
SUBSERIES C. MUSIC
Probably as a result of its religious origins, music, particularly participatory singing of hymns and folk songs from all over the world, was a part of Association meetings and events from very beginning. Music was seen as a contributing force to creative living and used as a means to foster international understanding and appreciation of other cultures. In its use of music, the Association highlighted participation rather than performance, and emphasized music as a valuable group participation opportunity that could provide fellowship, mood, content, and focus to events.
National music staff encouraged the effective use of music in programs at Community YWCAs and events such as Conventions and conferences through training song leaders and compiling and publishing song and hymn collections.
There was no formal music staff in the early years. Certain individual secretaries volunteered to lead the singing because of their interest and talent. These included Annie Kate Gilbert, Crystal Bird (later Fawcett), Sue Bailey (later Thurman), and Lucy Clark Street.
As part of the effort to counteract rampant xenophobia during World War I, staff in the War Work Council's Department for Work with Foreign-Born Women researched and compiled information on folk customs, costumes, folk lore, festivals, and music. One product of this effort was the two-volume Folk Songs of Many Peoples compiled by Florence Botsford and published by the YWCA in 1920 and 1921.
In 1925 Imogene Ireland, formerly an Industrial staff member, was "called" to direct music at Convention and conferences on a part-time basis under which she worked two-fifths time for the National Board and three-fifths for YWCA of the District of Columbia. Her position was directly subsidized by Katharine Blunt Parker, chair of YWCA's National Music Committee. Ireland edited The Song Book of the YWCA, published by the Womans Press in 1926.
Mrs. Parker had an interest in what the "right kind of music in the right kind of way" might do for the YWCA. She had been involved in the music program at the YWCA of the City of New York and later in Washington, D.C. with Imogene Ireland. Her husband, Judge Edwin B. Parker, left a bequest of $100,000 to the National Board to establish the Katharine Parker Music Foundation to fund a national department of music with a capable and experienced secretary in charge. The bequest came with two stipulations: Mrs. Parker was to be advisor "while she lives," and special attention should be given to stimulating and developing a love of music in Girl Reserves. The first national Music secretary, Marion Peabody, started work September 1930 as part of the Education and Research Division. Through the 1930s Marion Peabody urged Community Associations to form music committees to promote use of music in program, as a means to develop leadership and an effective group activity. She developed a music library in the national office and prepared lists and song sheets with "suitable and desirable songs for group singing."
Marie Oliver, music secretary in the 1940s, compiled the first edition of the YWCA's songbook, Sing Along the Way in 1943. The book "raised the level of songs" and included a wide variety of international folk songs, "better" camp songs, and songs of social significance, such as work and protest songs. Oliver put a great emphasis on finding and training staff and volunteers to lead music and created lots of training materials.
From the first edition, the "songs of social significance" included in Sing Along drew criticism from conservatives who questioned the inclusion of certain songs also included in the Communist Party songbook and any labor songs at all. The book included a wide variety of songs to "meet the concerns of different groups" and make it truly useful to the YWCA. One song in particular, "Joe Hill," was criticized again and again for its "incendiary" lyrics. Marie Oliver responded that the song "belongs to a part of labor history that cannot be wiped out simply by eliminating the song." Though she did not include all of the verses, she continued to put "Joe Hill" in editions of Sing Along as long as it was still used by the Clubs. The book was updated regularly until 1965.
As the National Association made more and more cuts to its program staff in the early 1950s, many of the associated "subject" committees, such as the National Music Committee, were also eliminated. Without energetic leadership from national, most local Committees were disbanded and the use of music as an educational tool in the Association quickly diminished.
Devaluation of the dollar in late 1940s meant that Foundation income could no longer support a full-time music secretary. Always eager to try new techniques, in 1950, the Association added responsibility for potential uses of newly available audiovisual "aids" to the duties of the Music Secretary.
After Marie Oliver resigned in 1952, the music position went unfilled for a number of years. When a part-time consultant was hired in 1959, she was put in charge of Music and Creative Arts. The program, which was much less ambitious, made much more use of recorded music. The Music and Creative Arts Consultant continued to produce program and training materials and put special emphasis on projects and training for Y-Teens and their leaders.
Participatory singing remained an important feature of Convention. Beginning in 1957, a small group of interested YWCA members who served as music consultants took over responsibility for Convention music. They also undertook various publishing and recording projects.
Anxious to find ways to increase teen participation in the YWCA and get them involved in creative experiences, the Association launched the Y-Teen Folksong Project at the Y-Teen Conference in 1965. The Project encouraged teenagers to express themselves in contemporary folksong style writing "songs about life as teenagers see it today." The best of the bunch were published in a special edition of the Y-Teen Bookshelf in the summer of 1966.
The position of Music-Creative Arts Consultant was one of many eliminated in the staff reorganization of 1970-72.
Scope and Content
Music Program records include publications and related correspondence; reference files of general information and musical scores; historical research on music in the YWCA; general correspondence; minutes; planning materials and annotated programs from Conventions and Conferences; project files; and training materials.
Music Committee minutes and the selection of songs reveal much about the educational philosophy of the YWCA and the creative ways the various departments and programs found to contribute to the Association's purpose.
The Music Secretary's working files included in the Original Format Records provide an excellent sense of the aims of the work. They include annotated programs and preparation notes for Conventions, Conferences, and meetings with detailed information about what music was used when during the course of these events.
The reference files and publications attest to the Music Program's contribution to the National Association's efforts to foster intercultural appreciation. Reference and Project files (such as the Y-Teen Folksong Project), and forays into work with recorded music and "audio-visual aids" demonstrate continuing efforts to develop effective educational techniques and keep the program relevant.
Correspondence about the inclusion of "controversial" songs in Association songbooks in the Original Format Records provides insight into the challenges the Association faced during the Red Scare era.
Microfilmed Records, 1906-70 only
The microfilmed records consist of just those materials submitted for inclusion in the Central File. There are Committee records, and the earlier correspondence about publication of YWCA song books. The inclusion of Music under "Arts" in the Subject Files reflects the addition of Creative Arts and audiovisual "aids" in the job description of the Music Secretary after World War II. Some of the Music Program publications are included on the microfilm, particularly those about the use of music in YWCA program. Song books and song sheets are less likely to have been microfilmed. The Original Format Records contain a much more comprehensive selection of music publications.
Music Program records are located on the Microfilm under:
Original Format Records, 1913-87, 5 linear feet
While the original format records include most of the material on the microfilm, they also contain a large file of YWCA music publications and a substantial portion of the music reference file maintained by the Music Secretary. Mary B. Wheeler, Music Secretary, 1955-65, donated her working file, which included records she inherited from Marie Oliver, to the National Board Archives. This includes additional correspondence related to music, including such topics as the "controversial" songs used in YWCA songbooks, publication of songbooks (later years than those on the microfilm); and copyright issues; planning materials for music at Conventions, Conferences, and other events; project files; and training materials.
The Music Secretary's Reference files are arranged in two sections: General and Sheet Music/Scores. General is a wide-ranging subject file on topics such as various types and styles of music (from jazz, to Japanese, to rock and roll); music therapy; instrument making; recorded music; and music for children. The Reference files of Sheet Music/Scores are also wide-ranging and include Civil Rights Songs, Folk Songs (arranged by country), Girl Reserve songs, labor union songs, parodies, and sacred music.
The Publications include multiple editions of the YWCA's classic songbook Sing Along and the Girl Reserve Songbook. There is also a collection of YWCA songs, such as musical settings of the YWCA Purpose, "Follow the Gleam" (for many years the unofficial YWCA song), centennial songs written by members, and other similar items.
The Original Format Records are arranged in the following sections:
In other Series in this Record Group
SERIES 4. CONSTITUENT GROUPS contains related efforts to compile and distribute information on international folk music and customs in Subseries B. Immigration and Foreign Communities
SERIES 6. PUBLICATIONS Minutes of the Publications Committee include discussions of music publications. Offerings related to music are listed in Publications catalogs.
In other Record Groups
RECORD GROUP 3. NATIONAL ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE contains additional material about copyright.
SUBSERIES D. PAGEANTRY AND DRAMA
According to The Use of Plays in Club Work, published by the Womans Press in 1930, "the most effective interpretation of life and ideas is by the dramatic method." Plays, skits, and pageants could be used to limber up gawky girls, teach them team work, improve their English, introduce them to literature, and to take pleasure in the simple things of life.
Formal responsibility for this aspect of YWCA Program began with the War Work Council's Bureau of Pageantry and Drama during World War I. The Bureau's secretary, Hazel MacKaye, traveled the country encouraging Community YWCAs, and particularly their Girl Reserve programs, to incorporate drama into their programs. Staff in the War Work Council's Department for Work with Foreign-Born Women collected information about folk festivals and pageants to add to the YWCA's growing catalog of scripts published and distributed by the Womans Press. After the war, the Publications Department included an editor of technical and dramatic publications until 1930.
Many of the scripts published by the Womans Press originated in Community Associations and their publication allowed a nationwide distribution.
As Womans Press activities declined with the financial troubles of the Great Depression and such things as World War II paper shortages, plays and skits were more-or-less eliminated from the catalog.
Though publication was curtailed, skits continued as a regular feature of meetings, conferences, and Conventions. Particularly popular were those written by Barbara Abel, who was Managing Editor of the Woman's Press, 1925-31, and later worked in publicity for the Chicago YWCA.
Scope and Content
The Pageantry and Drama materials primarily consist of scripts for plays, playlets, pageants, ceremonials, skits, "meditations," pantomimes, operettas, musical comedies, tableaux, water pageants, and festivals. There is a small amount of general historical material, lists of plays and pageants recommended or published by the YWCA, and some general reference materials, 1912-68, n.d.
The scripts' subjects are astounding in their variety. There are pieces on religious subjects, women's history, international and interracial relations, citizenship and democratic institutions, vocational guidance, blood plasma, child labor, consumer issues, industrial working conditions, health and safety, diet, unemployment, domestic service, American Indians, and many others. There are also skits and plays on administrative topics such as volunteer-staff relations, fund raising, and membership.
Microfilmed Records, 1906-70
Scripts are scattered under Conference, Convention, and Miscellaneous in various places on the microfilm. There is some easily accessible information on the microfilm in the Subject File under World War I, Pageantry and Drama, and there are a few later scripts (1951-70) under Arts, Drama.
Original Format Records, 1911-84, n.d., 4.5 linear feet
The overwhelming bulk of the Original Format Records is scripts. There is a small amount of General and Historical Material filed at the beginning of the Subseries. This is followed by general Scripts, arranged alphabetically by title, and then Christmas Scripts, also arranged alphabetically.
Scripts are scattered in Conference, Meeting, and Convention files throughout the records.
Elsewhere in this Record Group
The YWCA's general serial, the Association Monthly/Womans Press/YWCA Magazine (in SERIES VI. PUBLICATIONS) features many articles about use of drama in program.
In other Record Groups
RECORD GROUP 8. COMMUNITY ASSOCIATIONS includes reports by Pageantry and Drama secretaries Hazel MacKaye, and Sue Ann Wilson to the City, Town, and Rural Communities Departments.
In Personal Papers
The Sophia Smith Collection contains personal papers of Barbara Abel who wrote many plays and skits for the YWCA.
SUBSERIES E. YOUNG ADULTS
As a religious group that sought to bring women together across lines of denomination, class, and place, the YWCA was a pioneering Christian organization. It was founded with a strongly evangelical Protestant emphasis and worked to fill in a breach of religious possibilities available to women in the emergent urban culture of the late nineteenth century. In its early, local incarnations it did so by providing instruction and a Christian-oriented space for women gathering in the cities who no longer had access to the traditional bonds of family and community. Student YWCAs marshaled the energy for religious service and expression that suffused college life in the late nineteenth-century. These groups also coordinated the efforts of service-oriented church women who wanted to escape the limits of church work within their denominations, which was often constrained by the vision of male clergy. In more recent years of the organization, religious matters have loomed in the background, becoming a shadow identity that uneasily accompanied the shift from the YWCA as a mainstay of ecumenical Protestantism into its contemporary incarnation as a women's social services organization.
From its inception in 1906, the national YWCA maintained the centrality of religious matters. It mediated and disseminated the spiritual emphasis that came out of the World YWCA, which delineated its basis as "Faith in God the Father as Creator and in Jesus Christ His only Son as Lord and Savior, and in the Holy Spirit as Revealer of truth and Source of power for life and service, according to the teaching of the Holy Scripture." (From YWCA of the USA Constitution, 1949). The national YWCA also coordinated and provided resources for religious work in local associations. In order to fulfill these functions, it devised its own religious programming and materials for uses both within and beyond the various YWCA constituencies.
Since religion was so central to the identity and programming of the YWCA, the subject is dispersed widely across the organization. The organization undertook religious work in concert with the variety of needs of its constituencies. It attended to the impact of spirituality on women workers, matters of race and nationality, and international fellowship as well as the spiritual life of students and of young women in cities and rural areas. In its early years, the national YWCA directly provided religious programming for these varied groups. It urged training in religious instruction on its employees, requiring religious and biblical studies at its National Training School and at conferences. Under the auspices of the Department of Method and its successors, secretaries and committees oversaw religious work taking place in community associations, and they developed a program of religious education through publications and workshops aimed at their diverse membership. Over time the groups connected to the National Board steered a transformation of the religious ethos of the YWCA from a Bible study-oriented, moralistic evangelism into an expansive, ecumenical space for discerning and living Christian ethics.
After the reorganization of the National Board in the 1920s and the diminution of programming in general in the 1930s, religious work became less centrally documented. It remained in the province of committee work through the 1940s, although unfortunately there are significant gaps in the dates of the materials from this work that remains. In these years, the administration deliberated regularly on the place of Christianity in the organization and the type of spiritual direction that would be most useful for the organization and for society at large. They continued to direct religious services at conferences and conventions and coordinate local religious programming, particularly through publications. Over the course of the 1930s and 1940s, the YWCA worked to foster cross-faith discussion and understanding, while acknowledging and occasionally indulging in programming that came out of its Protestant heritage and membership. Conferences and meetings, as large as the national convention and as small as routine staff gatherings, featured religious readings, worship services, and group prayer.
Although spirituality remained an object of much consideration at the administrative level, by the 1950s the YWCA grew less explicit in its expressions of Christianity. It continued with an ecumenical thrust, particularly welcoming Roman Catholics into its work, even as some priests and bishops forbade Catholic participation. Requests for religious programming diminished, and the organization's financial troubles forced it to curtail the publishing that had comprised a significant contribution of the organization to religion and spirituality.
The National Board approached the uncertain place of religion in the work of the YWCA at the mid-twentieth century in the 1964-67 Commission to Study the YWCA as a Christian Movement. This effort on the part of staff and volunteer committee sought to assess the significance of Christianity to the contemporary issues and programming. The study concluded that a dynamic Christianity, responsive to the increasing social consciousness of the young, remained central to the programming of the YWCA. Still, religion and Christianity waned in visibility. A consultant on religious matters remained on the national staff well into the 1980s, but the efforts of such work were overshadowed by strides made on questions of racial justice and women's issues more broadly. In these years, the national YWCA maintained a quiet attention to progressive Christian ethics as underlying its commitment to secular social programming, but the emphasis remained in the background.
Over the course of this history, various questions on matters of religion recurred for the national administration. The YWCA's relation to Protestant Christianity required clarification at numerous points. While the group drew from evangelical Protestantism and participated in the efforts of the Social Gospel, it responded enthusiastically to growing ecumenicalism and opened itself to a variety of spiritual outlooks. This caused an imbroglio at the 1930 National Convention, held in Detroit, when a faction successfully pushed for the end of the requirement of membership in an approved Protestant church as a condition of the full privileges of YWCA membership. Materials related to this controversy may be found among the convention material. Additionally, the YWCA occasionally found itself in trouble with Roman Catholic authorities over the participation of Catholic women in their programs, which increased significantly as the YWCA provided services to urban populations and industrial workers. Such flare-ups provided the occasion for revisiting and clarifying the nature of the YWCA's religiosity. These documents can be found in this series.
The area in which the place of Christianity in the YWCA was most explicitly identified was in the so-called "Purpose" of the organization as laid out in the organization's Constitution. The Christian Purpose shifted significantly with the changes in the YWCA's programming emphases, membership, and historical context. National Convention action determined changes in Purpose. The membership first adopted a straightforward and adamantly Christian vision of the association's intentions in 1915. They prefaced their Constitution with: "Affirming the Christian faith in God, the Father; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord and Savior; and in the Holy Spirit, the Revealer of Truth and Source of Power for Life and Service; according to the teaching of Holy Scripture and the witness of the Church, we adopt the following Constitution." Outlining the function of the YWCA, the Constitution declared that the national YWCA it sought to unite and develop community associations as well as "to advance the physical, social, intellectual, moral, and spiritual interests of young women." Its "ultimate purpose" was "to seek to bring young women to such a knowledge of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord as shall mean for the individual young woman fullness of life and development of character, and shall make the organization as a whole an effective agency in the bringing in of the Kingdom of God among young women." (Constitution, 1915)
The language of revivalism and of an individual experience of Christ indicated the YWCA's roots in turn-of-the-century evangelism. It held onto this language in the Constitution well after the years of disillusionment that followed the First World War made such sentiments suspect. It took the Second World War and the intention to promulgate a more focused, action-oriented vision of the work of the National Board to inspire a change, and they reached to Christianity as undergirding that focus. In 1949, the organization's purpose read that it was committed to building "a fellowship of women and girls devoted to the task of realizing in our common life those ideals of personal and social living to which we are committed by our faith as Christians. In this endeavor we seek to understand Jesus, to share his love for all people, and to grow in the knowledge and love of God."
The more generalized Christianity evident in the 1949 Constitution depended on a liberal, ecumenical interpretation of the social ethics of Jesus and eschewed references to the millennialism that characterized the older Christian Purpose. This shift aligned with the YWCA's broadened commitment to political and social change and the increasing marginality of their religious programming the at mid-century. Another shift in the Purpose responded to the heated atmosphere of the mid-1960s that heightened the YWCA's commitment to social change. In the 1967 Constitution, the YWCA declared that it was "rooted in the Christian faith as known in Jesus and nourished by the resources of that faith" and called upon its membership to "respond to the barrier-breaking love of God in this day," a goad to activism as necessitated by Christian ethics. The Purpose went on to state that the "Association draws together into responsible membership women and girls of diverse experiences and faiths, that their lives may be open to new understanding and deeper relationships and that together they may join in the struggle for peace and justice, freedom and dignity for all people." The centrality of Christianity to this statement had likely been the result of the reinvigorated sense of Christian Purpose that came out of Commission to the Study the YWCA as a Christian Movement (1964-67), but it belied the ebb of the YWCA as an organization with identifiably Christian programming. Additionally, the YWCA's participation in the civil rights movement, emblematized in many respects by the work of Dorothy Height and her place in the church-based leadership of the movement of the 1950s and early 1960s, gave a certain cachet to a Christian purpose when it was oriented toward the liberal or even radical demand for social equality. The purpose laid out in the 1967 Constitution held until 1988 when the addition of the statement that the "Association will thrust its collective power toward the elimination of racism wherever it exists and by any means necessary" (Constitution, 1988) affirmed decisively the "One Imperative" as fundamental to the organization's mission. In 1992, a revised mission statement again affirmed its roots in Christianity while appealing across lines of faith: "The Young Women's Christian Association of the United States of America is a women's membership movement nourished by its roots in the Christian faith and sustained by the richness of many beliefs and values. Strengthened by diversity, the Association draws together members who strive to create opportunities for women's growth, leadership and power in order to attain a common vision: Peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all people. The Association will thrust its collective power toward the elimination of racism wherever it exists and by any means necessary." (1992 Constitution). This most recent revision stands with its reference to Christianity as part of the living purpose of the YWCA.
Scope and Content
The Religion Subseries does not contain a comprehensive set of materials on religious matters but contains much of the work carried out under explicitly religious auspices. It best documents the religious publications produced by the national YWCA as it sought to serve the needs of its constituencies and also as it made innovative interpretations of matters of spirituality and religious pedagogy. Many of these publications were authored by YWCA staff. The Woman's Press frequently published works of bible study, prayer, and worship services as well as broader examinations of the place of spirituality and religion in the cultural landscape of twentieth-century America.
The Subseries contains the records of religious committee work, which traces the National Board's efforts to provide programming and meet educational needs for religion in the 1930s and 1940s. Documentation of later committee work is scant but suggestive of the expansive ways in which the organization understood and wished to promulgate its spiritual foundation. In addition, there are a variety of reference materials including studies conducted on the YWCA's religious work as well as more general publications on religious matters that affected the YWCA.
Researchers interested in the YWCA's religious work, particularly of the 1910s through the 1940s, are encouraged to augment the materials in this series with the reports of secretaries of religious matters, which are filed in the Departments of Method and Education and Research. These reports offer detail in the variety of local religious work undertaken, the design of the National Board's religious training of YWCA women, and the evolution of its religious stance. The records of the Foreign Division may convey the YWCA's religious ethos most plainly, as the YWCA was compelled to clarify and make plain its intentions in these missionary and cross-national settings. The shifting course of this religious outlook is also evident in convention proceedings, which scrutinized the place of religion in the organization. The microfilmed religion subject files contain several documents and reports not available in this series; of particular interest are reports from the 1920s studying the problems with Catholic participation in the YWCA.
In later years, religious matters served as a subject of inquiry less frequently. An exception to this was the 1964-67 Commission to Study the YWCA as a Christian Movement. While this Subseries contains the reports that resulted from this Commission, a more comprehensive set of documents is found with Mission/Purpose materials in the General Administration series ( SERIES I in RECORD GROUP 3). A final word would be that religious subjects and work were diffused throughout the organization and, particularly in the early years, touched on nearly all of the YWCA's concerns. Researchers may wish to consult other areas of programming and administration to gain a full picture of the place of religion in the YWCA.
Microfilmed Records, 1884-1970 only
Records relating to religion in the YWCA can be found on the microfilm under:
Original Format Records, 1907-91, n.d., 5 linear feet
The bulk of the original format records consists of publications and resource materials, some of which were microfilmed, though many were not. The rest of the records in this subseries are quite scattered and most of what dates prior to 1970 is probably on the microfilm, including the Committee and Commission records which were not discarded after filming. The small amount of records that post-date the microfilm are primarily about the examinations of the YWCA's Christian Purpose.
The original Format Records are organized as follows:
In other Series in this Record Group
Reports of Religious Work secretaries are in the minutes and reports in SERIES I. DEPARTMENT, STAFF, AND COMMITTEES.
Records of the National Training School in SERIES II. TRAINING AND PERSONNEL contain information about religious training.
In other Record Groups
RECORD GROUP 1. GENERAL AND HISTORY, SERIES I. GENERAL has copies of the YWCA Constitution and records related to amendments to it and to the Purpose reflecting the changing religious emphasis within the Association. SERIES III. MEMBERSHIP OF INDIVIDUALS has information about religious affiliation and membership requirements.
See RECORD GROUP 4. NATIONAL CONVENTIONS AND CONFERENCES for Convention deliberations about the role of religion in membership issues and the Purpose of the Association.
See RECORD GROUP 5. INTERNATIONAL WORK for information about the "interpretation" of Christianity in other countries and its reception there.
Concern over college students' tendency to abandon religion led the National Association to pay particular attention to the content of and methods for engaging college students in deeper thinking about religion. This concern is reflected in the records of the Student Work in RECORD GROUP 7.
The YWCA made videotapes of various presentations and panels related to the 1989-90 re-examination of the Purpose. These are in RECORD GROUP 10. AUDIOVISUAL MATERIALS.