YWCA of the U.S.A. Records. Record Group 6. Program: Series VI. Publications
Early in its history, the YWCA of the U.S.A. established a Publication Department to publish its monthly magazine, then known as the Association Monthly; to produce study materials, programs, and other publications for the National Convention and for conferences; and to facilitate and oversee publication, promotion, and distribution of "technical" publications written by and for the Association's departments and divisions.
In the spring of 1916 the Publication Department and Committee started discussing a plan for enlarging the publishing venture. The idea was to finance the Association's "technical" publications through sales of more general interest material which could "Christianize the Woman's Movement." In the spring of 1917 they consulted with National Association staff, librarians, teachers, and social workers "to discover what sort of books they looked for…but did not find." These groups cited a real need for "books on vocations, written for girls; books on personal efficiency; biographies; collections of poetry; stories which will help the modern-day woman to adjust herself to the world in which she lives; and reprints in attractive form of books or parts of books which every girl ought to read." (Association Monthly, June 1917) The Department settled on a new name, The Womans Press, to reflect the more general character of the venture. (For its first 28 years, 1917-45, the name was usually printed without an apostrophe.) The first two titles under the new imprint, Mobilizing Woman-Power by Harriot Stanton Blatch and The Young Woman Citizen by Mary Austin went on sale in 1918.
In addition to their work on production and distribution of technical publications (which were generally written by staff most closely involved with the subject), the Publications Department selected authors and editors for the new general interest books, oversaw their design, publication, publicity, and distribution; produced the monthly magazine (re-christened The Womans Press) and Convention publications; and administered the Woman's Bookshop in the National headquarters.
The hard-cover general interest titles included religious books, such as collections of prayers and meditations, books on How to Use the Bible, and Christianity's relation to communism, peace, work, citizenship, and social morality. The Association also published poetry collections, women's memoirs and biographies, and books on women in history. Many titles reflected the staff's areas of expertise, presenting topics such as group work, adolescent girls' development, race relations, international understanding, health, jobs, citizenship, leadership, and sex education. Recreation and creative expression were promoted through volumes about nature study, flower arranging, parties, festivals, and Decorating the Small Apartment.
The impressive catalog of "technical" publications on a myriad of topics made up one of the most important contributions of the National Association to Community and Student Associations. The publications were clear, comprehensive, attractive, and eminently useful.
In the face of the financial challenges of the Depression, the Publications Department adjusted such things as the quality of the paper and formality of presentation, and managed to continue to put out a substantial catalog of titles.
Paper and other shortages curtailed publication during World War II. After the war, the National Association attempted a revival on advice of a "business analyst." A three-year plan concentrated in three major subject areas appropriate to YWCA: social group work, religion, and self-help books for women. The records are vague about why the Association ultimately abandoned this plan, but it eventually decided to sell its rights in the "general interest" hardcover books to Whiteside, Inc., in 1952. As part of the agreement, the National Association promised to limit its future publications to items for use within the Association and not to enter the publishing business in any form.
The National Association continued to put out technical and publicity materials, but on a much smaller scale. In 1961, the efforts became the responsibility of the Communications Bureau.