Elizabeth Steel Genné Papers
Elizabeth Steel was born August 30, 1911 on a farm outside Albany, Oregon, to Charles and Winifred Steel. The family later moved to Portland, Oregon, where Elizabeth graduated from Washington High School. Steel's lifelong involvement in the YWCA began early at the Portland YWCA. In 1930 she attended the Christian Youth Conference of North America as President of the Portland YWCA Girl Reserve Club. There, she first met her future husband, William H. Genné.
Steel earned a B.Sc. from Oregon State College in 1935 and an M.A. from Teachers' College, Columbia University in 1936. She and William Genné were married in 1937. The couple had four children.
William Genné began a career as a college chaplain working at Michigan State University, Alfred University, and Pacific University over the next eighteen years. Meanwhile Elizabeth, who described herself as "primarily a homemaker and volunteer" worked in the Flint, Michigan, YWCA and as a teacher-counselor, teacher, staff in-service training lecturer, and Parent Education Consultant. During World War II she and her husband sponsored six interned Japanese-American students, making it possible for the students to complete college degrees.
Beginning in the 1950s the Gennés pioneered in the field of family life and sex education, working for the Clara Elizabeth Fund for Maternal Health in Flint, Michigan, and then the National Council of Churches from a home base in Montclair, New Jersey. They co-authored eight books and numerous articles and pamphletson family life, maternal health education, and sex education. The couple also gave joint presentations and organized workshops all over the U.S. and internationally.
In each of the cities where the Gennés lived, "Betty" was active in the local YWCA, usually serving on teen, college student, or young adult committees. Once the Gennés moved to New Jersey, she also began serving on national YWCA committees. Elected to the National Board in 1957, she continued as a member of that group until 1979, including a term as National President from 1973 to 1979. She is credited with helping the YWCA to make more effective use of its human and financial resources.
In addition to her volunteer activities for the YWCA, Betty Genné was active in the PTA, Montclair Civil Rights Commission, American Association of University Women, League of Women Voters, United Council of Church Women, and UNICEF.
The Gennés retired to Claremont, California in 1984. William Genné died in 1997. Three years later Betty married Stanley Conover, who died in 2006.
Elizabeth Steel Genné died on February 29, 2008 in Claremont, California.