Odile Sweeney Papers
[Myrtle] Odile Sweeney was born on July 8, 1913 in Bains, Louisiana. As a student at Hampton Institute, she first joined the YWCA. After earning a B.A. at Hampton in 1937, she spent a year serving as the first African-American chair of the National Student YWCA and studied at the Pendle Hill Graduate Center for the Study of Religion and Social Sciences.
Sweeney took a job as Executive Director of the Montclair, New Jersey, YWCA in 1938. She joined the national YWCA staff in 1949 in the College and University Division, working as an Associate in Administration until 1965 and then Associate Executive. In 1967 Sweeney went to Ghana, Ethiopia, and Kenya as an Advisory Secretary for the YWCA's International Division.
Upon her return to the U.S., she joined the YWCA's regional staff, working as Correlator of the Western Region, 1968-71, and Director of the Eastern Region from 1971 until her retirement in August of 1978.
In addition to her work for the YWCA, Sweeney also served on the Metropolitan Association of Fair Housing Committees for New York City, Northern New Jersey, and Lower Connecticut from 1954 to 1967.
Hampton Institute presented Sweeney with its Outstanding Alumnus Award in 1962.
Following internal struggles, the uptown branch of the YWCA of the City of New York decided to establish itself as a separate organizational unit, the New Harlem YWCA. Beginning in January 1982, Sweeney worked as a National Volunteer Consultant to this YWCA, advising on membership and financial development.
Later that year Sweeney moved to Pilgrim Place, a religious and cultural center for retired Christian workers in Claremont, California. She died there on July 15, 1984.
At its October 1984 meeting, the YWCA of the U.S.A. National Board established the Odile Sweeney Memorial Fund to provide funding for leadership development for college and university students in the YWCA.