Winnifred Crane Wygal Papers
Winnifred Crane Wygal was born August 25, 1884 in Springfield, Missouri, to Frank and Katie A. Bigelow Wygal. Frank Wygal was a wagon maker at the Springfield Wagon Works. Both parents read widely and encouraged their daughters to do likewise. Frank Wygal's Christian socialist beliefs fostered a strong commitment to social justice in the young Winnifred. In an autobiographical manuscript, Wygal wrote of her childhood: "I was wanted and loved and cherished. Life was exciting and good almost at once."
After graduating from Springfield High School, "Windy" Wygal attended Drury College (now Drury University) in Springfield, where she first joined the Young Women's Christian Association. After receiving her B.A. in 1906, Wygal taught high school English and Latin in Missouri from 1906 to 1911. Wygal attended the YWCA's National Training School in New York City and did graduate coursework at Columbia University in 1911-12. Drury awarded her an M.A. in 1912. A life-long student, Wygal also did post-graduate work at Union Theological Seminary and the University of Chicago Divinity School, as well as "special reading" with Canon Streeter at Oxford University and with H.B. Sharman of the Pendle Hill Quaker Center for Graduate Study.
In 1913 Wygal took a job at the YWCA at the University of Nevada, Reno. In 1917 or early 1918 she joined the War Work Council staff of the national YWCA. She supervised five Hostess Houses where servicemen could meet with family and friends, and three recreational service centers at Camp Funston at Fort Riley near Manhattan, Kansas. From there, Wygal transferred to the YWCA's North Central region field staff in 1919 or 1920, as a Student Secretary. She moved to the National Student Council staff (the college and university student department of the YWCA) in 1922, where she remained until 1935, working on program and personnel and serving several years as acting executive, associate executive, and finally, executive of the Council. Much of Wygal's work in the Student YWCA centered on helping young women to distinguish between "the prohibitions imposed by culture" and "the universal imperatives."
In 1935 Wygal transferred to the Laboratory Division where she developed religious resources for use in YWCA programs. In May of 1935 Wygal was co-chair with Gregory Vlastos, of the Fletcher Farm Seminar on Religion, a ten-day seminar led by Reinhold Niebuhr, Henry Nelson Wieman, and Paul Tillich. Wygal attended the Conference of the Church on Life and Work at Oxford University in 1937 and she wrote preparatory materials for the World Christian Youth Conference in Amsterdam in 1939. A 1940 staff reorganization moved Wygal's work to the Division of Community YWCAs. Wygal retired from the YWCA in 1944.
For many years after retirement, Wygal did extensive free-lance speaking and discussion leading to young people's groups in churches and YWCAs. She was the author of many works relating to personal and group worship and the first woman to be a deacon at Riverside Church in New York City.
In a meditation written for Wygal's memorial service in 1972, YWCA General Secretary Edith Lerrigo described Wygal with the words "deep," "ardent," "committed," "flaming," "impatient," and "dedicated."
Winnifred Wygal died of a heart attack in New York City on September 8, 1972. She was buried in San Antonio, Texas.