The University of Southern Mississippi -- McCain Library and Archives
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Collection Title: The Hattiesburg YWCA Records
Collection Number: M274
Dates: 1924 - 1984
Volume: ca. .90 cu. ft.
The Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) is the oldest and largest multiracial women's organization in the world, with more than 2.5 million members and participants in over 80 countries. The organization traces its roots to London, England, where in 1855, a group of women led by Emma Robarts, formed a young women's association for the purpose of locating housing for nurses returning from the Crimean War (1853-1856). At approximately the same time, another group of London women began organizing prayer circles, and in 1877, the two groups merged to become the YWCA.
In the United States, groundwork for the YWCA was laid in 1858, when the Ladies Christian Association, which was similar to the London groups, was formed in New York City, and in 1866, the first YWCA was organized in Boston. Organizations continued to spring up throughout the East and Midwest, and in 1906, they all united as the YWCA of the United States of America, with headquarters in New York City. The organization currently operates in all U. S states except Alaska, and is a charter member of the World YWCA, which was founded in 1894, and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
The YWCA is based on Christian principles, with the objective of shaping a better society by helping girls and women to develop their full potential. Toward that end, it is open to women and girls of all faiths and backgrounds. Its programs are a combination of service and social action, and are geared toward eliminating racism; enhancing opportunities for women, minorities, and young people; and combating crime and delinquency. Two prominent groups within the YWCA are the Student YWCA, found on many college campuses, and the Y-Teens (originally called Girl Reserves), a program for girls aged 12 to 18. Y-Teen clubs operate through junior and senior high schools, and meet on a weekly basis, on school time.
At the community level, there are two distinct types of YWCAs -- the City Association and the District Association. The former operates within the boundaries of a particular community, and the latter can cover a county, or an entire state. While program content can vary from one district to another, a sampling of services and activities offered by local YWCAs includes child-care centers, classes, discussion groups, food services, and health education. They also provide counseling, job placement services, leadership training programs, recreational activities, and residential facilities.
The Mississippi District YWCA, founded in 1918, grew out of the interest in, and need for, girls clubs in the state. The National YWCA assisted in formation of the state group, and in 1921, Miss Eva Horner was sent from the national staff to become the first full time secretary of the organization. In 1938, the Mississippi District purchased Camp Rockbrook, near Macon, Mississippi, which was used as a Y-Teen summer camp.
The YWCA of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, was organized in 1917, primarily in response to a request from the War Work Council. Its initial purpose was to look after the wives and daughters of soldiers stationed at Camp Shelby. It was not until April 17, 1924, that the organization was chartered by the state of Mississippi as a non-profit corporation. Until 1927, when the YWCA Building was erected at 315 Hemphill Street, the organization operated from rented quarters. In the beginning, it was supported by voluntary contributions; later, its primary source of income was the United Givers Fund (now the United Way). A relatively minor source of income was fees for use of YWCA facilities.
The Hattiesburg YWCA offered a wide range of community services, as well as, social and recreational activities. Among them were morning and evening church services each Sunday; a room registry service which assisted young women from out of town in finding places to live; and job placement services. Activities included fitness classes, badminton, tennis, ping-pong, basketball, and free swimming lessons. During World War II, the YWCA made a special effort to include the families of servicemen stationed at Camp Shelby in its activities, and assisted wives of servicemen in locating living quarters. It also helped visitors of soldiers to find temporary lodging. The war effort was further aided by allowing the local Red Cross Blood Plasma Unit to occupy the entire YWCA Building several times per year.
The Hattiesburg YWCA sponsored a Y-Teen Club at Hattiesburg High School, which met weekly during activity period. Hiking, swimming, and parties were some of the activities enjoyed by the Y-Teens, but the girls were also required to participate in certain community service projects. Two perennial projects were providing a Christmas tree and gifts for underprivileged children, and packing a box of Christmas gifts for an inmate at Columbia Industrial School, the state's juvenile correctional facility at Columbia, Mississippi.
In 1936, a stay-at-home camp for girls aged six to eleven was initiated at the Hattiesburg YWCA, and became one of its most popular programs for young girls, averaging 100-150 girls each summer. It operated as a day camp, and participants enjoyed games, music, storytelling, swimming, and outdoor lunches.
In 1982, the YWCA and YMCA (Young Men's Christian Association) of Hattiesburg were combined -- both groups believing that by pooling their resources, they could not only continue to offer existing services, but expand opportunities to provide a much needed family ministry. The move, initiated by the YWCA, was motivated by financial concerns, and the deteriorating condition of its facilities. Conditions of the merger, which was finalized in 1984, were that all assets of the YWCA, including proceeds from the sale of the Hemphill Street facility (sold in 1982 to a group of attorneys who renovated it for offices) would be transferred to, and become the property of the YMCA, and that the title of the surviving corporation would be the YMCA of Hattiesburg, to be domiciled at 300 North 12th Avenue. A further condition was that the YMCA would operate under the name "Pine Belt Family YMCA", indicating that it would serve the entire family, and an entire geographic area.
Goals of the Pine Belt Family YMCA are: To provide and promote leadership skills and opportunities for youth; to enrich family life through education and involvement in family-coordinated activities: and to foster a positive attitude toward the pursuit of health-related activities.
At this writing, a new home for the Pine Belt Family YMCA is under construction on U. S. Highway 11, about three miles south of Hattiesburg, near the Interstate Highway 59 interchange, and is expected to be ready for occupancy in September 1994.
Throughout its sixty-five year history, the YWCA of Hattiesburg provided a
place for girls and women to assemble in a Christian setting. And its continuing
commitment to community service is exemplified by its decision to merge with
the YMCA, rather than abandon its programs in the face of dwindling resources.
This collection consists of a variety of materials reflecting the history of the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, from its charter in 1924, to its merger with the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, in 1984.
A photostatic copy of the organization's charter of incorporation begins the collection, and is followed by copies of its constitution and by-laws. Next is a series of materials entitled, Board of Directors, which has been divided into two subseries -- "Members" and "Minutes". The subseries, "Members", consists of lists of YWCA Board of Directors members between 1929 and 1981, and the subseries "Minutes", contains records of the Board's monthly meetings from 1969 to 1974. The minutes are a good source of information on the activities of the YWCA during the brief time span covered by them. Of particular interest in this series is a letter from the National YWCA Board (dated October 23, 1973, and attached to the November 1973 minutes). The subject of the letter is the possible affiliation of the Hattiesburg YWCA with the national organization, and the writer implies that if the local group chooses to remain separate, it must discontinue use of the YWCA name and symbols. This series is succeeded by three handbooks: "Mississippi District Handbook for YWCA Adult Groups" (1970); "Handbook for Y-Teen Adviser" (ca. 1968); and "This and That About Y-Teens" (ca. 1968). While the handbooks were designed as guides for group leaders, they also spell out the purposes of the YWCA in some detail. Next are annual reports of YWCA activities between approximately 1940 and 1972. Many of the reports contain a brief history of the organization, along with a rundown of the year's activities. Following the annual reports are Program Director's reports (November 1975 and January 1981), and a series of financial reports which itemize income and disbursement for 1973 through 1982. Federal income tax documents (1973-1984), consisting primarily of employees' wage and tax statements; federal tax returns for exempt organizations; and correspondence from the Internal Revenue Service are next. These are followed by a document that explains the details and conditions of the 1984 YWCA-YMCA merger. Rounding out the collection are correspondence, newsclippings, a magazine article, and a substantial collection of photographs. The photographs depict some of the YWCA's activities, such as swimming, Y-Teen banquets, and sewing classes, and also reflect various alterations to both the interior and exterior of the YWCA Building over the years. Changes in women's fashions and hairstyles are illustrated, as well.
This collection should be of interest to researchers of women's and girls' organizations, or women's history, and may also be of interest to researchers of the history of Hattiesburg.
Related CollectionsBox and Folder List:
Provenance: Transferred from the de Grummond Collection by Dee Jones
Volume: 1 item
Copyright: This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).
Form of Material:
One copy of a booklet titled, "History of the Mississippi District YWCA, 1918-1968", written in commemoration of the district's Golden Anniversary. (Placed in M274, Box 2, Folder 17.)