The YWCA of Brooklyn: Empowering Women Since 1888

A predecessor of the YWCA was formed in New York City in 1858, the Ladies Christian Association.  In 1866 the term Young Women’s Christian Association came into being, when Boston chose the name for its organization. 

The Young Women’s Christian Association of Brooklyn was formed in December 1887 when a group of 30 women, inspired by associations in Baltimore, Boston, and New York City, voted to establish an organization for the empowerment of young women. Mrs. Harriet Judson served as the first President of the Association, from 1888-1922.

The goals of these associations were to help and support women in a changing industrial world. Women needed jobs, and training in order to get them. Along with its wide variety of classes and affordable housing options, the YWCA provided a space for women and girls to meet and socialize.  One of the first endeavors for the brand-new organization was the establishment of the United States’ first school of practical nursing (1890).

Several years later, in 1899, the Brooklyn YWCA opened an Employment Bureau through which the young women could find jobs to match their new skills.

After opening an African American branch in 1903, and an International Institute in 1919, Brooklyn was the first YWCA in the country to fully integrate its programs and residences, in 1943. In the 1970’s the Young Women’s Christian Association of Brooklyn became a secular organization, and changed its name to the YWCA of Brooklyn.

Through its continually evolving programs and services, the YWCA continues to strive toward achieving social justice and the goals of its current slogan: “Eliminating Racism, Empowering Women.”

Today, the YWCA Brooklyn furthers its mission by providing over 300 safe, permanent, affordable homes for low-income and formerly homeless women, most of whom are survivors of gender-based violence; a college access program serving low-income girls of color; education, employment readiness and legal assistance for immigrant women; social justice advocacy; and a community center that is a nexus for over 100 progressive grassroots organizations to come together as one vibrant community driving civic engagement, responsible development, gender and racial justice, economic equity, education, and activism.   To learn more about the Brooklyn YWCA, visit

The items in this exhibit are from the YWCA of Brooklyn collection, which was processed by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.


Curated by Colleen Bradley-Sanders