The history of the YWCA is the history of progress in America and, here, in southern Arizona.

The YWCA of Southern Arizona was established in 1917, just five years after Arizona gained statehood, by visionary women committed to establishing progressive values in this young state. We are proud that, from the beginning, YWCA of Southern Arizona has been committed to promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. Even in 1917, when membership in certain Protestant denominations was “required” the first YWCA of Southern Arizona Board President, Henrietta Franklin, was a member of the Stone Avenue Temple.  Our association was the first YWCA in the United States to open membership to men and elect men to serve on our board of directors. Today YWCA membership is open to all women and men, and it has not been a religious organization for more than fifty years. 

The YWCA of Southern Arizona was founded as a place for women to rest, socialize, learn, organize and contribute to creating a more progressive community. The YWCA was the only place where children of color could learn to swim in the years before the municipal swimming pools were built. Our organization provided the first child day care centers and the first domestic violence shelter.  The Big Sisters component of Big Brothers Big Sisters was originally a YWCA program.  

We operated out of a second floor room downtown on Stone Avenue and a house on Pennington Street before building what is now known as the Historic Y Building at 738 N. 5thAvenue in 1931. The YWCA Frances McClelland Community Center at 525 N. Bonita Avenue was built in 2007 and has become an important venue for community, educational and business groups throughout the community.

We are proud of our affiliation with YWCA USA, which has been in the forefront of most major movements in the United States as a pioneer in race relations, labor union representation, and the empowerment of women for more than 150 years.

The first Association in the U.S., Ladies Christian Association, was formed in New York City

The first boarding house for female students, teachers and factory workers opened in New York, N.Y.

"YWCA" was first used in Boston, Mass.

The YWCA opens the first employment bureau in New York City

The YWCA opens a low-cost summer “resort” for employed women in Philadelphia, Pa.

The first African-American YWCA branch opened in Dayton, Ohio

The first YWCA for Native American women opened in at Haworth Institute in Chilocco, Okla.

The United States of America, England, Sweden and Norway together created the World YWCA, which today is working in over 125 countries

The YWCA was the first organization to introduce the positive health concept and sex education in all health programming

YWCA of the USA incorporated in New York City

The YWCA was the first industrial federation of clubs to train girls in self-government

The YWCA held the first interracial conference in Louisville, Ky.

The YWCA Tucson is established, just five years after Arizona becomes a state. Our first board chair is a member of the Jewish community.

The YWCA was the first organization to send professional workers overseas to provide administrative leadership and support to U.S. Armed Forces

Based on its work with women in industrial plants, the YWCA Convention voted to work for “an eight-hour/day law, prohibition of night work, and the right of labor to organize”

Grace Dodge Hotel completed construction of a Washington, D.C. residence initially designed to house women war workers

The YWCA encouraged members to speak out against lynching and mob violence, and for interracial cooperation and efforts to protect African Americans' basic civil rights

The YWCA in Columbus, Ohio, establishes a desegregated dining facility and is cited by The Columbus Urban League "for a courageous step forward in human relations."

The YWCA extends its services to Japanese American women and girls incarcerated in World War II Relocation Centers

The National Board appears at the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate hearings in support of permanent Fair Employment Practices Committee legislation

Interracial Charter adopted by the 17th National Convention

The National Convention pledges that the YWCA will work for integration and full participation of minority groups in all phases of American life

National Convention commits local Associations and the National Board to review progress towards inclusiveness and decides on "concrete steps" to be taken

The Atlanta, Ga., YWCA cafeteria opened to African Americans, becoming the city’s first integrated public dining facility

The National Board of the YWCA created the Office of Racial Justice to lead the civil rights efforts

The YWCA National Convention, held in Houston, adopted the One Imperative: "To trust our collective power towards the elimination of racism, wherever it exists, by any means necessary"

The YWCA started the ENCORE program for women who had undergone breast cancer surgery

YWCA establishes Fund For The Future

The YWCA National Board urges Congress to support legislation that opposes the South African policy of apartheid

The YWCA National Day of Commitment to Eliminate Racism began in response to the beating of Rodney King, an African American man, the acquittal of four white Los Angeles police officers accused of the crime, and the subsequent riots and unrest across the country

The YWCA Week Without Violence was created as a nationwide effort to unite people against violence in communities. The annual observance is held the third week of October

Steps to Absolute Change was adopted. The YWCA shifted from a top down to a bottom up grassroots organization. Local associations joined regions and elected their regional representatives to the National Coordinating Board

Igniting the Collective Power of the YWCA to Eliminate Racism, the YWCA USA's Summit on Eliminating Racism, was held in Birmingham, Ala.

The YWCA celebrates its Sesquicentennial Anniversary, 150 years of service, with the launch of the “Own It” campaign. The campaign focused on igniting a new generation of 22 million young women aged 18 to 34, inspiring them to get involved with important issues facing women and the country today

Today over 2 million people participate in YWCA programs at more than 1,300 sites across the United States. Globally, the YWCA reaches 25 million women and girls in 125 countries.

The YWCA of Tucson formally changed its name to YWCA of Southern Arizona, reflecting the current reach of its programming and a growing vision for the future.