In 1912, a group of women of YWCA O’ahu became a few of the first women in the State of Hawaii to participate in organized swim lessons. In an era when women’s activities surrounding water were restricted to wading pools, learning to swim provided a great sense of liberation and empowerment for women. Now, a century later the YWCA O’ahu still continues this tradition of empowering women in the water. “For the women of Hawai’i, learning to swim has never been merely a social grace, it’s a survival skill”
The aquatics program initially began in the pool of a private home in O`ahu, and expanded in 1927 with the development of the YWCA Laniakea pool. The Laniakea site was designed by Julia Morgan, one of the first female architects in the country. It is a reflection of the pioneering efforts of women to open aquatics up to women. Morgan’s design placed the pool as the center focus of the building. Surrounded by walkways and balconies, it is a prominent part of the architecture, and it was designed this way for a reason. “Morgan was making a strong statement about the ‘proper place for women,’ explained Noriko Namiki, Chief Communications Director at the YWCA O’ahu, “She made it clear that that place was no longer to be pushed out of sight, but rather to be put front and center.”
Now, Morgan's avant-garde vision continues to pay off for women of all ages who participate in the diverse selection of classes offered. Classes range from diving and swimming lessons, to scuba, to aqua for arthritis, and all of them share the common goal of building confidence in a community atmosphere. In its 100 year history, the YWCA O’ahu’s aquatics program has helped more than 10,000 women and girls to learn to swim and has drawn a loyal following of swimmers.
The YWCA O’ahu celebrated the achievements of their aquatics program with a pool party. The day was filled with water-themed games, face painting, balloon twisting, zumba, prizes, and a costume contest. At noon, 100 YWCA O’ahu members jumped into the pool singing Happy Birthday in honor of all that the YWCA aquatics program has accomplished.
YWCA of O‘ahu is a membership organization supporting more than 2,500 women and girls through housing, economic self-sufficiency, professional development and health and wellness. For more information about their programs, visit the YWCA of O'ahu website.