The YWCA, the largest women's organization in the world, is an international movement with associations in 122 countries and over 300 American communities. The YWCA of Cincinnati, the fifth association in the United States, was founded in 1868 to address the needs and espouse the cause of working women. The agency provided housing to young women who left their homes in rural areas to work in factories in the city.
In its early years, the YWCA established an employment bureau to find jobs for young women. It worked for minimum wages for women, championed protective labor laws for women and children, advocated for women's suffrage, was an early leader in job training for women of all races, and was at the forefront of racial justice advocacy.
In its efforts to serve the ever-changing needs of women, the YWCA of Greater Cincinnati has established many "FIRSTS":
FIRST Women's Employment Bureau (1876)
FIRST to provide leadership in forming the Associated Charities of Cincinnati, now called the United Way and Community Chest (1878)
FIRST physical fitness classes for women (1890)
FIRST women's basketball team in the city (1915)
FIRST to introduce the concept of training women in auto mechanics and telegraphy during World War II (1917)
FIRST integrated cafeteria in the city where interracial groups could eat and meet (1950s)
During the 1970s the YWCA led Cincinnati into a new realm of understanding of women's issues by advocating for the needs of battered women and children through local hearings and advocacy.
Flyer for Public Hearing Women dining in YWCA cafeteria
In 1974, an ad hoc committee of the YWCA of Greater Cincinnati was appointed to research and identify the most serious problems facing women and girls in American society and in our community. This committee determined that the battering of women was the single most unreported crime in the United States and Cincinnati.
In August 1976, a public hearing on spouse abuse was held in the YWCA auditorium. These hearings helped to identify the need for services for domestic violence victims and emphasized the responsibility of individuals and communities to provide services to battered women and their children.
The YWCA of Greater Cincinnati was instrumental at both local and national levels in advocating for battered women and their children. The YWCA's efforts led to the opening of Cincinnati's first domestic violence women's shelter, the Alice Paul House, in January 1978. In March 1979, the YWCA opened the House of Peace Shelter that serves battered women and children in the rural counties of Clinton, Clermont, and Brown.
In 1998, the YWCA purchased and renovated a new shelter in Hamilton County. The YWCA Domestic Violence Shelter can serve triple the capacity of the former Alice Paul House.