By: Roxanne Vigil
YWCA has a storied legacy of advancing equity and justice for all women. From voting rights to reproductive rights, financial literacy and more, we have long advocated on behalf of women — all women — and we continue to carry out that critical work to this day, working to get out the vote among women in communities across the nation; advocating for reproductive freedom; providing digital skilling, entrepreneurship training, financial literacy programming; and more. Throughout Women’s History Month, we are proud to showcase our history of advocating for women as we continue to carry out the work of justice to further our mission to eliminate racism and empower women.
For more than 160 years, YWCA has proudly given voice to sheroes and changemakers, including suffragettes such as Carrie Chapman Catt, who advocated for women to participate in national elections; Olive Almyra Colton, who vouched for women’s participation in politics; Mary Nelson Winslow, who advocated for working women; and Cora L. Tatham, an early supporter of women in finance. Their voices were critical during a time when women needed leadership and role models, and they all understood that society could not function at its best without the participation of women.
Their much-needed advocacy in those early years paved the way for all women to participate in the political process; to not only vote, but to be a part of the conversation regarding their personal finances and career. Later, it helped pave the way for the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973, which guaranteed the constitutional right to abortion. Guided by our intersectional mission to eliminate racism and empower women, YWCA has long stood as a national leader in efforts to secure rights deemed essential to the pursuit of gender, racial, economic, and reproductive justice. YWCA USA adopted the first of three resolutions supporting women’s freedom of choice with respect to abortion at its YWCA Convention in 1967 and again expressed our support of reproductive freedom when we adopted healthcare — including abortion and other reproductive healthcare — as part of our five national policy priorities in 1988. In recent years, YWCA has continued what we call our pro-women stance by advocating to ensure women access to the full range of reproductive healthcare, including abortion care, through legislative and administrative advocacy at the federal level.
Over the last 160 years, we have evolved to meet the moment, building upon our rich history of advocating on behalf of all women. The YWCA family is a lineage of powerful leaders, changemakers, and sheroes dedicated to eliminating racism and empowering women, and we are proud to carry forth our legacy of justice to build a world of true equity for those we serve.