This past October, YWCA Cambridge turned 75.
That’s 75 years of providing programs and services that respond to the changing needs of women and girls in our community.
That’s 75 years of working to move the needle on gender equity through advocacy, coalition-building, events, delegations to municipal and regional councils, thousands of meetings with elected representatives, and millions of those everyday smaller actions that together make a movement.
But how did we get here? YWCA as a global movement is nearly 170 years old. The first YWCA was established in 1855 in the United Kingdom and was originally a home for nurses involved in the Crimean War as well as single women coming in from rural communities to work in industrial jobs in the city. Today, YWCAs are in more than 120 countries around the world and all of us have the same mission of advancing gender equity.
YWCA Cambridge – like every other YWCA – was established by women who saw a need for an organization that responds to the needs of women through programs and services dedicated to them. And so, in 1948, a group of Galt women met with women from the pre-existing Galt Women’s Association (GWA). The GWA agreed to sign over ownership of a building they owned and it would become the YWCA of Galt. This building, a house, was located on the corner or Thorne and Cambridge Street in Galt, where today there is a parking lot.
YWCA of Galt, which became YWCA Cambridge following the amalgamation of Galt, Preston and Hespeler, began similarly to how the world’s first YWCA began. It provided a residence for single women, including single mothers. It provided employment services to help women find jobs in the city, and it also eventually opened up a small child care centre in the same building to enable mothers to enter the workforce.
Today, YWCA Cambridge is not a residence for single women and mothers. We are, however, a provider of child care, operating more than 400 spaces across Cambridge. In addition to child care, we still provide (albeit vastly different from what it looked like in the 40s!) employment and skills training for women and gender diverse individuals, as well as a number of programs for youth that focus particularly on gender-based violence prevention and the overall wellbeing of girls and gender diverse youth. Learn more about our full program and service offering at ywcacambridge.ca.
For 75 years, YWCA Cambridge has been advocating for the advancement of gender equity and working to provide the programs and services most needed by women, girls and gender diverse individuals. We have big dreams for how we can continue to meet their needs, including the establishment of an emergency women’s shelter to provide a safer place for women to move out of their experiences of homelessness and all of the violence that comes with it.
We made it to 75 years because of the immense support of people like you, people who saw the value in our work and wished to be a part of the positive change we’re working toward. You can help us be this agent of support and change for another 75 years. Consider donating $75 now to honour our 75 years and look forward to the next 75!