The YWCA of Calgary has served women and their families for over a century. Since its humble beginnings in 1910 — when four forward-thinking women* formed the first YWCA to provide safe accommodations for women travelers — we have tailored our programs to meet the changing needs of women throughout the decades.
*Those women were : Mrs G.W. Kerby (Hon. President); Mrs. Thomas Underwood (President); Mrs. A.B. Cushing (Recording Secretary); and Mrs. H.G.H. Glass (Corresponding Secretary)
YWCA of Calgary Milestones
1910s: The YWCA Traveler's Aid is formed, English instruction begins for “foreigners,” and legislature is petitioned for a minimum wage of $12/week for working women.
1920s: The YWCA advocates Health Education in the public schools and the YWCA Banff Chalet is built to provide holiday accommodation for working women.
1930s: The YWCA is operating Chalets in Banff, Lake Louise and Field. Advocacy work continues as the YWCA works with other women’s organizations to fight discrimination. This includes petitioning Prime Minister R.B. Bennett and the provincial legislature on behalf of domestic workers for equal rights and fair pay.
1940s: Clubs are opened for women in the services, service wives, and women in industrial war jobs. The YWCA welcomes war brides. A “Rooms Registry” is established to find homes for returning servicemen and their wives.
1950s: The YWCA purchases 28 acres and establishes Camp Kinnaird in Sylvan Lake and adds a swimming pool to its Calgary operation.
1960s: Y-teens advocate for proper sex education in the schools, swim classes for the physically and mentally disabled begin, and an “Indian Girls’ Club” is formed. The YWCA movement urges the Federal Government to provide income tax relief for working women who must provide care for children and other dependents.
1970s: A new facility is built at 320, 5th Avenue SE. A Women's Resource Centre is established and the first Women of the Year Awards are hosted with Margaret Atwood as guest speaker. A health club is opened for women.
1980s: The YWCA opens a Support Centre and the Sheriff King Home for abused women and children. The Lifeprints program is launched, working with teens on the importance of life and career planning. The Calgary Business College is created in partnership with the Federal Government to train women who are unemployed, under-employed or relying on welfare. The YWCA acquires the Mineral Springs Hospital site (Banff YWCA) and expands in its new location.
1990s: Counselling groups for children who have witnessed or experienced abuse are added to the Support Centre program, and the first program for men who are abusive is initiated. Women’s Employment Counselling Services is opened to assist 500 women annually with employment and career issues. The YWCA enters into a joint venture with Calgary Housing Authority by opening Langin Place, a 56-unit housing project for hard-to-house women.
$6 million is raised and invested to expand/improve the 5th Avenue location. A collaborative project (Safe Haven) for girls involved or at risk of becoming involved in prostitution is launched. A new Child Care facility is opened. Employment-specific programs are added for women dealing with abuse issues, and the YWCA and SAIT partner to offer a construction training program for women wishing to enter the building trades (The Women's Trade Centre). The “YWCA Body & Soul Centre” changes its name to “Fitness on 5th,” and the Board of Directors’ Social Issues Committee focuses on raising SFI rates for low-income women and families in Alberta.
*By the close of the decade, the YWCA has parted with The Women's Resource Centre, Langin Place, and the Banff YWCA.
2000s: The YWCA completes two major renovation and expansion projects: YWCA Mary Dover House (transitional and emergency housing) and the YWCA Sheriff King Home (violence prevention programming and crisis shelter). Extensive Board and staff work around the organization's new Strategic Direction results in the sale of Camp Kinnaird and the closure of the Women of Distinction Awards. The YWCA begins a new partnership with Global Television to jointly present Woman of Vision.