110 Years of the Pottstown YWCA

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110 Years of the Pottstown YWCA

Categories: News

by Jean Kowalski

1858 — YWCA, the United States’ first women’s organization, is formed as the “Ladies Christian Association” in New York.

1908 — Fifty women meet at the First Presbyterian Church to launch a Pottstown association of the Young Women’s Christian Association. Membership was $1. Its headquarters were at 16 S. Franklin St.

1909 — YW begins sheltering girls who are homeless.


YWCA 9-Lynn-Beech-Home.jpg
Although the very first YWCA location was at 16 S. Franklin St., it moved in 1913 to the Lyman Beecher home at its current location at 315 King St. The Y paid $5,000 the building. It was taken down in 1973 and the current building was constructed.

1913 — YWCA of Pottstown is formally chartered and incorporated on November 17. The organization purchases the Lyman Beecher home at 315 King St. The board hires Augusta Dumond as its first secretary, responsible for the day-to-day operations of the organization. The 1913-14 program included classes in singing, reading, physical fitness, basketball, skating, roller skating, volleyball, indoor baseball, first aid, shirt waist making, Christmas gift sewing, dramatics, English composition, current events, Bible study, Camp Fire Girls, and cooking. The program also included social events for members. Books were available for circulation among members.

1914 — YW leases Pine Dam Cabin near Pine Forge for four weeks. Members pay $3.50 a week to use the cabin and lake for boating and bathing.

1916 — The first of several “industrial clubs,” social and educational clubs aimed at girls and women who worked in Pottstown’s factories, forms. The Ben Franklin Club comprises employees of the Meyerhoff Shirt Factory. Its members take part in cooking, sewing and dramatics classes at the YW, and recreation on the factory grounds during their lunch break.

1916 — A day nursery opens in rented space on North Evans Street, starting with a dozen children of single mothers who were employed outside the home. The day nursery is a joint operation of YW, Associated Charities, and other organizations in Pottstown. YW continues to offer a nursery for working mothers, based on demand, on and off through the years.

1918 — A Girl Reserves group, founded nationwide to help girls 12-18 “develop a well-balanced personality, grow physically and take on social responsibility,” forms in Pottstown.

1920 — Room rent is set at $2.50 per person.

YWCA 7-1924b-ball.jpg
The YWCA’s 1924 basketball team.

1925 – Social dancing classes for boys and girls begin. The original gymnasium – a converted stable at the rear of the property – is replaced by with a larger, modern gymnasium.

1926 — The Business Girls’ Club meets to “promote and sustain a deep sense of fellowship; to encourage high standards of conduct and of efficiency … to stimulate active interest in the great moral and social issues of the day.”

1928 — 166 women and girls stayed at the YW over the year, with 18 of them as permanent residents.

1929 — Noting that young people are going to find a place to dance, and that they might as well be under “proper supervision,” YW offers dances open to members and to the public.

YWCA 10-War-thanks.jpg

1932 — YW establishes a “Colored Girls Club” and a “Mothers Club for Colored Women.”

1935 — YW sponsors a girls’ band, and a girls’ Glee Club.

1936 — YW hosts its first meeting of Jewish women, who study household arts and crafts as a Works Progress Administration project.

1942 — YW gets behind the war effort, hosting recruiters for the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), and organizes a “Victory Garden Day” to encourage backyard gardening.

1946 — Girl Reserves groups for teenage girls are renamed Y-Teens. A new group begins meeting at YW – seven young British war brides, who say they are “impressed by the hospitality of the YW.”

YWCA 18-integrated.jpg
A YWCA integrated teen dance in the 1940s.

Late 1940s/early 1950s — YW integrates its teen dances, welcoming all teenagers in the community.

1950 — The Pottstown Golden Age Club for senior citizens, and the Newcomers’ Club for new residents or Pottstown, begin meeting at YW.

YWCA 16-Meigs.jpg
A testimonial to Mrs. John Meigs, who founded the YWCA in Pottstown, adopted by the board at the time of her death. It is undated. It reads, in part, “her vision for this Association has paid many dividends to this community.”

1952 — YW begins an “Americanization Class,” a 10-week course for new U.S. residents teaching English conversation, reading and writing, and U.S. history and government.

1955 — Membership dues are increased to $2.

1956 — YW purchases property at 319 King Street for $23,000 and establishes a building fund for improvements and expansion. The house is named the Mrs. John Meigs House in honor of the long-time board president. Rooms on the second and third floors are rented to young women.

1957 — A proposed merger with the Pottstown YMCA is rejected. Merger talks continue through the 1960s with no resolution.

1962 — YW grows again, adding a large kitchen and meeting room between the gym and the main building.

1969 — Mrs. Alice Antrim, former office manager and accountant, becomes YW’s executive director.

1970 — YWCA USA adopts as part of its mission: To eliminate racism wherever it exists and by any means necessary.

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The program for a series of YWCA-sponsored lectures in 1971.

1971 — YW begins a lecture series, bringing “timely, topical people” to Pottstown: Assistant U.S. Secretary of Labor George Cabot Lodge, Nobel Prize-winning author Pearl Buck, oceanographer and son of Charles Lindbergh Jon Lindbergh, activist and attorney Ralph Nader, parent-child relationships experts Drs. Barry and Patricia Bricklin, and performer Geoffrey Holder.

1974 — YW’s headquarters at 315 and 319 King Street are demolished, making way for a modern, one-story brick structure to be wrapped around the existing kitchen, meeting room, and gym.

1975 — YW dedicates new offices and meeting rooms at 315 King Street.

1977 — Parent training workshops begin for teen mothers, helping them develop skills in communication and decision making. Mommy and Me classes offer activities for women and their preschool children.

1978 — Adult literacy classes begin at YW, led by volunteer tutors.

1982 — The Y-Wednesday Girls’ Club begins meetings with an educational and recreational focus for pre-teen girls. The board of directors approves a resolution supporting a freeze of all nuclear arms.


YMCA 75th anniversary
In 1983, the Mercury published a special supplement celebrating the YWCA’s 75th anniversary.

1983 — YWCA of Pottstown celebrates its 75th anniversary. Programming that year included the Y Wednesday Girls Club, the Golden Age Club, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings for women, Women in Transition for separated and divorced women, the Newcomers’ Club, a parents’ support group, adult literacy tutoring, and a support group for widows and widowers.

1988 — YW launches its first preschool class.

1990 — YW joins 10 other community organizations in persuading people to stay away from a Ku Klux Klan parade scheduled to ride through Boyertown.

1995 — YW begins an annual tradition of honoring local women for their achievements in their careers and in their communities with the first Tribute to Exceptional Women gala dinner.

2006 — YW becomes a state-licensed early education center. Girls In Charge, an after-school program for middle school girls, begins.

2007 — YWCA of Pottstown is re-incorporated as YWCA Tri-County Area to reflect its service to communities in Montgomery, Chester, and Berks counties.

YWCA Today
The YWCA Tri-County Area building on King Street as it appears today 

2008 — YWCA Tri-County Area marks its 100th anniversary.

2010 – The Early Education Center expands its preschool program by adding one Pre-K Counts classroom.

2016 — YW opens two Early Head Start classrooms and adds a second Pre-K Counts classroom. YW purchases a 3-story brick building at 300 King Street for expanded programming and office space. The first Tribute to Exceptional Girls takes place at the Hill School.

2018 — YW’s growth continues, creating a partnership with the Corporation for National and Community Service through Foster Grandparents Program, VISTA, and AmeriCorps.