In the fall of 2010, the Brooklyn YWCA deeded 150 boxes (approx. 500,000 items) of their historical material to the Brooklyn College Library. These materials document the history of the Brooklyn YWCA from its founding to the present day. Founded in 1888, the Brooklyn YWCA provided much needed services for women in a changing industrial world. At the forefront of education, affordable housing, child care, suffrage, and civil rights, this organization was and still remains integral to the empowerment of women in Brooklyn.
Unfortunately, the documents, photographs, memorabilia, and artifacts contained within these boxes are in very poor condition. Many of the items have sustained significant water damage and are now contaminated with mold. Yellowed, brittle paper crumbles when handled, fragile brochures and pamphlets are torn, and bound minutes and ledgers have broken bindings.
The photo collage above shows the poor condition of the majority of the YWCA material.
The Plan to Save These Records
Brooklyn College and the Brooklyn YWCA have embarked on a fundraising campaign to raise the money needed to organize, preserve, and make the records of the Brooklyn YWCA available to the public. As of today, $1,770 was raised at a fundraising event on September 24, 2013 and Brooklyn College has received a $5,000 grant from the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation to process the YWCA records from the 1920’s and the 1930’s.
Our knowledge of history has a direct impact on how we view ourselves, shape our present, and see the future. The historical records of the YWCA present a unique opportunity to share with the residents of Brooklyn an inspiring tale of an organization that despite economic difficulties and cultural oppression contributed positively to the lives of thousands of women. By studying these records researchers would not only learn the historical facts about the unequal treatment of women, the suffrage struggle for both women and African Americans, and about segregation, but would also understand the value of community service, collective action, and the establishment of non-profit organizations in pursuit of the public good. The history of the YWCA can be used as a model to both approach and solve the economic, political, and social problems which our borough is struggling with today.
To donate money towards the preservation of the Archives of the YWCA of Brooklyn, click here.
For more information on the YWCA of Brooklyn, visit ywcabklyn.org