YWCA Philadelphia Branches in Philadelphia, Temple University Libraries

Girls at YWCA camp

Since the late-nineteenth century, Philadelphia has been home to two distinctive Young Women's Christian Associations: one based in Center City, and the other located in the Germantown section of the city. The YWCA offered services and programming designed to meet the unique needs of women in Philadelphia. In addition to hosting clubs and classes, they sponsored neighborhood events, provided vacation and rest homes for young working women, and ran summer camps for girls. For over 100 years, the YWCAs of Philadelphia and Germantown were at the heart of community life in Philadelphia.

The Germantown YWCA formally organized in February 1871 in support of the young women working in Germantown's manufacturing mills. In 1905, the Association opened the Falls of Schuylkill branch, which served the women working in the extensive Dobson's Mills. In 1918, a "Colored Branch" was founded in order to "make possible for every colored girl and woman the advantages of so long enjoyed by the white girls and women of our community and to serve the present day need from the point of view of both the individual and the community." In the 1940s, the two branches were integrated into one location on Germantown Avenue.

Girls standing outside the West Philadelphia YWCA branch The Philadelphia YWCA launched in December 1870. The Association quickly opened a boarding house and cafeteria, offered employment services, professional development classes, and even featured a lending library. Twenty years after the Mid-City branch was founded, a YWCA center opened in Kensington to serve the women who worked in the lace factories. By 1920, expansion to the northeast inspired the founding of a YWCA branch in Frankford. In 1922, the Philadelphia YWCA officially acquired the Southwest Belmont branch, a community organization that historically served the African American community.

Over the years, other branches sprang up and just as quickly disappeared. YWCA centers were established at factories like the North American Lace Company and the Collins Box Factory, while mini-centers, boarding houses, and cafeterias were opened in North and West Philadelphia. By the early twenty-first century, however, the YWCA no longer had a presence in Philadelphia.