History

The Young Women's Christian Association of the University of Texas (later known as the University Y, and now known as YWCA Greater Austin) was founded in 1885 and chartered in 1893. During that period, YWCA provided social opportunities for women students consisting of Bible study, prayer groups, gospel singing and support of overseas missionary efforts in China. YWCA was incorporated in the state of Texas in 1907 and housed on the University of Texas campus. Members met in the Old Main Building until it was torn down in 1931.

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    1920's

    • Throughout the 1920s, YWCA maintained an employment bureau for women students to find work as tutors, housekeeping staff, clerical workers and teachers. 
    • March 1920: YWCA collaborated with YWCA National to establish Austin's International Institute at 408 Nueces Street. It was established "in the heart of one of Austin's principal Mexican neighborhoods...to promote a better understanding between native and foreign-born people and to help the foreign-born become adjusted to the U.S. and its institutions." 
    • YWCA bought a lot at 2330 Guadalupe named the Varsity Building. This two story building still stands; it served as rental property for several community businesses for many years. The building was sold in the mid 1990s.

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    1930's-1940's

    • 1937: the YWCA joined the Young Men's Christian Association of the University of Texas (YMCA) in their building at 2200 Guadalupe (where the Church of Scientology stands now). Known as the University Y, a close working relationship developed for over 40 years between YWCA and YMCA. 
    • The "liberal" image of the University Y was established as students became active in the anti-war movement, inter-racial ventures and the support of organized labor. During the late 30s, the Texas legislature even investigated the University Y as "a hotbed of Communism". 
    • Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, the University Y partnered with City of Austin Recreation Department to work with the youth organizations and playground groups.  

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    1950's-1960's

    • The University Y participated in desegregation efforts. In support of racial justice and civil rights, Y students engaged in a "sit in" at the lunch counter of the Renfro Drug Store in the Varsity Building. 
    • During this time, while partnering with the Austin Independent School District, the University Y had a very active tutoring program involving over 300 volunteers, and a breakfast program that served meals to elementary students in the St. Johns neighborhood.
    • The University Y's long-standing interest in civil rights and social action led to increased controversy in the late 1960s as the Vietnam War heightened tensions and divisions in society.
    • In the fall of 1969, opposition to the University Y's "Open Door" policy allowing the use of the Varsity Building by groups such as the Austin Draft Information Center, the Student Mobilization Committee and The Rag, resulted in the YWCA losing tax exempt status for a short time.

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    1970's-1980's

    • In 1970 the 2200 Guadalupe building was torn down and the University Y moved into YWCA's the Varsity Building. 
    • Middle Earth Drug Crisis Center and the Women's Awareness Group were among the most active of the Y programs in the 1970s. 
    • YWCA grew and nurtured such programs as co-operative day-care facilities, the American Institute for Learning (American YouthWorks), Austin Community Gardens, Gay Community Services, Jail Arts and Education Program, and the Student Association. The University Y also established Communiversity, which provided free classes such as yoga, dance, photography, auto repair, and many other community activities.
    • 1982: The University YWCA/YMCA separated, but the University YWCA continued to grow its programs and activities. 
    • YWCA's LeaderLuncheon was the first annual event in Austin to recognize women in the Austin community for outstanding leadership in public service, as well as racial and social justice. 
    • Womenspace, the women's peer counseling program, changed its name to Women's Counseling and Referral Center (WCRC). The program became a professional counseling center with licensed mental health providers. An internship program was also started for students from the University of Texas School of Social Work. All WCRC services to women were at no-charge until the early 80s. Due to additional office expenses and paid professional counselors, YWCA began charging $5.00 for a one hour session. 
    • In the mid-80s, WCRC began its own annual fundraising event that ran for several years called the WCRC Therapist's Social.
    • YWCA's Austin Women's Addiction Resource and Education (AWARE) Center became an ongoing program in the mid 80s. It was the first all-women's outpatient treatment program in Texas that offered counseling, groups, support and referrals to women struggling with issues of alcohol and/or drug abuse.  Overeaters Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and Alcoholic Anonymous meetings were held at the AWARE house. Symposiums were held annually featuring well-known speakers in the addiction field.

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    1990's

    • YWCA's ENCOREplus program provided breast and cervical cancer outreach, education and advocacy to medically underserved or uninsured women. This service was the first of its kind in Austin to be offered with a partnership of South Austin Medical Center and YWCA.
    • YWCA's annual recognition fundraising dinners, (The Lives They Touched, laterYWCA Women of the Year Awards Gala) honored women for their outstanding work in helping create better lives for women in Austin and work for social and racial justice.  
    • WCRC's counseling intern partnership continued with the University of Texas School of Social Work, and the program added Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State University in San Marcos) and St. Edward's University to its roster for training clinical mental health providers. 
    • YWCA's Youth Program offered counseling, groups and creative activities to children, adolescents and their parents. The Youth Program counselors visited several Austin elementary and middle schools to provide services.

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    2000's

    • Common Ground, a program to assist separated or divorced parents in the visitation exchange of their children, was created. It offered supervised visitation, individual counseling for parents, and referrals.  
    • Generation YW was a renaming of the Youth Program started in the 90s.  GenYW served adolescent girls from several Austin middle and high schools, teaching behavioral health skills. Girls participated in groups at their schools or City of Austin Housing Authority sites and attended cultural events. As funding expanded, the program extended to serve girls in the outlying counties which included Blanco, Burnet, Fayetteville, Llano, and Williamson. Groups for adolescent boys were later added.

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    2010's

    • Volunteer and Training Institute offers therapists and others working in the mental health field an opportunity to learn new skills, network and gain continuing education hours through training, workshops, and internship/volunteer opportunities.
    • YWCA began hosting Monthly Dialogues on Issues of Race and Discrimination. The dialgoues are a space for frank discussions, reflection, and contemplation of the psychological and emotional impact that racism/discrimination have on the individual and the community. These discussions also offer the opportunity to engage with others, develop personal awareness, and make connections.
    • 2017: The Women of the Year Awards Gala was rebranded as The Fabulous People Party. This annual event celebrates Austinites who have shown service to the community through their work to empower women and eliminate racism. Community leaders are recognized in the following categories: Ally Award, #NewRadical, Woman of Color Leading Change and the Legacy Award.
    • 2019: The Generation YW program came to an end due to a loss of funding.
    • Erected our first Dia de los Muertos altar and commemoration to those who are no longer with us because of injustice and inequities.