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History & mission

Collaborating with a broad east metro network, YWCA St. Paul anchors the Summit-University community and reaches out to neighbors in greater St. Paul and Ramsey County.

Every year, we help individuals and families in our community reach their goals and improve their quality of life by addressing community needs in four core areas: Housing & Supportive Services, Youth Development, Health & Wellness, and Employment & Economic Development.


YWCA St. Paul is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.

Key Documents

History of YWCA St. Paul

YWCA St. Paul was started by a group of forward-thinking St. Paul women 13 years before women had the right to vote! Founded to provide refuge and support for the young women who moved to St. Paul pursuing work in the factories and mills, our programs have continued to evolve to meet changing community needs. Today we change minds, bodies and lives by providing programs and services for women, men, children and families.

1910s photo of two women with suitcases opening heavy door


YWCA St. Paul’s first building, constructed in 1911 on Fifth Street in downtown St. Paul, included a gym, club and classrooms, an auditorium and a 100-bed residence. YWCA St. Paul went on to foster the growth of agencies such as the Hallie Q. Brown Neighborhood Center, Travelers Aid, International Institute and Capitol Community Services.

1920s black and white photo of a woman working with equipment


YWCA St. Paul programs for women included education in business skills, home arts, physical fitness and arts and crafts. Office and meeting space was provided for other women’s organizations such as the Campfire Girls and the League of Women Voters.

1930s photo of group of people sitting around table


In the 1930s, YWCA St. Paul focused its programs on job assistance and counseling as well as programs for women in business and industry. The agency also hosted the first Festival of Nations in 1932.

1940s photo of multi ethnic woman huddled around table looking at map


YWCA St. Paul was active on the home front during World War II, providing support for women entering the labor force as well as support for servicemen and women through the USO and relief efforts.

1950s photo of girls getting out of a car with tennis rackets


The 1950s brought a focus on educational and recreational programs, including programming in public housing projects. Other programs included co-ed clubs, Homemaker’s Holidays, child care, dance and young adult programs.

1960s black and white photo of movers moving furniture into a building


In 1961, YWCA St. Paul opened its new facility on Kellogg Boulevard in St. Paul, providing space for rooms to rent to women in transition, programming, a full gym and swimming pool, gallery, gift shop, cafe and rental space for organizations such as the Jewish Community Center and Wilder Foundation.

1970s photo of boy child jumping off pool ledge into his mother's arms


With a focus on helping women move into the job market, the 1970s also saw an increase in YWCA St. Paul physical education, as well as recreation and children’s programs.

1980s photo of african american mother and her child


YWCA St. Paul served women and children experiencing homelessness with the first emergency shelter in the state and the first site-based transitional housing program in the Twin Cities.

1990s photo of YWCA St. Paul's building exterior


YWCA St. Paul moved to its present location in St. Paul’s Summit-University neighborhood and expanded facilities and services for the Transitional Housing Program.

200s photo of child holding a photo of himself dressed up as a chef


In 2007, YWCA St. Paul celebrated its centennial and raised more than $2.5 million to enhance and endow its programs and services to meet evolving community needs.

CEO Gaye Adams Massey with Imam Makram El-Amin


Today, YWCA St. Paul serves the community in four core areas: Housing & Supportive Services, Youth Development, Health & Wellness, and Employment & Economic Development. The agency is also a voice in advancing racial justice and gender equity through advocacy and community conversations.

Be part of YWCA St. Paul's powerful legacy.