The Following chronicles the history of the YWCA of Genesee County since its inception through the 1960’s. It is taken from a document that appears to have been written in the 1970’s, and starts with the story of a group of extremely dedicated women who had a vision and began a mission. It’s a really interesting history to read.
In the Spring of 1909, the women of Batavia decided an organization was needed to provide for the spiritual, moral, social and physical condition of young women. A need for residence rooms for young women was also identified. After some informal discussions, the women decided to apply for membership in the YWCA of the USA. Mrs. Frances G Francis was selected as the first President.
There were some doubts about the ability of the group to raise the necessary funds and members to receive a YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association) charter in such a small community. However, by mid-August there were 350 members, and several thousand dollars had been raised. The women met with some resistance from the men in the community, some of whom felt frankly that women should be staying at home. Mrs. Francis and her group of Directors persevered, however, pointing out to the men that “They had eight organizations for men… Don’t you think the men should be generous enough to help girls have one place where they will be kept from the temptations of the street?” The YWCA State organizer came in September 1909, and 78 new members were signed up that day (out of a population of 14,000).
The Association’s first rooms were rented on the third floor of the Masonic Temple Building, located on the corner of State and Main Street. A secretary, Miss Woodford, was secured. There was a cafeteria open to the public (the very first such facility in the county), and classes were given in sewing, bible study, and cooking. Another very popular program was the physical education program which gave frequent exhibitions that were observed by as many as 200 people. But mostly, the organization was a haven for working girls of limited means and women who desperately needed a social outlet.
The Association Charter was signed on February 2, 1910. With the signing, the Batavia YWCA was officially on its way as part of the YWCA USA, then known as the Young Women’s Christian Association of the USA.
The women were happy with how much they had accomplished but did want to own a home of their own. In May 1911, the women set about raising funds to purchase a permanent home. A $5,000 donation from Miss Huntley (an Area philanthropist) was matched with other funds – and with that $10,000, the Bierce home on the corner of Main and Summit Street, was purchased. The cost was $8,400, leaving $1,600 to begin work on a gymnasium, which the Directors felt was essential to the continued success of the organization. A campaign for the additional $8,000 needed was begun, but unfortunately fell short of its goal. Several of the Directors agreed to take out a mortgage in order to raise the money, and the gym was built. With that the women of the YWCA were on their way, building a rich legacy of action for social change within the community and finding a network of support within each other.
On January 26th, 1912, the Certificate of Incorporation for the YWCA of Batavia, NY was approved by the State of New York. Directors and witnesses listed on the Certificate include: Frances G. Francis, Frances Chaddock, Laura Sheppard, Alice Judd, Amy Collett, Emily Stickle, Isabella Gardner, Aenide Mathes, Ettie Ware, Emma Savage, Eva Parker, Helen Sherwin, Bertha Woodward, Anna Stein, gertrude Hamilton, Emma Jacks, Amaznda Farrall, Sarah Blount, Mary Hill, Sophia Steese, Maude Mount, Louise Woodford, Mabel Boyd, Julia Tarbox, Valera Breese and A. Cheney Spofford.
If you are a descendant of any of our founders and would like to share any information about them or the YWCA that you have we would love to listen and find out more about these amazing women.
Please come by the YWCA 301 North Street Batavia NY or you can reach us at 585.343.5808 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org