History

For more than 100 years, the YWCA of Greater Milwaukee has been a resource for women and their families. From the first auto mechanics trainings for women in the 1920s, to the first racially-integrated cafeteria in the Midwest, to today’s innovative economic development initiatives, the YWCA has been at the forefront of social changes.

Year Event
1892 Two hundred women sign a petition to form the YWCA of Greater Milwaukee.
1894 With an annual budget of $2,000 the YWCA headquarters moved to Mason Street, which had a gymnasium and lunch room.
1896 YWCA creates Genessee Camp in Oconomowoc, WI. The camp serves 100 women in its first season, providing summer fun for a mere $2.50 per person.
1898 YWCA opens the first cafeteria in the Midwest, providing respite and camaraderie for “factory girls” and shop workers in the city.
1901 YWCA opens its first building at 626 N. Jackson, which was donated by Elizabeth Plankinton.
1917 The Blue Triangle and the Grace Dodge House residences open to accommodate the influx of working women arriving to the city of Milwaukee to help with World War I efforts.
1923 Alice Bartlett becomes Executive Director and remains in the position for 20 years. Her motto: “Grace, Grit, and Greenbacks.”
1931 To continue meeting the needs of Milwaukee women, a new activities center opens at 610 N. Jackson St. Construction of the center was made possible with the help of a $470,000 building fund campaign.
1946 The Girl Reserves Group is renamed the Y-Teens to capture the needs of a new generation.
1950s $75,000 is raised to convert a market into a north side center at 2578 N. 8th St. The center’s purpose — increase interracial membership.
1972 The National Convention in Cleveland resulted in adoption of the YWCA’s ONE IMPERATIVE, “to eliminate racism wherever it exists.”
1974 The north side center at 3940 N. 21st St. is renamed the YWCA Vel Phillips Center.
1986 YWCA adopts a long-range strategic plan focusing on programs to foster economic self-sufficiency for low-to-moderate income women, girls, teens, senior women and single parent-headed households.
1988 Transitional Housing Program begins serving homeless women and their children.
1991 The First Annual Racial Justice Convocation is held in January. The YWCA receives Racial Justice Award from the National YWCA of the USA for its efforts to improve race relations.
1992 The YWCA celebrates a century of service to Milwaukee area women and their families.
1994 YW Villages, 171 units of rehabilitated low-to-moderate income housing for women, men, seniors, and children, opens for leasing.
1995 YWCA Women’s Enterprise Center opens — a new location for a one-stop network of services aimed at helping women and their families achieve self-sufficiency.
1996 YWCA forms YW Works, a limited liability corporation, to help transition individuals from welfare to work.
1997 YWCA creates Generation 2 Plastics, a plastics processing plant supplying injection molding and compounding products to the plastics industry while serving as a workplace skills training center.
1997 Historic restoration of King Heights, a 23-unit apartment building with commercial storefronts that provides affordable housing for low to moderate income families, is complete.
1999 YWCA opens YW Global Career Academy a public charter school for grades K4 through fifth
1999 YWCA opens Creative Workshop, an employment-training program designed to provide women with a creative work experience in an environment that promotes problem solving and sharing among participants.
2000 James W. Anderson Building opens in Capitol Drive/Teutonia Avenue neighborhood. Restored building offers affordable senior housing and retail storefronts.
2001 YWCA develops new and enhanced approach to customer service called Customer Relationship Management (CRM) to streamline customer service, assuring full access to all resources the agency has to offer.
2001 YW Works completes competitive bid process and is selected by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development to administer the W-2 program in a second, larger geographical area.
2001 YWCA begins planning for the expansion of girls and women’s leadership programming.
2002 YWCA holds first-ever Celebrating Today’s African American Sheroes — a Black history recognition luncheon honoring African American women.
2002 Workforce Training Center (WTC) opens. A partnership of the YWCA of Greater Milwaukee and the Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership (WRTP), the WTC brings together the best in workforce development and human-service programming for employees, unions, and community residents in the greater Milwaukee area.