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A Rich History

YWCA Minneapolis is a nonprofit organization founded in 1891 as a member of YWCA USA, the oldest and largest multicultural organization in the world. We have a long and proud history, pursuing our mission of eliminating racism and empowering women that continues today. Today we serve over 30,000 people each year through award-winning programs, classes and workshops.

On a Mission for 130 Years

Timeline: 1891 - Present


YWCA Minneapolis is founded with quarters in a small second floor flat at 45 South Eighth Street. Its objective was to provide a place where working girls and women could eat lunch.


YWCA moves to 4th Street South to a location on the second floor, above a store.


YWCA relocates to 808 Nicollet Mall. The first floor contains a gymnasium and a dressing room. The women's vigorous exercise is halted when a burly Minneapolis policeman comes to the door to see what is shaking the building.


YWCA moves to “splendid” new quarters at 512 First Avenue South which includes space for offices, restrooms, a library, a cafeteria, a classroom, dressing rooms and a gymnasium on the third floor.


W.S. Benton secretly buys a plot of land on South 7th Street to donate to YWCA.


YWCA opens its doors at 89 South Seventh Street – one of the first buildings to be owned and operated by women in the state of Minnesota.


Emma Benton raises $10,000 to build a YWCA pool so girls have a place to swim year-round.


First YWCA Minneapolis pool is completed.


South Town YWCA branch opens at Bloomington Avenue and Lake Street.


Mr. Fredrick W. Lyman donates his summer home on Lake Minnetonka, along with all the furniture in the house, to YWCA. The camp is named "Elizabeth Lyman Lodge" after Mr. Lyman's late wife.


The YWCA Business and Professional Women’s Club is organized.


June: The first capital funds drive raises more than a million dollars in 10 days for a new building. The theme of the campaign is “What’s a Girl Worth in Minneapolis?”


YWCA’s new building is located at its current site of 1130 Nicollet Mall.


Phebe Mae Givens is the first African American woman elected to YWCA Minneapolis’ board of directors.


YWCA offers the first racially integrated swimming pool in the Twin Cities.


Interracial Charter is adopted by the 17th YWCA National Convention; 35 recommendations of the Interracial Study Commission are accepted, including the inclusion of African American women and girls in the mainstream of Association life.


YWCA Camp Mekahga opens on Lake Pokegama near Grand Rapids, MN.


YWCA begins providing pregnancy prevention programming for teens. YWCA holds a three-day seminar at Lyman Lodge with the purpose of combating racism.


Ruth Hawkins Center (at North Commons Park) opens in North Minneapolis through a gift of $100,000 from the estate of Ms. Ruth Hawkins who grew up on the north side. She was a devoted YWCA supporter.


Meeting of Native American Women of YWCA is held in Minneapolis, MN.


New YWCA Minneapolis building opens at 1130 Nicollet Mall. It is home to the organization’s administrative offices along with providing health and fitness facilities and the first Children’s Center.


YWCA Uptown opens at 2808 Hennepin Avenue after being converted from the West High School gym.


YWCA Minneapolis Phillips Children’s Center opens as the second child care center to meet the needs of families in the community.


Lyman Lodge is sold.


YWCA Minneapolis hosts first signature fundraising event, Circle of Women.


YWCA Midtown and urban sports center opens upon the successful completion of the $21.4 million capital campaign chaired by Sue Bennett, Peggy Burnet and Kathy Farley. It is the largest YWCA health and fitness center in the country and includes YWCA’s third child care center.


YWCA board of directors establishes the Racial Justice Department to actively work in the community on eliminating racism through public forums, community dialogues and unlearning racism workshops.


YWCA holds the first annual community forum on race relations, It’s Time To Talk: Forums on Race™.


YWCA Children’s Center at Abbott Northwestern Hospital opens. This center includes multi-cultural English language-based care, as well as Spanish and Somali language-based care.


YWCA Minneapolis Girls Inc. is a new affiliate member of Girls Incorporated, the oldest girl-centered organization in the United States.


Fifteen YWCA Channel Challenge swimmers cross the English Channel to raise awareness of racial disparities in swimming in Minnesota and raise money for YWCA Swim for Change programs. The youth and adult relay teams are the first from Minnesota to swim from England to France.


YWCA USA celebrates its sesquicentennial – 150 years of working to eliminate racism and empower women.


First YWCA Women’s Triathlon celebrating the strength in all women is held. Five hundred women and girls ages 14-71 swim 500 yards, bike 15 miles and run a 5K. Nearly half are first-time triathletes.


YWCA Phillips Children’s Center closes; children and staff successfully transition into other three centers.


YWCA Children’s Center at Downtown is recognized as an Engaging Diverse Families exemplary program by the National Association for the Education of Young Children — the world’s largest organization working on behalf of young children. Our Early Childhood Education program is one of only 10 programs nationwide to receive this honor.


YWCA Minneapolis is honored with the 2011 Nonprofit Excellence Award from MAP for Nonprofits and the Minnesota Council on Nonprofits. YWCA is recognized for its effective leadership, quality governance, successful strategic initiatives and smart management. This is one of the highest awards a Minnesota nonprofit can achieve.


The Early Childhood Education department adds more centers to serve 850+ children and families annually in Minneapolis and St. Paul.


The Power to Soar™ comprehensive campaign chaired by Susan Denk, Rebecca Driscoll and Lana Slavitt successfully completed raising over $22.5 million for key building infrastructure work and renovations, expansion of programs for girls and youth, growth of racial justice consulting business and significant planned gifts to keep the mission and vision vital and strong into the future.


YWCA Children’s Center at Saint Paul College discontinues operations due to decisions by the college. Children and staff successfully transition into the Hubbs Center and other YWCA centers.


YWCA Minneapolis marks 125 years of being at the forefront of social justice change focused on racial justice and empowering women.


YWCA Downtown renovation completed with new entrance signage and renovation of early childhood classrooms, fitness locker rooms and administration space.


YWCA Infant Center at General Mills discontinues operations.


YWCA Minneapolis holds community conversations commemorating the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.


YWCA Minneapolis presents the inaugural Woman of Power Award to Kim Nelson.


Kate Berman, beloved Board Chair passes away on April 9.


To accommodate families’ needs during the pandemic, our Early Childhood Education and Girls and Youth programs add part-time child care options and distance-learning support.


Our Health and Wellness on-demand workout videos and YWCA Live! virtual fitness classes are launched and free to all.


YWCA Minneapolis presents the Woman of Power Award to Shelley Carthen Watson.


First cohort of Eureka! participants graduate from 5-year program.


YWCA opens the Minneapolis Sports Center to distribute food and essential supplies to neighbors, serving 600 people a week in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder.


YWCA Minneapolis celebrates the 25th anniversary and sunsets its signature fundraising event Circle of Women.


YWCA Minneapolis presents the Woman of Power award to Maria Gonzalez.


In partnership with Children’s Minnesota, YWCA Minneapolis hosts a COVID-19 panel discussion and vaccine clinic helping the community make informed decisions about the vaccine and get vaccinated.


Shelley Carthen Watson is named as YWCA Minneapolis’ first African American president & chief executive officer.


YWCA Minneapolis hosts Race Against Racism 5K. More than 450 racers attended this family-friendly, community event.


YWCA Minneapolis presents the Woman of Power Award to Duchess Harris.


YWCA Minneapolis presents the inaugural Kate Berman Leadership Award to Wenda Weekes Moore.