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Our History

YWCA Evanston/North Shore has been an essential part of the fabric of this community since 1931, providing a safe place for women and girls in which they can reach their fullest potential. Over the years, our programs and services have changed to meet the needs of the communities we serve.

1931 

YWCA Evanston/North Shore was founded in Evanston as a branch of the Chicago YWCA. We provided housing, support, and programs for women who had left their rural homes to find jobs in the city.

1947

We were incorporated independently with a separate board of directors. During the next decade, we continued to focus on providing safe housing for single women living independently and programming for teen girls and women.

1969

YWCA moved to its current location on the northwest corner of Ridge and Church Streets, and construction began on a new activities building with a regulation-size swimming pool, gymnasium, and classrooms.

The new building offered room for continuing the residence for working women; an active day care and after-school programming for children; swimming lessons for mothers and children; and recreational programs. Youth services included educational programs and leadership development.

1983

The Shelter for Battered Women and Their Children (renamed Mary Lou’s Place in 2006) was initiated as a joint project with the Evanston/North Shore Junior League.

1992

In 1992, YWCA Flying Fish Aquatics was founded and has grown quickly in numbers and reputation.

1996

Legal Advocacy Program at Skokie Courthouse started in order to provide legal remedies to survivors of domestic violence.

1997

Violence Prevention Program started in schools.

2006

The Ricky Byrdsong Memorial Race Against Hate, founded by Sherialyn Byrdsong and her family and friends in 2000, was entrusted to YWCA to steward into the future.

Second pool completed, providing warm, shallow water for swim instruction.

2008

The annual YWomen Leadership Awards were established to recognize the outstanding contributions women in our community have made towards empowering women and eliminating racism.

Financial Literacy Program started for women in accessing domestic violence services.

2009

Relationship Violence Prevention renamed Building Healthy Relationships, and expanded to include curriculum for middle school and high school youth. Campus Dating Violence program started.

2010

Financial Literacy program renamed Basic Money Management and expanded to community.

2011

Racial Justice program (now called Equity Institute) formally begins with Community Conversations on Race Series, Let’s Talk at Lunch, and Anti-Racism Training.

2012

Since 2012, YWCA Evanston/North Shore has sponsored the Stand Against Racism, an annual event held the last Friday in April that draws 10,000 participants. The Stand Against Racism encourages communities and community members to acknowledge racial inequity and work for change.

2016

Annual Equity Summit was founded as a way to bring people of all ages and demographics together to deepen their understanding of their own racial identities, develop sills to work for change, formulate action plans, and engage with others.

2018

Acquired in July of 2018, YWCA Shop for Good is a social enterprise for YWCA Evanston/North Shore. The women’s resale boutique is located at 1101 Central Avenue in Wilmette.