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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


Violence Prevention Program started in schools.


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.


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.


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


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


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


Since 2012, YWCA Evanston/North Shore has sponsored the Stand Against Racism (now called Unite 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.


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.


YW Culinary was launched, a 12-week job training program designed to prepare women for success in Chicagoland’s vibrant food service industry.

YWCA Shop for Good was acquired as a social enterprise for YWCA Evanston/North Shore. The women’s resale boutique, located at 1101 Central Avenue in Wilmette, provides low cost clothing and volunteer opportunities, and 100% of profits help support YWCA’s domestic violence and economic empowerment programs.


We were gifted a sister shop for women’s consignment, YWCA Crowded Closet, at 820 Dempster Street in Evanston.


YW Tech Lab (initially known as YWeb Career Academy) was launched in partnership with Oakton Community College. YW Tech Lab provides education in digital skills to traditionally underrepresented or vulnerable populations, such as women of color, survivors of domestic violence, and low-wage workers.

We completed the expansion of our campus and re-opened to the public!