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Guide to the Young Women's Christian Association of La Crosse Records, 1907-1989 MSS 024

Guide to the Young Women's Christian Association of La Crosse Records, 1907-1989

MSS 024

Summary Information

Records of a women's organization in La Crosse, Wisconsin, affiliated in 1907 with its parent national organization. Founded locally in 1903, the group seeks to "advance the physical, social, intellectual, moral and spiritual interests" of young women. The modern, national statement of purpose includes the goal of "peace and justice, freedom and dignity for all people."

The records include historical materials, board minutes and committee materials (1907-1981), executive files (1907-1938; 1965-1989), incomplete financial materials (1933-1987), and buildings and grounds materials (1961-1987). Also included are materials of several Y.W.C.A. clubs such as Newcomers (1963-1968), Round Table (1933-1987) and Y-Teens (1959-1970).
Collection Title
Young Women's Christian Association of La Crosse Records
Date of Materials
Young Women's Christian Association (La Crosse, Wis.).
Call Number
MSS 024
13.6 cubic feet
General Physical Description note
20 archives boxes, 2 record center cartons, 1 flat box, 3 large flat boxes
Language of Materials
La Crosse Public Library Archives

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Young Women's Christian Association Records, MSS 024, La Crosse Public Library Archives, La Crosse, WI

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Historical Note

The La Crosse, Wisconsin, branch of the Young Women's Christian Association (Y.W.C.A.) first met at the home of Miss Lucy Hogan on March 31, 1903. Fifteen members were in attendance. Miss Anna Goodland was elected president; Lucy Hogan, vice president; Mrs. John M. Holley Sr., trustee; and Mrs. W.W. Withee, trustee. Twenty-one members served on the board of directors. The original committees established included devotional, financial, membership, [residence] rooms, educational, noon rest, social, extension, and physical training.

Classes with volunteer teachers were begun and covered such subjects as foreign language, mandolin, and Bible. Sunday vespers were also instituted as a way for women who worked on Sunday to participate in a religious, nondenominational worship service. The extension committee sponsored clubs for junior girls as well as women employed in La Crosse industries. The Pearl Button factory, for example, had special recreation rooms designed for exercise and relaxation.

The association rented two to three rooms above the Coren Dry Goods store at 420 Main Street. With the help of trustees L.C. Colman and Frank Hixon, the group purchased the former Mons Anderson property at 410 Cass Street in July 1905 with $5000 and a $2800 loan. At that time, classes were conducted in sewing, cooking and English as a second language. As the vocational and evening school movement gradually developed in La Crosse, the need for such instruction by the Y.W. was no longer in demand.

The barn on the property was remodeled into a gymnasium in the spring of 1906. Lunches were served to working women in the downtown area. This was very profitable and was a great source of revenue for the Y.W. until the outbreak of World War I. During the war years, food prices inflated and the program was dropped. In 1916 the library was remodeled to accommodate ten more dormitory spaces. The association also rented the Cameron home at 424 South 4th Street as a dormitory annex.

In September of 1906 the local group joined the national Y.W.C.A. Although men were not allowed to serve on the board of directors, they could continue to serve as trustees. The following year the state Y.W. convention was held in La Crosse, and in 1908-1909, the organization incorporated. By 1913, the local chapter had grown to 1000 members.

Due to the large number of members, the Y.W. used the former Mons Anderson home for 13 years and then moved back downtown to 420 Main Street in early 1919. The second and third floors of the building were rented this time. Both floors were extensively remodelled, and the third floor became a gymnasium. The cafeteria continued until more restaurants were established downtown. However, hot soup was still offered.

Four "secretaries" as they were called were employed by the Y.W. The general secretary (executive director) earned $115 per month; gym secretary (physical fitness coordinator) $110 per month; girls (youth programming) $100 per month; and office (clerical) $70 per month. In 1919 the Girl Reserves began a long association with the Y.W. Their purpose was to "train teenage girls for leadership through self-governing clubs." In 1947 they became known as Y-Teens. A "health center" was also popular. Two evenings a week young women were given free medical exams and corrective gymnastics. At this time, 447 women and girls were enrolled in gym classes. During World War I, activities included basketball, swimming, and military drill. Red Cross work also attracted many Y.W. members. $7000 for the War Fund Campaign was raised in one day in April 1917 by 60 women.

The Round Table Club was formed in 1923 and in 1926 memberships were changed from church memberships to a personal membership. The board was increased to 24 members. Card parties were allowed beginning in 1929, but mixed dancing parties were taboo until 1931.

In 1931, the Elsie Gile Scott mansion located at Main Street and West Avenue went on the real estate market, and the association decided to purchase the estate. Known as "Pasadena," the property was secured with $5000 down, the $15,000 balance due in $1000 annual payments. The first floor was used as club meeting rooms and offices. Rooms on the second and third floors were rented to young women. The home provided space for 30 women in residence. The barn on the property was redesigned to be a gym and was later used as the youth center or "Teen Arena."

In 1945 the mortgage was paid off and some improvements to the facility were made the following year. The Y.W.C.A. became a member of the reorganized Community Chest in 1949.

By 1960, program space for the Y.W. was at a premium. To accommodate all the women who wanted to use the facility for exercise and physical fitness programming, the board decided to build an addition on the premises. A plan was drawn up by Carl Schubert & Associates architectural firm. A separate gym, auditorium, and locker rooms would occupy the new building. The Y.W.C.A had been using the Y.M.C.A. facilities for aquatic programs.

Since the Y.M.C.A. was also anxious to launch a building fund campaign, the United Fund (now called the United Way) urged the two groups to combine efforts into a joint owned and operated building. This way, the United Fund directors thought, the La Crosse community would be asked for money only once rather than twice within two years by similar groups.

The boards began efforts to cooperate, and a Joint Advisory Committee was formed consisting of Russell Aldrich, Mrs. Raymond Hutson, Allen Menke, Mrs. Burt Smith, David Nudd, Mrs. Carl Iverson, Ken Dahl, Mrs. John Custer, Ted Griffen and Elizabeth Simpson. Eventually an operating agreement was decided upon, and in 1963 a professional fund raising group was hired to help get a campaign fund underway.

Each group would maintain its own programming and staff but the building would be owned and operated jointly. The Board of Trustees of the Y.M.C.A. and the Board of Trustees of the Y.W.C.A. both owned the building equally. The Joint Executive Committee was set up to coordinate general building policies and establish the budget for shared expenses.

The Joint Fund Campaign kicked off fund raising efforts in April 1966. A total of 1,174 pledges worth $1,326,681 were gathered. The Y.M.C.A. building services consultants were contracted by the local Y.M.-Y.W. to work with Carl Schubert & Associates architects in establishing guidelines for space and furnishings, particularly in relation to the natatorium and gymnasium areas. The financial goal was accomplished with the help of 200 volunteers who contacted corporations and citizens.

An auction was held on July 24, 1967, to sell off furniture, stained glass windows, paneling, light fixtures, fireplaces and the like from the Scott Mansion. The auction brought in $6,000 which was put into the building fund. Out of building funds, a temporary quarters was purchased for the Y.W. "The White House" at 110 West Ave. South was home during the two years of construction. The new joint building opened officially November 24, 1969. More than 5,000 people attended the first open house.

The new 70,000-square-foot building included a double-court gym, an Olympic-size swimming pool, locker rooms, showers, three handball courts, workout rooms, "women's health club," "men's athletic club," game room, a multi-purpose room, four meeting rooms, a play-school, nursery, hobby room and offices.

In early 1971 officers of the United Fund recommended the operation of the Y.M. and Y.W. be under one executive director. At that time the Y.W. was searching for a new executive director. However, to retain national affiliation, the local organization was required to have a voting woman director and control over its own budget and programs.

The combined membership of the Y.W. and Y.M. in 1969 was approximately 2,000. By 1972, that figure had increased dramatically, so more land adjacent to the joint facility was purchased. One house was demolished and one home and two duplexes were retained as rental property.

Through a "Second Mile" fund campaign, an addition to the building completed in 1976 included a gymnastics gym and three handball courts. The cost was $362,000. Yet the dream of adding a women's fitness center went unfulfilled due to high construction costs and inflation. The center was to include lockers, exercise area, massage room, lounge, whirlpool, sauna, snooze room, showers, make-up areas and hair dryers.

In the fall of 1977 representatives of the La Crosse community met under the auspices of the Y.W. to address problems confronted by battered women. As a result, the New Horizons shelter opened in May 1978 to aid battered women. The shelter sponsors support groups and aids women through court proceedings in addition to providing temporary shelter for domestic abuse victims and families. On January 1, 1993, the program split completely from the umbrella support of the Y.W.C.A.

In 1980 a task force was created to serve as a long range planning committee for both groups. Members of both the Y.W. and Y.M. and others unaffiliated with either group made up the task force. The group recommended that one joint board of the Y.M. and Y.W. control all money and property of the two groups. Separate directors would continue to be responsible for their group but co-ed activities, fund raising and membership would be the responsibility of each.

In 1983 the idea of a "Family Y" was publicly discussed in newspaper articles between members of the Y.W. and Y.M. The Y.W.C.A. felt that a merger would result in a power struggle to control expansion plans and goals of the combined agency. The Y.M. board accepted the plan but the Y.W. rejected the idea.

A new joint operating agreement was reached in late 1984 to make better use of the crowded physical facilities. Some programs, such as Special Olympics, fitness programs and social dance classes, began to be offered jointly.

In early 1987 feuding between the two organizations again occupied local newspaper headlines. The Y.M.C.A. announced a name change on January 5, 1987, to the La Crosse Family Y. Membership was opened to women and girls as well as men and boys either as a family or as individuals. The Y.W.C.A. officials felt the name change was a "deliberate attempt to confuse the public," and voiced concern over competition for membership of women and girls. Before the change, both groups honored the others' members into their programs without charging non-member fees for classes. When the Y.M.C.A. shifted its focus to the family membership, this agreement changed.

On September 15, 1992, the Y.W.C.A. moved out of the joint facility, selling its half of the building and equipment to the Y.M.C.A. for $535,000. The Y.W. decided the costs of maintaining the building and equipment were too great, and that the group wanted to pursue other goals than just physical fitness. The headquarters is now located in rented office space in Onalaska, Wisconsin.

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Scope and Contents

This collection of records of the La Crosse, Wisconsin, affiliate of the national Young Women's Christian Association is well documented through a variety of written documents and images. Probably the three most important materials that are lacking are the first board minute book (1903-1906); photographs that date before the 1940s; and written reports generated by staff. However, a complete set of board minutes from 1907-1987 and scrapbooks from 1922-1981 help to fill in most of these gaps.

The collection is a good source of women's history. Such a complete set of board minutes illuminate the issues these women felt were important. In the very early days, programs and publicity were aimed at women who worked in factories. These women made the most use of the facilities.

The collection series are arranged in the following manner: Historical Materials, Board of Directors Materials, Board OF Trustees Materials, Executive Files, Financial Materials, Buildings & Grounds Materials, and finally Y.W.C.A. Clubs.

The Historical Materials include general essays about the La Crosse Y.W.C.A. history, photographs, movie film (16 mm), some loose clippings, and scrapbooks, 1927-1981. Photographs are broken down into several subseries: board & staff, camp, clubs, conventions, events, facilities, and programs.

The Board OF Directors Materials include constitution and by-laws (1910-1980); annual reports (1932-1937; 1957; 1964-1988); lists of board members and committee assignments; committee materials; minimal correspondence (1925-1935); and minutes (1907-1987). Minimal correspondence exists from the board, and more recent correspondence can be found under Executive Files--Correspondence. The board minutes from 1907-1987 are complete.

The committees are further subdivided and arranged alphabetically: action audit for change (1968-1981); adult (1972-1975); adult creative activities (1975-1980); all association (1974-1980); association nominating (1969-1980); bequests & endowments (1978-1980), camp (1923-1928; 1938; 1969-1974); executive (1943-1987); finance (1933-1935; 1969-1986); health education & industrial (1933-1938); health, physical education & recreation (H.P.E.R.) (1967-1981); H.P.E.R. aquatics subcommittee (1971-1983); house (1932-1937); long range planning (1975-1985); membership (1950-1986); outreach & special populations (1974-1982), personnel (1970-1987); pre-school (1973-1980); public relations (1971-1982); religious education (1932-1937); volunteer services (1970-1979); ways & means (1972-1981); World Mutual Service (1976); young adult & adult (1971); youth (was called Grade & Teen) (1971-1982); and finally miscellaneous (1933-1937; 1977-1987).

The Board OF Trustees met, as a general rule, quarterly. These materials are limited to mainly minutes, 1944; 1959-1984 and are incomplete.

The Executive Files were kept by the Y.W.C.A. executive director. In the early days of the Y.W., she was called the general secretary. Fortunately some early reports written by the other program "secretaries" survive. These reports include the executive director's reports to the board (1932-1938) and the national office (1932-1935). Reports from the other program directors include the Girl Reserves department (1922-1933); physical education department (1922-1928; 1933-1938); religious education department (1907-1912; 1920-1928); and residence secretary (1933-1938).

More recent materials from program personnel are grouped alphabetically by program name: aquatics, H.P.E.R., New Horizons, pre-school, special events, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse health preceptor program, and miscellaneous.

The Financial Materials are rather scattered and there isn't a good record of the financial health or budgeting priorities of the organization. Budgets covering 1935 and 1966-1988 are the most complete summary of Y.W. finances. Other subseries include financial reports (1933-1934; 1936; 1947-1962; 1970-1971; 1980-1987), investment and savings reports (1974-1981), joint operating expenses (1981-1983), and United Way support summaries (1969-1981).

Buildings & Grounds Materials relate solely to the 1969 building and its 1976 addition at 1140 Main Street. Materials include joint Y.M.C.A. and Y.W.C.A. planning documents and minutes, architectural drawings, campaign fund drive records, and some documents relating to building operations. The subseries include architectural plans, building fund campaign materials, joint board and committee minutes, and rental property. Some materials, such as the joint operating committee, span up until 1989. Also materials of an independent joint task force from 1982-1983 can be found here.

The Y.W.C.A. Clubs in the early days were called interest groups. Sometimes the organizations would begin on their own and later affiliate with the Y.W.C.A. Others were started under the auspices of the Y.W.C.A. Records of clubs in this collection include Newcomers, Round Table, and the Y-Teens.

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The records of the Young Women's Christian Association are arranged in seven series:

Historical Materials

Board of Directors Materials

Board of Trustees Materials

Executive Files

Financial Files

Building and Grounds Materials

Y.W.C.A. Clubs

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

La Crosse Public Library Archives 1993 July

800 Main St.
La Crosse, Wisconsin, 54601
(608) 789-7136

Access to Materials

Materials in this collection are available for patron use.

Acquisitions Information

Donated by the Y.W.C.A. via Susan Larson, Y.W.C.A. Development Director, October 1991 and January 1992.

(Accession Nos. 1991.011, 1992.001)

Processing Information note

Processed by Anita Taylor Doering with great assistance from Pam Austin and Carrie Seib, July 1993.

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Related Materials

Related Materials

(Clipping file)
 La Crosse--Organizations--YWCA
(Clipping file)
 La Crosse--Organizations--New Horizons

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Young Women's Christian Association (La Crosse, Wis.).


  • Women--Societies and clubs--Wisconsin

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OCLC Number


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Collection Inventory

 (Series 1) Historical Materials 

Box Folder


1 1

Historical essays 

1 2

Film   16 mm film; runtime, sound and color unknown

3 1


Box Folder

Board & staff 

1 3-4


1 5


1 6


1 7


Box Folder

Chicken Q 

1 8

Mississippi Ms. Run 

1 9


1 10

Special Olympics 

1 11

Style Show 

1 12


Box Folder

410 Cass St. (Mons Anderson home), 1905-1918 

1 13

420 Main St. (Kresge Building), 1918-1931 

1 14

West Ave. & Main St. (Scott Mansion) 

Box Folder

Exterior, 1931-1967 

2 1

Interior, 1931-1967 

2 2
Box Folder

1140 Main St. (Y.M.C.A. - Y.W.C.A. Joint Building), 1969-1980s 

2 3



Box Folder

Craft & other classes 

2 4

Fitness classes 

2 5


Box Folder


2 6


2 7-8
Box Folder


2 9

Swimming classes 

2 10

Youth and young adult, 1950s-1970s 

2 11
Box Folder

Negative film 

3 2-4

Slides, circa 1980s 

3 5

Photograph albums, 1970s 










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 (Series 2) Board of Directors Materials 

Box Folder

Constitution and by-laws, 1910-1980 

8 1

Annual reports 

Box Folder


8 2


8 3-4
Box Folder

Board structure and general information 

8 5

Board members roll call, 1932-1982 

8 6

Board members lists and committees, 1932-1934, 1969-1986 

8 7


Box Folder

Action audit for change, 1968-1981 

9 1

Adult, 1972-1975 

9 2

Action creative activities, 1975-1980 

9 3

All association, 1974-1980 

9 4

Association nominating, 1969-1980 

9 5

Bequests, 1978-1980 

9 6


Box Folder


9 7


9 8-9
Box Folder

Executive, 1943-1987 

9 10


Box Folder


9 11


9 12
Box Folder

Health education & industrial, 1933-1938 

9 13

Health, physical education & recreation (H.P.E.R.) 

Box Folder

General information, 1967-1981 

9 14

Aquatics subcommittee, 1971-1983 

9 15
Box Folder

House, 1932-1937 

10 1

Long range planning, 1975-1985 

10 2


Box Folder

General information, 1950-1986 

10 3

Annual meeting materials, 1953-1986 

10 4

Membership drive 

Box Folder


10 5


10 6
Box Folder

Outreach & special populations, 1974-1982 

10 7


Box Folder

General information, 1970-1987 

10 8

Job descriptions 

10 9
Box Folder

Pre-school, 1973-1980 

10 10

Public relations, 1971-1982 

10 11

Religious education, 1932-1937 

10 12

Volunteer services, 1970-1979 

10 13

Ways & means, 1972-1981 

11 1

World Mutual Service, 1976 

11 2

Young adult & adult, 1971 

11 3

Youth (was Grade & Teen), 1971-1982 

11 4


Box Folder


11 5


11 6
Box Folder

Correspondence, 1925-1987 

11 7


Box Folder


11 8-12


12 1-7


13 1-4

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 (Series 3) Board of Trustee Materials 

Box Folder

Membership lists 

13 5

Minutes, 1944-1984 

13 6

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 (Series 4) Executive Files 

Box Folder

Correspondence, 1965-1988 

13 7-8

Correspondence with national 

Box Folder


13 9


13 10

Reports to: 

Box Folder

Board, 1922-1938 

14 1-3

National Y.W.C.A., 1932-1935 

14 4

Reports from: 

Girl Reserves 

Box Folder

Reports, 19221938 

14 5-9

Songbook, 1923 

14 10
Box Folder

Physical education dept., 1922-1938 

15 1-3

Religious education dept., 1907-1928 

15 4-5
Box Folder

Membership & program statistics, 1947-1980 

15 7-9

Programs, circa 1980s 

Box Folder

Aquatics, 1969-1980 

16 1


16 2


16 3

Health club 

16 4

New Horizons 

16 5


16 6

Safety classes 

16 7

Special events 

16 8

Special needs 

16 9

Swim team 

16 10

UW-L preceptor in health 

16 11


16 12
Box Folder

Program fliers 

16 13-14

Program newsletters News & Views, 1971-1983 

17 1

Program schedules, 1923-1930; 1964-1989 

17 2-6

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 (Series 5) Financial Files 

Box Folder

Budgets, 1935, 1966-1988 

17 7

Joint operating expenses, 1981-1983 

17 8


Cash summaries 

Box Folder


17 9


18 1-2


Box Folder


18 3


18 4


18 5


18 6
Box Folder

Garden Party fund raising, 1933-1936 

18 7

Investment & savings, 1974-1981 

18 8

United Way support summaries, 1969-1981 

18 9

Miscellaneous, 1933-1984 

18 10

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 (Series 6) Building & Grounds Materials 

Architectural materials (1140 Main Street) 

Box Folder

Plans for Y.W.C.A. expansion, 1961 

18 11

Appraisal of Y.W.C.A. property, 1986 

18 12

Project manual, 1967 October 

18 13

Plans for joint building, 1966 

19 1

Furnishings plan, 1969 

19 2

Color scheme, 1969 March 

19 3

Building fund 

Box Folder

Campaign, 1966-1970 

19 4-6

Reports, 1965-1987 

19 7-8


Joint advisory 

Box Folder

Minutes, 1963-1970 

20 1-2

Fund raising survey, 1964 

20 3

Publicity, 1964-1985 

20 4
Box Folder

Joint building, 1964-1985 

20 5-7

Joint executive, 1969-1987 

20 8

Joint long range planning, 1972-1985 

20 9

Joint operating, 1969-1989 

21 1
Box Folder

Facility rental, 1978-1982 

21 2

Joint board minutes, 1972-1987 

21 3

Joint executive board minutes, 1976-1987 

21 4

Joint operating agreements, 1964-1987 

21 5

Joint task force, 1982-1983 

21 6

Rental property, 1964-1987 

21 7

1976 addition -- building expansion 

Architectural materials 

Box Folder

Project manual, 1976 June 

21 8

Plans, 1972-1976 

21 9
Box Folder

Fund raising survey, 1973 

21 10

2nd Mile Campaign fund drive 

Box Folder

General information, 1973-1976 

22 1

Case for expansion 

22 2

Fund planning committee, 

Box Folder

General materials, 1973-1974 

22 3

Canvasser's materials, 1974 

22 4

Community gifts, 1974 

22 5

Lead gifts, 1974 

22 6

Staff solicitation, 1973-1974 

22 7
Box Folder

Expansion plans, 1972-1976 

22 8-9

Financial statements, 1974-1976 

22 10

Public relations, 1974 

22 11

Women's health center, 1979 

22 12

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 (Series 7) Y.W.C.A. Clubs 

Box Folder

General information 

23 1

Crocus Club 

23 2

Junior Live Wires 

23 3

Live Y'ers 

23 4


Box Folder


23 5

Minutes, 1964-1968 

23 7

Round Table 

Box Folder

Constitution, 1933 

23 8

Financial materials, 1933-1986 

23 9

Members, 1933-1986 

23 10
Box Folder

Minutes, 1946-1979 

23 11-13

Photographs, 1947-1987 

24 1

Program booklets 

Box Folder

Easter, 1933-1959 

24 2-3

Mother-Daughter Tea, 1937-1941 

24 4

Nationwide banquet, 1933-1942 

24 5

Scrapbooks, 1934-1981 


Y-Teen (Central High School) 

Box Folder

Annual reports, 1959-1963 

24 6

Correspondence from Margaret Cunningham (a former Y-Teen in college), 1967-1970 

24 7

Initiation and installation procedures 

24 8

Members, 1956-1967 

24 9

Photographs, 1949-1960 

24 11

Scrapbooks, 1947-1969 


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