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YWCA of Greater Des Moines records

Identifier: IWA0167

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Scope and Contents

The YWCA of Greater Des Moines records date from 1895 to 1995 and measure 12 linear feet. The records are arranged in eight series: Administrative records, Financial records, Publicity, Scrapbooks, Branches and clubs, Photographs, 1998 Accession, and Artifacts.

The Administrative records series (1895-1994) includes historical material, annual reports, secretary's reports, minutes, bylaws, a study of the YWCA as a women's movement, World Fellowship Committee information, training information, records from the 1969 summer program (including the children's evaluations of this program), and board materials.

Tax audits, accountant's reports, building and capital campaign files, budgets, and information on the new buildings of the YWCA of Greater Des Moines can be found in the Financial records series (1895-1985).

The Publicity series (1904-1969) contains newspaper clippings, pamphlets on YWCA activities (including some pertaining to the YWCA's work with working women), photographs, obituaries, a small amount of Blue Triangle information, and two YWCA newsletters, Inklings and Y's Winks. The bulk of this series is scrapbooks of newspaper clippings about YWCA activities. Included within this series are articles on gay, lesbian, and bisexual memberships (Newspaper clippings, 1982-1988), information on the YWCA's international work, the Youth Forum's discussion of sexuality and abortion, and an article on the problems of African-American students (Pamphlets, signs, newspaper clippings, 1903-1967). In the publicity folder (Publicity, Newspaper clippings and magazines, 1895-1983), is an article on the World Affairs Conference, including a photograph of racially diverse youth from around the world.

The Scrapbook series houses all the scrapbooks by the YWCA of Greater Des Moines and its subsidiaries, the Blue Triangle Branch and the Candlelight Club, from 1895 to 1971.

The Branches and clubs series (1935-1988) is comprised of two subseries: the Blue Triangle Branch and the Candlelight Club. The Blue Triangle Branch subseries includes scrapbooks, pamphlets and newspaper clippings, photographs, annual meeting materials, a history, and other materials. Nearly all of the material in this series pertains to African-Americans. There are other occasional references to the Blue Triangle scattered throughout the collection. The Candlelight Club subseries contains minutes and photographs of both African-American and Caucasian women. The club was apparently a social club that met weekly for dinner.

The Photographs series (1921-1988) consists of a variety of photographs from summer camps, Y-Teens, a 1988 calendar (original photographs before they were made into a calendar), and others.

The 1998 Accession includes additions to the administrative records, financial records, and publicity from the late 1960s to the late 1970s.

Within the Artifacts series (1955 and undated) are two YWCA commemorative plates, one for the national YWCA centennial and the other stating the YWCA imperative to eliminate racism.


  • Creation: 1885-1995


Conditions Governing Access

The records are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright held by the donor has been transferred to the University of Iowa.

However, copyright status for some collection materials may be unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owner. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility and potential liability based on copyright infringement for any use rests exclusively and solely with the user. Users must properly acknowledge the Iowa Women’s Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, as the source of the material. For further information, visit

Biographical / Historical

The Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) of Greater Des Moines was founded in 1895 by Della Marquart (later Mrs. Harris Coggeshall) and Helen Ankeny (later Mrs. Mungery) to help young Protestant women find housing and employment. The Des Moines chapter was affiliated with the National YWCA in 1896. The primary purposes of the organization were " stimulate interest in evangelical religion among young women of the city and vicinity and to improve their social, intellectual, and physical conditions by means of an association of young women." (Constitution, Box 1, Administrative records, Histories).

Over the years the YWCA has provided numerous programs and activities which were not traditionally offered to women. For example, in 1898, the first women's basketball game ever played in Des Moines was held in the YWCA's gymnasium. Since 1901, the YWCA of Greater Des Moines has also offered a variety of courses to women, ranging from fencing to Shakespeare, foreign language, and sewing.

The YWCA has reached out to minorities and immigrants almost from the beginning. In the 1880s and 1890s, the National YWCA aided immigrants in rural communities. Starting in 1911, the YWCA of Greater Des Moines offered courses in English for foreign-speaking women. The creation of the National Institute for Immigrant Welfare in 1933 was largely due to the YWCA's work with immigrants. In 1903, Mrs. Booker T. Washington spoke at the YWCA of Greater Des Moines and in 1932 Langston Hughes read his poetry there, although he was refused service by the hotels and restaurants in Des Moines. An African-American woman was elected to the YWCA of Greater Des Moines Board of Directors for the first time in 1931.

The Blue Triangle branch of the YWCA was founded for the African-American community in 1919. This branch offered separate programs similar to those of the rest of the organization, as well as a few integrated programs. In 1924 the Blue Triangle Branch started the Book Lover's Club, a reading group for women. The Blue Triangle Branch was located in a separate building from the main branch. It obtained a new building in 1936 and remained there until 1947, when the Blue Triangle Branch was merged with the main branch as part of a nationwide integration program.

The YWCA has also offered a variety of other community-oriented programs. In 1917, for example, the YWCA of Greater Des Moines was used as a meeting place for soldiers and their families. The YWCA's Girl Reserves (changed to Y-Teens in 1946) offered aid to soldiers. Always interested in the welfare of families, in the 1960s and 1970s the YWCA initiated programs and support groups such as Big Sisters, Parents Anonymous (a program for parents of children who have problems with drugs), and a support group for single parents. With a special focus on women and children, the YWCA of Greater Des Moines designed the National Center for Youth Outreach Workers in 1972 to help low-income children and to offer child care; in 1976 it organized the Battered Women's Coalition. Today the YWCA continues such programs, in an effort to attain "peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all people," and works to eliminate "racism wherever it exists and by any means necessary." (Box 1, Administrative records, Histories).


12.00 Linear Feet

Photographs in Box 21 and throughout boxes

Language of Materials



The records are arranged in eight series: Administrative records, Financial records, Publicity, Branches and clubs, Photographs, Scrapbooks, Artifacts, and 1998 Accession.

Method of Acquisition

The records (donor no. 242) were donated by the YWCA of Greater Des Moines in 1994 and succeeding years.

Existence and Location of Originals

African American Women in Iowa Digital Collection:

Processed by Lea Keohane, 1995, and Kristen Rassbach, 1997. Additions by Elizabeth Engel, 2004.
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Repository Details

Part of the Iowa Women's Archives Repository

100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)