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The YWCA's Left Turn By: Kimberly Schuld
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, May 13, 2003


Patricia Ireland has a new job. The former president of the National Organization for Women will soon be the new chief executive officer of the YWCA. For those unfamiliar with the contemporary focus of the Young Women’s Christian Association, it will come as a shock to find that the agenda of NOW under Ireland’s tenure is eerily similar to the agenda already employed by the YWCA. To this point, all the YWCA has been lacking is a nationally-known radical feminist to alert an unsuspecting public to its true agenda, and as the press release on the NOW web site crows, feminists across the country are cheering Ireland’s appointment.

For many of us, the YWCA represents a health club or the sponsor of a girl’s basketball team. The YWCA is a national and international network of more than 300 affiliates, and boasts that it is the nation’s largest provider of battered women’s facilities and developed the first child care programs in the United States. But the YWCA is up to much more than caring after the needs of battered women and lonely children.

A good look at the YWCA reveals a much more political Leftist organization, much of which is paid for with your tax dollars. Although it was socially progressive from the beginning, the YWCA was not exactly the radical force it is today.  Founded by temperate Protestant women, the organization had a religiously based concern for the worth of all human beings. The first YWCA was opened in Boston in 1859, but the organization got its real start during the Industrial Revolution by creating a safe haven for young working women. The move from farms to the factories had created a crisis in affordable, decent living for unmarried women. The first association in New York City provided a boarding house for young women as early as the Civil War era. The YWCA spread to college campuses that admitted women and by 1890 there were over 100 organizations. 

After becoming incorporated in 1907, the YWCA began to hold national conventions, creating the vehicle for feminist ideas to take root. In 1911, the YWCA advocated for a minimum wage law as a measure to protect young women from turning to prostitution to supplement their meager factory wages. During the same time period, the YWCA introduced the concept of positive health, which included sex education, known at the time as “social morality.” Essentially a program to teach avoidance of venereal diseases, the social morality program was eventually adopted by the War Department’s Division of Social Hygiene in 1918. 

In the 1960s the program changed focus and sought to encourage “frank facing of current sex practices in our culture as they affect young women of different backgrounds.” In 1970, the convention voted to join with other feminist organizations and advocate for human sexuality as an integral part of school curriculum.

Today, with federal grants, the YWCA continues this tradition with peer-led discussions of sexuality, sexual behavior, sexual violence, sexually transmitted diseases, rape, incest, and sexual preferences and lifestyles. Ireland told the New York Times that the issue of her bi-sexual past did not come up in the interview. What the Times did not report was that support for homosexuality is regarded by YWCA as simply another lifestyle choice for young girls.

Like NOW, the YWCA advocates for more Title X public funding to discuss sexually transmitted diseases, but opposes abstinence education, the only known guarantee of 100% protection from an STD. It treats “women’s health” as a euphemism for unfettered access to abortion, and opposes parental consent laws.

The YWCA has been a long-time sponsor of NOW’s “Fight the Right” campaign started by Ireland in 1996 to answer the Republican takeover of Congress through the presidential election, as well as to undermine the efforts of the Christian men’s movement, Promise Keepers. The national office signed up with the NOW campaign, as did 12 individual affiliates.

The YWCA is also a member of Martha Burk’s club, the National Council of Women’s Organizations, most recently in the news for her unsuccessful attack on the all-male membership policy of the Augusta National Golf Course. Most recently, the YWCA put out press releases calling for “tolerance” after radical Islamic terrorists attacked this country on 9/11, and opposed the U.S. attack on Iraq. 

Its leftist connections are not limited to feminists. The YWCA mission statement says that it “seeks to eliminate racism.” To that end, it has allied itself with the Left’s civil rights community. It sponsors many national race-related events and in 1997 got President Bill Clinton to declare April 30th as the YWCA National Day of Commitment to Eliminate Racism. It is hard to imagine that the Protestant ladies who founded the organization to protect young women from lecherous men would have been as enamored of Bill Clinton as today’s YWCA.

The announcement on the appointment of Ireland to her new position was released by public relations executive Gwen McKinney. The McKinney firm describes itself as doing “public relations with a conscience” and counts among its clients the Transafrica Forum supported by actor Danny Glover, the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and the Citizens for a Moratorium on Federal Executions. The link between the YWCA and McKinney illustrates that the YWCA is closely tied with the most radical race apologists in the nation. McKinney is also the publicist for Mary Frances Berry’s books. Berry is on the Board of the NAACPLDF and the Chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The Commission, which is housed in the YWCA building in downtown Washington, retained McKinney at $135,000 a year to do public relations for the Chair, despite the existence of an in-house public relations unit. Just a few friends helping out friends in the Vast Left Wing Conspiracy. 

Ireland pointed out to the media that the YWCA has numerous facilities in Washington, DC, but no real political power in the Capital city. Yet, despite its stated dedication to bettering the life of poor, minority children, the YWCA has been very active in opposing any attempt to introduce school choice to Washington’s failed public schools. As with other feminist groups, the YWCA is more concerned with a minority girl’s sexual freedom than it is with her education.

One of the “new” campaigns Ireland is mulling would focus on fair voting rights. The YWCA involvement in voting includes the voter education and get out the vote programs sponsored by the liberal League of Women Voters and the AFL-CIO. In fact, the YWCA was a partner in the AFL-CIO’s “Working Women Vote 2000” which was heavily concentrated in Florida.

One benefit to Ireland in her new job at the YWCA is the availability of money. Under her tenure at NOW, membership and income dropped off precipitously. But the YWCA is flush with cash (2000 revenues were close to $9 million with net assets over $76 million.) It enjoys substantial corporate support from Citigroup, Procter & Gamble, Merrill Lynch, Pepsi-Cola, and Xerox to name just a few. The real windfall for Ireland, however, is the federal funding the YWCA affiliates enjoy — nearly $49 million through 2001. Although the national office does not receive government funding, it sets the policies and creates the programs for the affiliates, and the taxpayers foot the bill. The agenda that Ireland built at NOW can continue with the deep pockets she needs to fulfill all her radical dreams.

The progressive history of the YWCA has been taken over the edge by radical feminism. Ireland doesn’t really have a new challenge in front of her, she is simply continuing what she did at NOW under a new banner.


Miss Schuld is author of the Guide to Feminist Organizations published by the Capital Research Center.


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