Good Intentions Spark Discrimination: “Disturbed” and “Troubled” Tenants at the YWCA, 1963
“Alcoholics and prostitutes … disturbed girls”!
These three terms were used in the November 9, 1963 issue of the Lethbridge Herald to describe the ‘types’ of women and girls who had been utilizing the YWCA’s lodging accommodations. The article referencing these “disturbed” tenants titled “Delegates Express Concern YWCA’s Concept is Being Hurt,” discussed the endangerment of the YWCA’s reputation brought on by the unwanted visitors.
The issue of the “troubled” visitors was first raised at the YWCA’s 70th Annual Meeting in Toronto. The Herald article covers the delegates concern over what parents in their communities may think about the questionable tenants temporarily residing at the place that is supposed to act as “a home away from home for young daughters.”
The article continues to outline the concerns of the YWCA delegates such as, the decreasing age of their tenants, the increasing frequency that these “troubled” women were seeking shelter at the “Y”, and the “problem of the teenage mother.” The article and the YWCA’s meeting topic, while revealing the discrimination against the unwanted tenants, illuminates the YWCA’s focus on strengthening their community. For example, when investigating teen mothers the “Y” was concerned with how they could include these young women into the community, as they were outcast by their peers and too young for other parent groups.
The YWCA’s focus on community (no matter how idealized it may have been) was celebrated by the City of Lethbridge frequently since its opening in 1949. Many times during the 1950s the City designated an entire week to celebrate the YWCA’s commitment to community. The Lethbridge Herald covered the proclamation of National YWCA week by the Mayor in 1957 and 1959.
The YWCA’s commitment to the community continues today through their many programs targeting women and girls issues in Lethbridge. Most recently the YWCA has started a project that will promote student safety on university and college campuses. The YWCA will be working closely with the Women’s Centre at the University of Lethbridge and will be soliciting student input at the U of L to develop a plan to prevent violence against women on campus. This YWCA received $195,892 in November, 2012 from the federal ministry of the Status of Women to fund this project. You can find more information about the YWCA's current programs here.
By Karissa Patton
Karissa Patton is a fourth-year History major at the University of Lethbridge who is interested in Southern Alberta Women’s History. This spring she is the archives assistant social media contributor for the Galt Museum & Archives, earning Applied Studies credit while sharing stories uncovered in the archives