Portland YWCA and World War II

Document 1

Document 2

Aid to Women

Interracial Charter

Youth on the Move


World War II: Aid to Women

Research by Katrina Hagen

Room Registry

Ruth Wyatt

       Oregon's shipyards employed more than twice the percentage of female workers than other states' war industries--some 26,000 women--and the YWCA worked hard to keep up with women workers' changing needs. As part of its contribution to the U.S.O., two new "lounges" were opened at the Taylor Street building, one for "Service Women" and one for "Women Workers." Here women could find rest, refreshments, recreation, information, and sociability. Some observers noted that the average Portlander "does not like the newcomers and is counting [on] their 'going home' as soon as the war is over." By contrast, the YWCA tried to be "useful to the newcomer population," with an eye toward expanding its membership and constituency.[1]

U.S.O. Dance
Working Women at Camp

      By embracing the cause of labor, the YWCA found an ally in mak ing themselves heard in a growing and increasingly clamorous city. The Publicity Department proudly announced this idealism after the war: "Today American Labor and the Young Women's Christian Association stand shoulder to shoulder as champions of the worker's right to a full life."[2] This spirit faded in the 1950s, when McCarthyism tainted labor activists as anti-American.

1. Irene Walker and Hattie Droll, "Report of the YWCA War-Community Service in Portland-Vanport, Oregon, 1943-44," National YWCA Records, New York City (Microfilm, reel #207).
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2. Press release to Oregon Labor Press, from Helen Hansen, Publicity Director, YWCA of Portland, c. 1947, Portland YWCA Archives, Portland, Oregon.
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