Mission & History

Our Mission

The YWCA Berkeley/Oakland is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, developing leaders and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.

What is the YWCA Berkeley/Oakland?

The YWCA Berkeley/Oakland is an independent, non-profit organization which provides programs, classes and resources for the Berkeley and Oakland communities and University of California at Berkeley students. All of our programs welcome everyone, and have no specific religious affiliation. We are open to the public year-round.

A Brief History of the YWCA Berkeley/Oakland

In 1889, seventeen women started the YWCA at UC Berkeley to serve the needs of women and girls through community service, leadership training and support services.  As the decades passed the YWCA expanded its focus to encompass many significant social issues. The YWCA Berkeley/Oakland has over a 125 year tradition of dedication to the empowerment of girls and women and to racial and social justice for ALL people. Our programs and services reach out to the diverse populations of our city including students, immigrants, foreign students, at-risk youth and the unemployed. The YWCA Berkeley/Oakland is the only organization in Berkeley through which you can reach this breath of population.

The Early Years

In 1903, the first housing survey is made by the YWCA. Scholarship and emergency loan funds are established as well as a student employment bureau. The earthquake of 1906 turns Stiles Hall into a relief and refugee center. In 1917, the United States Government and the University take over Stiles Hall to use as barracks for aviators. YWCA members contribute to the war effort by raising funds for the American Red Cross. In 1918, a survey is made of all foreign women students registered at the University. Because 21 countries are represented, the National YWCA War Work Council grants $35,000 to the YWCA for a new building to continue their work with women on campus. Julia Morgan is selected as the architect of the new “Y Cottage.” In 1929, the first orientation is started by the YWCA for new women students at Cal.

The Middle Years

In 1957, the Cottage is sold to the University of California to make way for expansion. New property is obtained at Bancroft and Bowditch. Joseph Esherick is selected as the architect for designing the new building. Also in 1957, the YWCA conducts a survey of discrimination in student housing which leads to the formation of the Chancellors’ Committee on discrimination. In 1965, English-in-Action is started, a program providing conversational English practice for visiting scholars and foreign students. In 1969, Planned Parenthood is housed at the YWCA which opened the door to its being housed at Cowell Hospital one year later. In 1970, The YWCA secures money to provide a tutoring program for students admitted under the Economic Opportunity Program. Also in 1970, the Black Unit is launched, with Black staff developing programs for Black students and members of the University community, and the YWCA adopts the National YWCA Imperative, “to work for the elimination of racism, wherever it exists and by any means necessary.” In 1975, the YWCA adds “classes” to its program format.