A Legacy of leadership and service

Susie B. Waxwood

Susie B. Waxwood was the first Black woman to lead YWCA Princeton as Executive Director. She initially joined the YW when it was segregated, serving on the Committee for Colored Work and eventually working at the YW after its integration as Director of Adult Programs. She also volunteered as an English as a Second Language teacher, and her favorite event was the International Festival (later renamed Crafter’s Marketplace), which was a sharing and celebration of cultures through music, clothing, food, and vendor tables.

As Executive Director, Youth programs flourished during her tenure, and included various sports, art classes, theatre enrichment, and other activities to promote a sense of confidence, community, and responsibility. There were also day camps and sleepaway camp programs offered throughout the summer. Adults enjoyed water color painting classes, French lessons, gourmet cooking classes, and English as a Second Language. In 2001, YWCA Princeton created the Waxwood Lifetime Achievement Award category for the Tribute to Women Awards, which recognizes women who have made significant contributions to the organization.

Global Unrest Amidst Domestic Discrimination

Although the public schools, YW/YM, and other community institutions were integrated before the 1960s, racial discrimination was still a major barrier to equitable opportunities throughout Princeton, particularly related to housing. Prior to the passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, YWCA Princeton’s Public Affairs Committee launched a campaign to address housing discrimination in Princeton. In 1962, YWCA Princeton established a clearing house for buyers, sellers, and renters and worked in collaboration with the Princeton Housing Group. A 1963 report on the activities of the clearing house noted that 15 volunteers called 100 property owners who had listed homes for sale or apartments to rent to confirm if they be willing to rent or sell homes to Black residents. Only 15 agreed to sell and 3 agreed to rent without discrimination.

In the midst of this, the war in Vietnam waged on. College campuses across the country were a space for youth to express their dissatisfaction or support for America’s involvement in the war, including Princeton University. During this decade and into the next, YWCA Princeton and the broader community worked together to support the influx of refugees.