For nearly 100 years, YWCA Princeton has been serving women and families throughout the Mercer County area. Our programs have evolved and changed throughout the decades in order to meet the needs and interests of our community.
Our earliest years as an organization were spent in a modest office space at 148 Nassau Street. There, from a single rented room, our predecessors fostered a sense of community. In 1922 it was crucial for women to have a space to have conversations, build connections, and learn life skills. Some of the earliest programs and the sentiments behind them still exist today, like English as a second language and social groups like the YWCA Princeton Area Newcomers and Friends (formally established in 1959). Childcare was an invaluable resource to local women who wanted to participate in programs or volunteer at YWCA Princeton.
YWCAs were established and founded during times of segregation. Leaders recognized that racism, segregation, and the inequitable resources and services available to communities of color were not compatible with the Christian values that served as the foundation of the YWCA. In 1946, the YWCA National Convention adopted an Interracial Charter, and by 1948, YWCA Princeton was fully integrated.
The most necessary and important change to YWCAs throughout the country and YWCA Princeton was the 1970 incorporation of the YWCA’s One Imperative: “To thrust our collective power towards the elimination of racism, wherever it exists and by any means necessary.”
Our commitment to racial justice informs all of our programs, particularly Latinas Unidas and English as a Second Language. Founded in 1992, Latinas Unidas was established as a safe space for Latina women who were new to the Trenton area and were in search of work, or were experiencing domestic violence. The program provides wraparound support services to prepare women for every stage of their job search, from resume writing, GED equivalency preparation, and interview preparation (down to the interview outfit if necessary). Similarly, our ESL program based in Princeton prepares students to excel in the community and meet their goals.
Today, we’re proud of our legacy as the co-founding chapter of the national Stand Against Racism, established in 2007. COVID-19 has changed our typical offerings, but we are committed to providing a safe and nurturing environment at The Burke Foundation Early Childhood Center at YWCA Princeton, support services for breast cancer thrivers and survivors at the Breast Cancer Resource Center, and life skills and encouragement through our ESL program.
Highlights Through the Years
- YWCA Princeton received its charter from the National YWCA on January 4th.
- The Witherspoon Branch, which served women and girls of color, was incorporated into YWCA Princeton, integrating the organization.
- Susie Waxwood becomes the first woman of color to lead the integrated YWCA Princeton as Executive Director.
- YWCA Princeton and the Princeton YMCA move into the newly-built program buildings at 59 Paul Robeson Place (at the time it was called Avalon Place).
- The Pearl Bates Scholarship Fund is established in memory of Pearl Bates, an avid advocate and volunteer who worked at Educational Testing Services.
- Today, Pearl’s legacy empowers families by eliminating financial barriers in accessing programs.
- ENCORE, a rehabilitation program for women who have undergone mastectomies was established. The program was adopted by the National YWCA in 1977.
- In 1985, the program expanded it’s offerings, becoming the Breast Cancer Resource Center.
- YWCA Princeton adopts the National YWCA Tribute to Women and Industry Awards.
- Today, the annual event is now known as the Tribute to Women Awards. The annual event celebrates local women who embody the YWCA mission of eliminating racism and empowering women through their professional endeavors or personal advocacy.
- Latinas Unidas, now located at The Smith Family Foundation Nonprofit Incubation Center, was founded in 1992 and serves over 200 families across greater Mercer County annually. Latinas Unidas provides essential life skills education, counseling, job skills and job search, literacy language, and work readiness skills. In 2016, Latinas Unidas began a new program – emPOWER THROUGH – to work with 16-24 year olds to gain long lasting life skills and most importantly, obtaining their high school equivalency diploma.Together with the local employers, YWCA Princeton sponsors an annual job fair in Trenton to bring the students and the community together.
- Stand Against Racism was founded by YWCA Trenton and YWCA Princeton in 2007. It quickly grew to a national presence by 2010, when an additional 80 YWCAs across the nation took a Stand. Over 2,000 organizations across 39 states joined in the Stand Against Racism. This phenomenal success attracted well over 250,000 participants and earned the endorsement of five U.S. Governors. The event has been widely featured by local ABC, NBC, CBS, and other networks.
- Thanks to a leadership gift from The Burke Foundation, YWCA Princeton completed a major renovation of its program building, including a brand-new childcare wing, community center, and administrative wing. The childcare wing is now known as The Burke Foundation Early Childhood Center at YWCA Princeton, and provides early education and care for children ages 8 weeks through 6 years old.