Q. What is the YWCA?

As a local association of the YWCA USA, the YWCA of Southern Arizona is one of the oldest and largest multicultural women’s organizations in the nation. We are a membership-based, grassroots organization independently governed by a local board of directors. Our mission is Eliminating Racism, Empowering Women and Promoting Peace, Justice, Freedom, and Dignity for All.

Q. What value does the YWCA bring to our community?

The YWCA has been helping people in Tucson and Southern Arizona create the change they wish to see in their own lives and in the world since 1917. Here are just a few examples:

  • More than 10000 women have attended one of the YW’s annual leadership conferences or programs
  • Over twenty-six thousand women have prepared for their first job interview through “Your Sister’s Closet”
  • Ninety percent of graduates from the “YWorks” employment education and training program get a job, start a business or go back to school within six months, pumping $7 million into the Tucson economy every 12-18 months
  • The racial justice program developed here has become a model for YWs across the nation
  • Ten thousand Arizonans can be called to action on our top legislative priorities through the YW’s Advocacy & Action Alliance
  • We welcome nearly 50,000 visitors every year to our three locations: Frances McClelland Community Center, House of Neighborly Service and El Rio Community Health Center.

Q: Is the YWCA of Southern Arizona only for women?

The YWCA of Southern Arizona is dedicated to promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all. We focus on women’s needs and issues. We also recognize the important role men play in eliminating racism and empowering women. The YWCA of Southern Arizona welcomes men into membership, onto our staff and we were the first local YWCA association in the nation to elect men to our board of directors.

Q. Is the YWCA a religious organization?

Although founded more than 150 years ago by women who shared progressive Christian values, the YWCA USA has not been a religious organization for more than 50 years. One of the things we are proud of here at the YW in Tucson is our first Board President is believed to have been a member of the Stone Avenue Temple. People of every religion and no religion, who share a commitment to the mission of eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all, are welcome as members and leaders at the YW.

Q. How is the YWCA funded?

We are an entrepreneurial organization, and strive to create programs that are financially sustainable. As a 501c3 nonprofit organization, we are also supported by our members, who donate their time and money; by grants and donations from foundations and corporate partners committed to social justice and economic empowerment; and through the contracts we earn  from government entities for programs that make a social and/or economic contribution to the community.

Q: Where is the YWCA of Southern Arizona located?

YWCA of Southern Arizona has two campuses: 1) Frances McClelland Leadership Center in downtown Tucson just west of I-10 between Congress and St. Mary’s Road. Our address is 525 N. Bonita Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85745. 2) House of Neighborly Service located at 9th and 33rd in the City of South Tucson.

Q: How many people do you serve?

The YWCA represents 2 million women, girls and their families in the United States and 25 million women worldwide. The YWCA has over 200 associations across the United States. YWCAs can also be found in more than 100 countries. We welcome nearly 50,000 people to our three locations each year.

Q: Is the YWCA a “social services” agency?

Yes. Local YWCAs provide services to meet the needs of women in their communities. Here in southern Arizona, we provide employment readiness training, counseling, nutrition programs, children’s programs, and more. More importantly, the YWCA of Southern Arizona is a community center for women – one of the first places women look when they want to network with other progressive leaders, develop leadership skills, make policy change impacting women and families, foster diversity and racial justice, get healthier, learn something new, and engage in advocacy to build a better Arizona for all.

Q: How is the national YWCA structured?

The YWCA is a national organization with more than 200 local associations across the United States. The YWCA USA provides a range of technical assistance and capacity building services to local associations, safeguard the integrity of the YWCA brand and maintain a strong national presence that will position the iconic, multi-tiered YWCA organization for increased stability and sustainability for the future.

YWCA History

YWCA Southern Arizona was established in 1917, just five years after Arizona gained statehood, by visionary women committed to establishing progressive values in this young state. From the beginning, YWCA has been committed to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all. YWCA Southern Arizona was founded as a place for women to rest, socialize, learn, organize and contribute to creating a more progressive community. It was the only place where children of color could learn to swim in the years before the municipal swimming pools were built. Our organization provided the first child day care centers and the first domestic violence shelter.  The Big Sisters component of Big Brothers Big Sisters was originally a YWCA program.

We are proud of our affiliation with YWCA USA, which has been in the forefront of most major movements in the United States as a pioneer in race relations, labor union representation, and the empowerment of women for more than 150 years.

Disclaimer: The YWCA of Southern Arizona is a non-partisan organization that cannot and does not endorse political candidates.

The first Association in the U.S., Ladies Christian Association, was formed in New York City

The first boarding house for female students, teachers and factory workers opened in New York, N.Y.

The first African-American YWCA branch opened in Dayton, Ohio

The first YWCA for Native American women opened in at Haworth Institute in Chilocco, Okla.

The United States of America, England, Sweden, and Norway together created the World YWCA, which today is working in over 125 countries

YWCA was the first industrial federation of clubs to train girls in self-government



YWCA Tucson is established, just five years after Arizona becomes a state. Our first board chair is a member of the Jewish community.


YWCA was the first organization to send professional workers overseas to provide administrative leadership and support to U.S. Armed Forces

Based on its work with women in industrial plants, the YWCA Convention voted to work for “an eight-hour/day law, prohibition of night work, and the right of labor to organize”

YWCA extends its services to Japanese American women and girls incarcerated in World War II Relocation Centers

The National Board of the YWCA created the Office of Racial Justice to lead the civil rights efforts

YWCA National Day of Commitment to Eliminate Racism began in response to the beating of Rodney King, an African American man, the acquittal of four white Los Angeles police officers accused of the crime, and the subsequent riots and unrest across the country

YWCA Week Without Violence was created as a nationwide effort to unite people against violence in communities. The annual observance is held the third week of October


Today over 2 million people participate in YWCA programs at more than 1,300 sites across the United States. Globally, the YWCA reaches 25 million women and girls in 125 countries.

YWCA of Tucson formally changed its name to YWCA Southern Arizona, reflecting the current reach of its programming and a growing vision for the future.

YWCA’s campuses welcome over 50,000 visitors a year for classes, public forums, art and theatre, conferences, community events, and meetings. The board articulates a vision for the second century – Everybody Thrives.

YWCA Southern Arizona celebrates its 100th Birthday. It joins with YWCA Maricopa County to start a statewide Stand TOgether Arizona Training and Advocacy Center. A $1.5 million fundraising campaign begins to launch YWCA into its second century of change-making.