Empowering Women: The Helena YWCA

This 1957 photo shows the interior of the Helena YWCA. A piano sits in the corner. On the other side of the room, three women drink tea.

The forty-three room Helena YWCA has provided women with a place to stay, and organizations a place to meet, since 1919. Photograph by L. H. Jorud, 1957. MHS Photo Archives PAc 2003-48 Box 41 1957 YWCA women + piano

During the Victorian era, strict social rules constrained women’s lives. It was scandalous for a woman to go out alone, eat in a restaurant without a companion, or travel without a chaperone. Women were expected to stay at home and attend to domestic duties. Thus, those who left their homes for employment or educational opportunities in urban areas faced major obstacles. A young woman in an unfamiliar city often had nowhere to turn for housing, support, or advice. In the early twentieth century, YWCAs began to fill this need in Montana, where Billings, Missoula, Great Falls, and Helena all had YWCA chapters. Continue reading