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October Archive of the Month – Varied YWCA Records and Materials Available at RCB Library

RCB Library Notes

Added on 01/10/2013

A selection of annual mottoesThe records of the Young Women’s Christian Association Ireland covering the period 1885–2007 were transferred to the RCB Library in 1998 from a temporary office in Bray, County Wicklow, and again in 2012 when a larger tranche of materials were transferred from the YWCA’s headquarters in Baggot Street, Dublin. The YWCA Ireland was not exclusively a Church of Ireland organisation, but as many of its founding members and hard–working volunteers were, the decision was made to transfer this collection to the RCB Library where it has now been arranged and catalogued as MS 624 and a list of the records has posted on the website.

With the exception of personnel records and recent minutes that fall within the 40–year closure rule, most of the records are now available for consultation at the Library. For access to those items that remain closed, the permission of the Board of YWCA Ireland must be obtained by bona fide researchers, by writing to Mrs Karen Mawhinney, Administrator, YWCA Ireland, 64 Lwr. Baggot Street, Dublin 2).

Minutes, accounts, and correspondence of the central administration, which was initially a branch of the Executive Council of the YMCA in England and Wales, are complemented by records of various sub–committees, including the Jubilee, Centenary and 125th Anniversary – no shortage of celebration in the YWCA! More specific groups of records relate to the Foreign Department, the Missionary Fund and the Dublin Bible College. Records of individual houses and branches which were locally run reflect activity in Dublin, Belfast and Cork, Derry and Waterford and in some smaller locations such as Newcastle (Co. Down), Greystones, Borrisokane, Tramore and Portstewart.

Like similar organizations the collection includes acknowledgements from Buckinghham Palace of the Association’s good wishes on royal births and marriages and condolences on royal deaths, the earliest of which acknowledges the good wishes sent to Queen Victoria on her visit to Ireland in 1900. However, not all relations with Britain were sweetness and light. In 1916 there was a row over the staging of a fund raising matinee in Drury Lane theatre in London which sought to raise £25,000 ‘to erect hostels, canteens and rest–rooms for munitions and other women war workers’. The Irish Council was opposed to this initiative because they viewed a stage play as a ‘wordly’ activity and at odds with the biblical teaching and evangelical basis of the Association. This led to the formation of an independent association – the YMCA Ireland in 1917.

The wide and varied nature of the materials in this collection may prove to be a treasure trove for researchers documenting many unusual aspects of the social, charitable and cultural life of late–19th and 20th century Ireland. More obviously it is likely to be a prime source for those engaged in women’s history.


For further information please contact:
Dr Susan Hood
RCB Library
Braemor Park
Dublin 14
Tel: 01–4923979
Fax: 01–4924770
E–mail: susan.hood@rcbdub.org