Something for the Ladies: Hershey’s YWCA
In the Fall of 1909 articles began appearing in the Hershey Press about wanting to start a YMCA in Hershey. Milton Hershey drew his support behind the plan, providing space in the Cocoa House for the organization to hold its meetings and events. The successful launch of the “Y” in early 1910 probably prompted the women of Hershey to press for the creation of a similar organization for themselves.
You can follow the story of Hershey’s YWCA in articles printed in the Hershey Press. To get you started, here are some excerpts from early letters to the editor and articles about starting a women’s club in Hershey.
Hershey Press, 11/4/1910 (page 11)
A Communication – A Letter Received at the Press Office
Editor of the Hershey Press — “Will you kindly print the following in your paper?”
To all the girls of Hershey, surrounding towns, and to all whom it may concern:
“We girls are all aware of the splendid Y. M. C. A. in our town. Why can we not have a Y.W.C.A. just as well? The cry is, “If we girls only had some place to go.” Let us bestir ourselves and see if something can not be accomplished. Let us get together and form sort of a band or club. Let it be at least this much if it can not be a Y. W. C. A. though that is far more preferable. “We surely can have something if we try. Some of the leading women of town have expressed a kindly interest in the movement and a willingness to lend a helping hand in this good work. All those desiring to take part in such a movement will kindly send their names to Box 104, Hershey, Pa., before Saturday, November 19. ONE INTERESTED.”
Clearly the letter was successful because just a few months later, the Press published another article announcing that a Y.W.C.A. had been organized in Hershey.
OUR LITTLE TOWN APACE WITH THE CITIES
Young Women’s Christian Association Organized on Monday. State Industrial Secretary Present. Constitution Adopted
At first, meetings were held in the Hershey Park Pavilion. But after the Hershey Garage and Stable, located on the south side of the railroad tracks (currently Hershey’s ZooAmerica’s parking lot) were destroyed by fire, the location was selected for a permanent home for the Y.W.C.A. In August 1912, (page 5) the Y.W.C.A. moved into its new permanent home above the rebuilt Hershey Garage. The facility included boarding rooms for single women, a spacious reading room with a piano, and a cafeteria with seating for 100.
Hershey’s Y.W.C.A. remained a vital part of the community for many years. At some point in the later 1920s, Hershey decided to separate from the national Y.W.C.A. organization and reorganize as an independent Women’s Club, something the men had done years earlier, in 1913.
Hershey’s Women’s Club continued to play a vital role in providing opportunities for fellowship, recreation and education through the post war years. The organization’s purpose was assumed by other groups and the Women’s Club building was razed in 1963 to make way for a new headquarters for Hershey Estates and the Hershey Drug Store which occupied the first floor.