STILL MAKING HISTORY
fighting to eliminate racism & empower women for 111 years
Founded on July 4, 1907, YWCA Greater Charleston has been eliminating racism and empowering women across the Charleston region for more than 111 years.
CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT
Our association played an important role during the civil rights movement in Charleston. Our executive director at that time, Mrs. Christine O. Jackson, came on board while the YWCA in Charleston was a segregated institution. “The YWCA on George Street was the white YWCA and the Coming Street YWCA was the black YWCA,” she remembers.
She was connected to the drive for racial equality through family, too: Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the husband of her cousin and schoolmate. That cousin, Coretta Scott King, participated with our board and members in the historic 1969 MUSC hospital strike. After Dr. King was assassinated, Ms. Jackson led the effort to create Charleston’s commemoration of his life, an annual celebration for which we became widely known.
Mrs. Jackson was also instrumental in spotlighting Charleston-area women in business during a time when few women enjoyed careers outside the home. The annual Tribute to Women in Industry (TWIN) she inaugurated revolutionized the way people viewed women’s contributions in the workplace.
“Business and industry — the Post and Courier, the TV stations, the big companies — would select a different woman to be honored each year,” she remembers. “There would be a table of her coworkers sitting there, cheering her on," she says. "This was the best program the YWCA did that showcased women.”
Today our annual MLK Celebration is South Carolina’s largest commemorative MLK tribute, attracting more than 30,000 celebrants from every walk of life — each one focused on eliminating racism across our city, state, and nation.
In 2017 we also brought the Racial Equity Institute (REI) to the Charleston area. REI is nationally recognized for helping communities address institutional racism. Due to overwhelming demand, we’ve brought it back multiple times each year. In 2018, we worked with REI to begin offering its Phase 2 training to Charleston-area leaders and laypeople. Check out our 2019 REI dates here!
Our annual Stand Against Racism initiative — a signature campaign of YWCA USA designed to spotlight the negative impacts of institutional and structural racism — also builds more awareness of racism in the Charleston region.
As part of our mission to empower women, we worked to find a way to financially empower girls as they grew into women. We launched the first Girls Who Code tech club for middle school girls in Charleston in November 2016.
The tech industry pays high wages, but women — especially women of color — too often lack the training and networks needed to enter the field. This will change, as we launched a second Girls Who Code tech club in 2017 and two Y Girls Code tech clubs for elementary school girls in early 2018.
In 2017, we instituted a free career workshop series for women. Our Career Success Series teaches women skills highly sought after by employers — and which can lead to success in entrepreneurship as well. Our three popular Own the Room public speaking workshops (to date), a $495 value free to our participants, are a spin-off from this career series.
Also in 2017, we created our Indaba Series, from a Swahili term meaning “a community meeting of the minds.” We launched our first indaba with a ground-breaking event entitled Pathway to Politics. In partnership with the Charleston Center for Women, we explored opportunities for women of color to bring more equality to our nation’s statehouses, executive mansions, and local councils. The sold-out audience had the chance to talk individually with women of color who had run for political office. “They have forged their own paths in politics and community organizing, and now they are helping others get involved,” reported the Post and Courier.
In the spring of 2018, we brought a new, powerful event for professional women to the Charleston area. At our inaugural #WhatWomenBring power lunch, held on May 9 at the Charleston Area Convention Center, we celebrated women who are breaking barriers in 10 different industries... and then things got real as they formed a panel to answer the audience’s questions, no holds barred. What did it take to get to your position? Have you faced bias or hit the glass ceiling? Have you overcome self-doubt? How can other women do what you did? This powerful panel discussion — a candid conversation among women — was emceed by NBC WCBD News 2 TV anchor Octavia Mitchell.
In the summer of 2018, we launched our Choose Well program, a new women’s health initiative designed to reduce unintended pregnancies by offering affordable access to eight methods of contraception. The need is great, since half of all pregnancies in South Carolina are unintended and compromise the health, development, and economic stability of our women and children.
The rest of history is waiting to be written... together with you!