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GALLERY: YWCA Hunter Region turns 100

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YWCA is celebrating 100 years in the Hunter.

Born at a time when women held limited status in society, Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) became a symbol of learning, equality, and refuge in the region since it first opened its doors in Newcastle in March 1922.

The group that aims to advocate and support visiting and local women and families, first found its home in an old, renovated hotel formerly known as The Blue Bell, on Thorn Street. 

In fact its first cafeteria was established in what had once been the main bar.

YWCA Hunter Region executive director Anne Tait says this year’s anniversary offers the group a chance to celebrate a century of good work.

“We are very proud of the impact we have made to the lives of women, families and community over the past 100 years in the Hunter region,” she said.

“We will continue to advocate and support gender equality and culture in all its forms.”

The YWCA was welcomed into Newcastle off the back of the war that was expected to end all wars.

The women-led organisation began in England in 1855 when two Christian women started a prayer group to pray for women of all classes and in all situations. 

It was also around the same time women were following Florence Nightingale across Europe to help nurse soldiers in battle.

Forbidden from most activities outside the home without a male chaperone, the women of the time were offered refuge on their way to and from the battlefield, inside a North London home.

Combining the prayer group with the boarding home in 1877 the group became known worldwide for its caring through club rooms, cafeteria, classes and a variety of activities.

And in 1880 Australia welcomed its first permanent YWCA in Sydney.

By 1918, at the end of World War One, the YWCA welcomed its first national general secretary, Miss Amy Snelson, to Sydney.

Described as “a lady of great determination and energy”, one of Miss Snelson’s first steps was to establish the Newcastle YWCA.

The city’s first general secretary, Miss K Hilda Tapley Short, soon got to work, under Miss Snelson’s leadership.

Described in historical archives as a woman who “wasn’t one to waste time”, Miss Tapley Short established three clubs – a Saturday-morning playgroup for children, a Ramblers Club and a group planning a ‘botanising’ trip over the hills – within the first three months of her arrival.

Her first fundraiser reportedly included a four-metre shark caught off the coast and left on a local beach.

The innovative secretary had the shark covered with a tent, charging onlookers an entrance fee to view its decaying form, until Newcastle’s rain kept people away, thwarting the plan, “otherwise we might have been rich,” she reportedly added.

Throughout the years YWCA became known for more than its ‘hostels and hockey sticks’.

It debated for equal pay for women, ran classes in sex education and psychology, assisted single mothers and children post-war, as well as assisting new migrants, fighting for social justice and running youth clubs and after school activities.

YWCA Hunter Region has accrued a century of its own experiences and plans to share them with the community in an array of events to be held throughout 2022.

The first of which will be the YWCA Hunter Centenary Gala Event at the Merewether Surfhouse on Saturday 1 October.

“YWCA Hunter Region Inc is excited to celebrate 100 years of advocating, empowering and connecting women and families for a stronger community,” Ms Tait told Newcastle Weekly.

“We are looking forward to celebrating our centenary year with our associates, members, friends and the wonderful Hunter community.”

For further details contact 4929 2954 or email: [email protected]

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