The beginning of a long story
The Women’s Christian Association (WCA) was founded in Quebec City in 1875 by a group of English-speaking women led by Mary Gibbens MacNab. The organization was created to meet the needs of young women new to the city. Women were vulnerable and apart from religious congregations, no other resources existed for them before the creation of the organization.
In March 1911, the YWCA joined the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) of Canada and became the fifth member of the Canadian association. In Canada, there are now 34 member associations that together serve one million women and girls in over 400 districts and communities each year. Like its sisters, the YWCA Quebec has chosen to place the situation of women at the heart of its concerns.
From the beginning, YWCA volunteers provided shelter and comfort to the women who came to them. Over the years, various services have been added to the original vocation, which has been preserved. The YWCA Quebec has always succeeded in adapting its offer to the needs of women and girls. She has been watching over them since 1875.
From Artillery Park
The YWCA Women’s Residence opened in 1875 as the Industrial Home on the site of Artillery Park, just outside the St. John’s Gate. It offered shelter and food to women and children in need, as well as to itinerant women. The place soon welcomed immigrant women and young girls from the regions who had recently arrived in the city. They come to Quebec City to look for work, in most cases to provide financial assistance to their families. However, their dreams rarely correspond to reality: they often find underpaid jobs in poorly regulated factories or plants, and they sometimes find themselves in vulnerable and exploitative situations. The YW wants to protect them from the “dangers of the city”: poverty, prostitution, intemperance, etc.
It is in this context that many of them find refuge at the Industrial Home, where they are welcomed, listened to and protected. The residential setting provides stability and security regardless of religion, ethnicity or class.
At Sainte-Anne Street
In 1880, the YW was established at 125 Sainte-Anne Street in Old Quebec. The organization, which was only five years old at the time, rented the building from John Jackman Foote, owner of the Quebec Morning Chronicle. However, thanks to the generosity of donors from the Anglo-Protestant community in Quebec City, the YW soon raised the funds necessary to acquire these premises. She will occupy this building for over 88 years.
The building soon became too small for all the needs of the ever-growing clientele. This is how the YW became the owner of the neighbouring building on Ste-Anne Street (1908) and of the Devonshire House on Ste-Ursule Street (1910). In 1916, with a gift from Dr. James Douglas, the YW built Douglas Hall, which included a swimming pool and gymnasium. She then kicked off a controversial project to add sports and social activities for girls to her regular activities.
At 855 Holland
Wishing to regroup all of its operations under one roof, and to equip itself with modern and adequate facilities, the YWCA sold its properties in Old Quebec and erected, in 1968, a new building, the one where the organization is currently located. It is there that intense moments of humanity are still lived, of a tirelessly committed YW!