March is Women’s History Month, and YWCA Northeast Kansas is celebrating the women leaders past and present devoted to our mission of eliminating racism and empowering women. From the women who worked to build our first permanent building in 1911, to our current board of directors working today to lead us through challenges and opportunity – We’re #BetterBecauseOfHer.
Looking Back at 135 Years of Empowering Women
Did you know that there is a Topeka YWCA collection at the Kansas Historical Society? Thanks to the work of former Executive Director Joan Wagnon (also Topeka’s first female mayor!), our organizational history is preserved and available to inspire us forward on our mission of empowering women and eliminating racism in Northeast Kansas.
From day one, YWCA Northeast Kansas has been led by women, with a goal of supporting women in all aspects of their lives.
“For over a century the YWCA’s commitment to helping women encompassed issues such as women’s suffrage, working rights, and family problems. Two groups, the Business Girls League and the Business and Professional Club, were established to assist women trying to advance their careers…YWCA programs have changed to meet the changing needs of the community. However, the goals of the Topeka YWCA, to help women emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually, have remained constant.” -excerpt from Topeka YWCA Manuscript Collection No. 212
Today, we support the economic advancement of women through the Leadership Academy. We provide affordable, high quality childcare at our Early Learning Center and Kids Quest Youth Programs. We walk with survivors of sexual and domestic violence through the Center for Safety and Empowerment. And we advocate for women, especially women of color, with racial justice and advocacy programs.
Honoring Women’s History Makers Past and Present
With YWCA USA, we have been learning about and reflecting on the lives of women’s history makers who inspire and empower us to work for a stronger and more equitable community here in the Topeka region. Staff joined the fun with a little exercise to share the women they look up to as leaders and history makers. A few of the responses are below!
- “Sojourner Truth, she was a voice for women’s rights and abolition of slavery.” -YWCA CEO Kathleen Marker
- “All the womxn who blazed a trail and created change before me! Empowered women empower women!” -Emily Steimel-Handy, CSE Public Education Coordinator
- “Gloria Steinem, because she didn’t take no for an answer, and fought for ALL women!” -CSE Advocate
- Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Notorious RBG!” – Maggie Babinka-Repic, Youth Services Program Director
Who would you add to this list?
Help us make women’s history today, and donate to YWCA Northeast Kansas.