Our History

The YWCA Southeastern Massachusetts is one of 226 member associations of the YWCA USA. The national organization was chartered in 1858 and is one of the largest women-owned and ran groups in the country continuing a 150 year heritage of leadership in issues that affect the daily lives of women and girls.

Incorporated in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1911 as the Young Women’s Christian Association (Y.W.C.A.) of New Bedford, this Association operates autonomously at the discretion of its Board of Directors and with the leadership of its Executive Director. The New Bedford YWCA changed its name to the YWCA Southeastern Massachusetts to more accurately reflect its service area. The YWCA Southeastern Massachusetts serves an area that stretches from the Rhode Island state line east to Provincetown, south to the Islands and north to Attleboro, Brockton and Plymouth. Activities and outreach take place in locations from Falmouth to New Bedford to Fall River and up to Taunton.

The Association has owned the Levi Standish House at 20 South Sixth Street since 1979 and operated out of it since 1996. The Association has a history of always operating out of buildings on the block bordered by South Sixth Street, School Street, Pleasant Street and Spring Street in downtown New Bedford since its founding in 1911, including the building at 66 Spring Street (now Nativity Preparatory School).

This Association has changed its program emphasis a number of times during its 100 years of service to the community. It has been a residence to young women coming to work in the city. It has been an instrument for change in the development of leadership skills in women and girls. It has been in the forefront of swim training and water safety. It has been a community center for the hub of the city. It has been home of investment clubs and bridge clubs, Girl Scouts and senior citizens, prevention programs and recovery programs, literacy classes and book clubs, Martin Luther King celebrations and Japanese cooking classes, couples clubs and Displaced Homemakers, teen dances, and the Lavender Café.

The YWCA remains at the forefront of addressing racial and gender inequities, advocating for racial justice, economic advancement and the empowerment of women and girls. The YWCA Southeastern Massachusetts continues to provide opportunities to help women and their families reach their fullest potential. Today, the programs and services of the YWCA Southeastern Massachusetts are identified in four areas: Adult Services, Youth Services, Health & Wellness and Residential Services.

The YWCA celebrates diversity and has continuously worked to afford diverse activities and opportunities to women, girls and their families in an effort to seek peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all people.