Since our founding in 1891, the YWCA Cambridge has been an advocate for human rights and has provided safe, affordable housing and support services for women and girls. During the industrial revolution when women and girls were displaced to urban areas in New England to work in inhumane conditions, the YWCA Cambridge responded by opening a boarding house and providing supportive services to these young factory workers. Our founders understood that to become independent, women needed a safe environment in which to learn essential professional and daily living skills. As a result, the YWCA Cambridge boarding house was opened in 1911 to give female factory workers a safe place to live and learn life skills appropriate for that era such as penmanship, stenography, etiquette, and dressmaking. The YWCA founders also participated actively in the labor movement promoting safe working conditions, rest periods and shorter hours for the young women working the factories.
Much later a Health Education Wing was constructed and the pool building was opened on the YWCA Cambridge site so that women could exercise their minds and their bodies.
The Marshfield Branch of YWCA Cambridge was started with a generous loan from Anna Billings Thurber. Beginning in 1944, Mrs. Thurber loaned the YWCA Cambridge the Red Barn, located on a salt marsh on the North River in Marshfield, to conduct summer programs for teens and young adults. The property was owned by Charles H. Thurber, Editor-in-Chief of Ginn & Company, publishers, who often invited his employees to the Red Barn for vacations and outings. Their daughter, Gertrude Thurber Tanner, once President of the YWCA Cambridge, often brought city teens and families to the Marshfield Red Barn. She was responsible for the property being deeded to the YWCA Cambridge by her mother, Anna Thurber, in 1961. Today, the Marshfield Branch hosts more than 100 day campers each week during the summer.
The Tanner Residence was added to the 7 Temple Street location in the 1950s. Tanner and the third and fourth floors of the Main Building comprise 103 units of Single Room Occupancy (SRO) housing for single women.
Our Homeless Family Shelter began with a few rooms in the Tanner Residence and subsequently moved to a large house in Central Square. The Shelter provides safe housing for 10 families.
The pool building was closed in the 1980s because of ongoing structural problems. Subsequently, it was demolished in the summer of 2013 to make way for the construction of 42 units of affordable housing built by the Cambridge Housing Authority.
Today the YWCA Cambridge is an institution in Cambridge and Marshfield, housing Cambridge’s largest women's residential facility and hosting a variety of programs designed to appeal to a broad range of interests, including the Marshfield Summer Day Camp.