Document 2: "To our Friends and the Public," [1884], An open letter to supporters of the Baltimore YWCA, unprocessed collection of YWCA of Greater Baltimore, 128 W. Franklin Street, Annual Reports, 1883-1902.

Introduction

       In this appeal for support, the women of the Baltimore YWCA sought to draw attention to the working class women of the city.  The language of class is particularly evident in the description of the women as unfortunate, but "well-meaning, honest" workers.  The YWCA provided services to those women of good moral character who needed help through no fault of their own.  By doing so they determined who was deserving of their benevolence and who was beyond their assistance. This is a reflection of their Christian mission to help working-class women conform to middle-class expectations. 

To our Friends and the Public.

        Hear us for our cause.  The Young Women's Christian Association of Baltimore has been now one year in operation, and while we come to give account of our first year's stewardship, we desire more fully to explain to the public the intent and mission of this Association to the self-supporting women and girls of our city.

        We propose a mission of Christian sympathy, with practical help.  Whosoever needs it and will accept it, can have it.  No proviso intervenes, except a testimonial of good moral character.

        While the Scripture saying, that "the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong," must forever hold good, yet it contains something of paradox.  Our daily experience tells us that the converse is equally true; that the race is to the swift and the battle is to the strong.  To our successful "swift and strong" working sister we have no mission, except "God speed," and will you not work with us?  We are here to share the burdens of the slow and weak; to cast out stones from the difficult highways of life, that trembling feet may not stumble; to stand at the parting of the ways, that uncertain feet may be turned into paths of light and life.

       Amid the hurrying throngs of every great city there must always be a class of well-meaning, honest, upright and industrious toilers, who, yet from some mischance, some turn in the wheel of fortune, or some mischance, some turn in the wheel of fortune, or some accident, are crowded out, pushed to the wall, run down by those more wise, or skillful, or fortunate than they.  Some are carrying, besides their own burdens, heavy weights imposed by others, so that they fall behind in this sharp, keen competition.  These surely need a helping hand, lest in some hour of darkness and despondency they sink into lower and sadder depths, and the blood of their souls be required at our hands.  It is to such struggling, perplexed women that we would reach a hand of sisterly sympathy and succor.  Shall we hear so much of the brotherhood of man and not make proof of the sisterhood of woman?

        Perhaps you ask what we propose to do for such an one.  You wish to see the practical working of the Association.  Well, we would bring her first into our dining-room -too small, indeed, by half, but warm and hospitable.  We would give her a simple but savory and well-cooked dinner for a few cents, or for nothing, if need be.  Then we would take her to our Employment Committee, and, ascertaining what work she could best perform, direct her where she could soonest find that work.  If a stranger or without a home, temporary lodging would be furnished by the Association until work and a suitable boarding place could be provided.  Afterwards we would bid her welcome to the hospitalities of our small parlor- to its books and magazines, to its charities of friendly converse and sisterly advice.  Lastly, we would invite her into our Sunday Bible Class, and Thursday evening gathering, where heart touches heart as we talk together of the love of Christ to us- that constrained Him to take upon Him our frail humanity and become a man of sorrows, toiling with His own sacred hands; who drank of every brook by the way, that He might be touched with a feeling of our infirmities, and who tasted death for every man.

        In this Bible-Class room we would feed her heart, quicken her conscience and strengthen her soul for the battle of life.

       There is yet another class to whom we minister, a class full of hope and promise.  They are young girls from humble homes, who have had such limited advantages as our primary public schools afford.  They are cash clerks or carriers of messages or parcels.  Their acquirements are small and they are ambitious to add to their mental stores.  For these and whoever else may desire, we have evening classes, where competent teachers come to instruct them in arithmetic, bookkeeping, &c.

       The work is noble and beautiful, but by no means easy.  It might fill an angel's hands.  It demands rare skill , tact, delicacy, with a keen insight into character and motive.  "Wise as serpents and harmless as doves" must be the sign.  Such gifts as we have we freely give to this cause, but we cannot do this work alone.  It is too great for us.

       Our brother man must help us.  A moment's reflection will convince any one that it is impossible to carry forward such a work in three or four small rooms, in an upper story, kitchen and dining-room, where more than a hundred meals must daily be served, one small parlor in which to transact the business of our numerous committees and to hold our social meetings, our educational; and our Bible Classes.

       We must have a house and it must be where business centres.  We are most anxious, as soon as we have space, to establish a department of domestic economy, where the young may be initiated into the mysteries of cooking a good family dinner, of which so many confess their utter ignorance.

        We would especially seek to convince these young people that all honest service is honorable, and that manual labor is not menial labor; that the girl who dependes upon precarious days' work, with the seasons of ebb and flow, is less desirably situated than she who has a permanent home in a kind and Christian household where her service is repaid, not alone with gold but with grateful consideration.  Such an one, as she goes about her daily duties, may realize the worth of holy George Herbert's words:

"Who sweeps a room as for His laws
Makes that and the action fine."

        But we repeat, to do this work efficiently we must have a suitable house, conveniently located; not stately or elegant, but sufficiently commodious and well-planned for its special uses.  Who will help us?

AMINTA E. GREEN,                   

President.                                   

REBECCA McCONKEY,

     Corresponding Secretary.

Y.W.C.A., 109 LEXINGTON STREET, January, 1884.

 

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