Portland YWCA Programs & Outreach

Document 1

Document 2

Fitness & Sport

Jobs & Placement

Music & Drama

Health & Sexuality

Girl Reserves

Social Services

Programs: Music & Drama

Research by Faith Gorsuch

Christmas Choir, 1946
History Pageant, 1950s

Guitar Singers, 1970s

 

       Music and drama were essential to fellowship, education, and mutual enjoyment within the YWCA. Singing was, of course, central to religious worship but secular song also had a powerful place in fostering common bonds among participants. The existence of numerous YWCA song books -- nearly one for every club, camp, or branch of the organization -- testifies to both singing's popularity and to the power of song to bind groups together.[1]

 

Camp Choir, c. 1955

 

       Singing and performance also had an important didactic role for the YWCA, and songs often carried important religious or even political messages. "Break down barriers, change our thoughts, Help widen the reach of love," went the words to one Girl Reserves tune. Light-hearted "camp songs" or "humor songs" also contained less-than-subtle messages about the world, like: "Never make love in a buggy, for horses carry tails."[2] Skits, pageants, and theatricals played a similar role, encouraging girls to step out of their everyday roles and imagine the world beyond their own home circle. The use of music during YWCA programs declined by the 1950s and 60s. One former board member noted, "I wept when group singing faded away."[3]

 

1. See for example, Y's Owl Song Book, c. 1920, and Sing It, c. 1930, both in Portland YWCA Archives, Portland, Oregon.
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2. "Break Down Barriers," in Y's Owl Song Book, p. 3; "Never Make Love in a Buggy," in Sing It, p. 21.
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3. Patricia A. Schechter, "Interview with Kay Somers," April 1996, Portland YWCA Archives, Portland, Oregon.
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