Throughout the month of March, we are celebrating Women’s History and the achievement of women.  

Milestones for Women of the YMCA: 

  • Miss Ellen Brown became the first female employee of a YMCA and the first “boy’s work secretary.” She taught a night class that grew so rapidly that it became a department of the Y. 

womens history group
  • Addie Hunton was a nurse during WWI and one of three nurses sponsored by the YMCA in 1918 to serve 200,000 segregated black troops stationed in France.  

  • Wilhelmina “Wille” Aveling: First woman on the metropolitan staff of the YMCA of Chicago and director of YMCA women`s and girls` work activities for all Chicago in 1934. Over three decades she improved programs for women and girls, summer day camps and implemented proper standards for women’s and girls’ programs.

  • Winifred Colton was the first female professional on the national YMCA staff and Secretary for Programs with Women and Girls (1957-1970). She also served as Director of the YMCA National Family Communications Skills Center (1970-1979).

  • In 1970, Jean Anne Durades, regional associate of Region 1, became the first black woman to hold such a position on the National Council of the YMCA. 

  • Xinia Brenes Jenkins: one of the founding members of the San Jose YMCA. Jenkins for her assistance in instituting a national Costa Rican YMCA. Following its implementation in 1975, she became director of leadership development at the San Jose YMCA in 1977. In 1983, she became national general secretary, and, in 1990, executive for refugees, development, and extension for the Latin American Confederation of YMCAs.  

Suzanne McCormick YMCA
  • In 1985, Evonne Raglin became the first woman to lead a large urban association as the CEO of the Miami Metro YMCA. 

  • In 2018, Sue Glass became the first female CEO of the YMCA of Metro Denver. 

  • In 2021, Suzanne McCormick became the first woman to serve as President and CEO of YMCA of the USA. A 30-year nonprofit executive, Suzanne is a sought-after speaker and thought leader in the nonprofit and social impact sectors. In her role, she serves as an inspiration and symbol of what’s possible for future women leaders, including the millions of girls and young women who engage with the Y as members, participants, staff and volunteers. 


How Far We’ve Come and How Far We'll Go:

marie berry womens history
  • As of 2017, 241 of the 814 YMCA CEOs were female (29.6%).

Upcoming Blog Posts: 


Suggestions for Inspiring Books for Young Readers: 

Need more recommendations? See here

Did you know that 0.5% of your purchase will be donated to the YMCA of Metro Denver when you purchase through AmazonSmile? Happy reading!

amazon smile





Sources: YMCA of Metropolitan DetroitChicago TribuneYMCA Archives (Jenkins)YMCA Archives (Colton) 

Nay Ballard

“Advocate for yourself – be actively engaged, assert your voice. [This] empowers you to shape your career path according to your values and passions.”