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Breaking down barriers

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Title:
Breaking down barriers black and white women's visions of integration : The Young Women's Christian Association in Denver and the Phyllis Wheatley Branch : 1915-1964
Portion of title:
Young Women's Christian Association in Denver and the Phyllis Wheatley Branch, 1915-1964
Creator:
Goldstein, Marcia Tremmel
Place of Publication:
Denver, CO
Publisher:
University of Colorado Denver
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English
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ix, 179 leaves : ; 29 cm

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Race relations -- Denver (Colo.) ( lcsh )
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bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

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Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 174-179).
Thesis:
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree, Master of Arts, History
General Note:
Department of History
Statement of Responsibility:
by Marcia Tremmel Goldstein.

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|University of Colorado Denver
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|Auraria Library
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
34592932 ( OCLC )
ocm34592932
Classification:
LD1190.L57 1995m .G65 ( lcc )

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Full Text
BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS:
BLACK AND WHITE WOMENS VISIONS OF INTEGRATION
The Young Womens Christian Association in Denver
and the
Phyllis Wheatley Branch
1915 1964
by
Marcia Tremmel Goldstein
B. A., Metropolitan State College of Denver, 1982
A thesis submitted to the
Faculty of the Graduate School of the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
History
1995


1995 by Marcia Tremmel Goldstein
All rights reserved.


This thesis for the Master of Arts
degree by
Marcia Tremmel Goldstein
has been approved by


Goldstein, Marcia Tremmel (M.A., History)
Breaking Down Barriers: Black and White Visions of Integration
The Young Womens Christian Association in Denver and the
Phyllis Wheatley Branch, 1915 1964
Thesis directed by Professor Thomas J. Noel
ABSTRACT
Race relations in Denver, a western urban center inhabited by diverse
peoples, remain largely unexamined by historians. This thesis explores the
changing attitudes of black and white women about race relations and integra-
tion in the city, through an examination of the YWCAs Phyllis Wheatley
Branch for Colored Women, which operated continuously in Denvers Five
Points neighborhood from 1916 to 1964. The work of this significant commu-
nity center for black women and girls, and its relationship to the YWCAs
predominantly white Central Board, provides a rich case study of women and
race relations in the 20th century urban American West.
With the founding of the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA Colored Club in
1916, Denvers YWCA became "bi-racial" inclusive of both races but segre-
gated. Each decade brought increased interaction between the black and
IV


white YWCA members, following the national YWCAs directives in favor of
integration. Throughout these decades, the Phyllis Wheatley Branch provided
vital community services: a boarding house, employment bureau, health and
recreational programs, clubs for working women, youth and camp activities,
social events, and a meeting center for black community organizations. Branch
leadership spearheaded struggles against racial discrimination, both within the
YWCA and in the Denver community at large. A strong leadership core
maintained the Branchs autonomy and community base in the face of numer-
ous pressures to abandon black-oriented programs for the sake of integration.
The Branch remained active until the early 1960s, when by mutual consent of
both black and white local YWCA leadership, the building was closed and the
operation was absorbed into the officially integrated YWCA of Metropolitan
Denver. Leaders and members of the former black Branch remained active in
the YWCA until 1994, when bankruptcy forced an end to the 107 year old
YWCA of Metropolitan Denver.
The history of the YWCA and its Phyllis Wheatley Branch highlights the
often oversimplified issue of integration, and points to the disruption the
integration process has caused among African-Americans. The YWCA
experience also underscores Denvers long history of groups and individuals
v


who have fought for racial equality and respect for the citys diversity. The
YWCA exemplifies the important role of womens organizations in this multi-
cultural legacy. Black and white women in Denvers YWCA have been
essential characters in the overall story of the American West as a meeting
ground of gender, race, and class.
This abstract accurately represents the contentofthecandidate^sthesiSjI
recommend its publication.
Signed
Thomas J. N&el
vi


CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ............................viii
CHAPTER
1. INTRODUCTION..............................1
2. THE EARLY HISTORY OF THE YWCA AND
BLACK WOMENS ORGANIZATIONS,
NATIONAL AND LOCAL..................... 16
3. THE NATIONAL YWCA AND THE FOUNDING OF
DENVERS PHYLLIS WHEATLEY BRANCH .......23
4. "A MAJOR COMMUNITY SUPPORT SYSTEM:" THE
PHYLLIS WHEATLEY BRANCH IN THE 1920s ...49
5. FELLOWSHIP AND SURVIVAL IN THE 1930s ....86
6. THE YWCA AND DENVERS INTERRACIAL
COMMISSION: 1924-1935 ................ 118
7. BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS:
THE WORLD WAR II YEARS ............... 131
8. "OUR HEADS ARE UP!": CONCLUSION........ 167
BIBLIOGRAPHY................................. 174
vii


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Many people have been of great assistance during the research and
writing of this thesis. The research goes back to 1989-90, when Stan Oliner,
Head of the Books and Manuscripts Department at the Colorado Historical
Society, graciously allowed me to work as his intern. Stan and Dr. Ellen Fisher
supervised the enormous task of processing over 43 boxes of papers in the
YWCA of Metropolitan Denver Collection, and the compiling of the
computerized Finding Aid.
A portion of the research on the Phyllis Wheatley Branch in the 1940s
was completed in 1991, under the wise and scholarly direction of Dr. Myra
Rich at the University of Colorado at Denver, and Dr. Lee Chambers Schiller
of the University of Colorado at Boulder. Dr. Thomas J. Noel patiently
worked with me during over five years of history graduate work at UCD,
providing much motivation and enthusiasm for my research on women in
Colorado. Dr. Noel and Dr. Rich were kind enough to read and critique this
thesis, greatly enhancing its readability and content.
Jeffrey Goldstein, my husband, generously turned over his home office
computer to me for the writing of this lengthy project. He has given great
encouragement and support to all of my historical work, as have my daughter
Deanna, and mother Phyllis Tremmel.
viii


Lastly, I would like to dedicate this thesis to life long Phyllis Wheatley
YWCA member and former Denver YWCA All-Association President Addye
Lightner, now deceased, who graciously gave of her time and memories to
assist in the research. Long time YWCA activists Ellen Moose and Sarah Sims
also helped to bring the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA story back to life. They and
many other former members still reside in Denver, where the Phyllis Wheatley
Branch and the YWCA played such an important part of their lives.
ix


CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
Associations should continue to work for the building of a society nearer to the
Kingdom of God by attempting to create within the Association a fellowship in
which barriers of race, nationality, education and social status are broken down
in the pursuit of the common objective of a better life for all.
Resolution Adopted at 1936 YWCA National Convention
As members of The Young Womens Christian Associations of the United
States of America we humbly and resolutely pledge ourselves to continue to
pioneer in an interracial experience that shall be increasingly democratic and
Christian.
YWCA Interracial Charter, 1946
. . race should not be a barrier between women working toward a common
goah
YWCA National Board, 1949.
Denvers "Phyllis Wheatley Colored YWCA Club" met for the first time
in October, 1915 at Shorter A.M.E. (African Methodist Episcopal) Church.
The club grew quickly, and became an official Branch of the Central Denver
and National YWCA in 1920. The Phyllis Wheatley YWCA Branch, named
after the 18th century slave poet, was the citys major center for young African- 1
1 YWCA National Board, Interracial Practices in Community YWCAs: A
Study Under the Auspices of the Commission to Gather Interracial Experience
as Requested by the 16th National Convention of the YWCAs of the United
States (New York: The Womans Press, 1944), p. 3.
1


American working women and school-aged girls. For almost fifty years, the
Phyllis Wheatley organization operated a residence hall, youth and camp
programs, an employment bureau, and arts and recreation classes. They
operated these programs out of their own building, supported a paid staff of
four, and sustained a large volunteer support system. From 1920 until the
early 1960s, the Branch was located at 2460 Welton Street, in the heart of
Denvers Five Points neighborhood.2 3 It was one of the last traditionally black
2 Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784) was the first African-American woman in
the U.S. to publish a volume of verse. Bom in 1753 in Gambia, Africa,
Wheatley was brought to the U.S. on a slave ship named "Phillis" in 1761, and
sold as a house slave to the Wheatley family. By 1773, her first poems, Poems
on Various Subjects. Religious and Moral, had been published. Her poem
honoring George Washington earned her a special audience with him during
the American Revolution. Wheatley died in 1784 at age 31 in dire poverty.
John Shields, "Wheatley, Phillis (Peters)," in Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black
Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia (New York: Carlson
Publishing, Inc., 1993), p. 1251-1255. See also Denver Area Welfare Council,
"Study of the Place of the Welton Street Branch," 1955, p. 45, YWCA of
Metropolitan Denver, Collection No. 1254, Colorado Historical Society,
Denver, Colorado, Box 24, Folder 577, (hereafter "YWCA Collection, CHS").
See also Paula Giddings, When and Where I Enter: the Impact of Black
Women on Race and Sex in America (New York: Bantam Books, 1984), p. 41.
3 Denver in the late 1910s and 1920s was the largest city in the western
region outside of California. Its small black population was well-established,
with families, businesses, and a strong, educated middle class. Many black men
were employed by the railroads, while black women were domestics and
laundry workers. A few black-owned stores and businesses provided more
skilled employment. The citys blacks were concentrated in the so-called "Five-
Points" district north of downtown, around 27th and Welton Streets, where in
1929 5,500 of the citys 7,000 blacks lived. Ira De A. Reid, The Negro
Population in Denver. Colorado: A Survey of Its Economic and Social Status
(Denver: Lincoln Press, 1929). See also, Lynda Dickson, The Early Club
Movement among Black Women in Denver: 1890-1925. Ph. D. dissertation,
2


YWCA Branches in the United States to close its doors.4 This Thesis
represents initial research into the untapped history of interracial relations in
Denvers YWCA -- one of the citys oldest and most influential womens
organizations.5
The historical examination of American race relations has been a
driving force toward developing a more inclusive and accurate presentation of
our countrys past. Studies of gender relations have moved the historical field
towards the same end. While the task is difficult and complicated, combining
the various elements of these neglected interactions is one of the most
important challenges facing modern historians.
The YWCA is an exceptional example of a major national womens
organization which has a long history of multi-racial leadership, membership,
and program. The YWCAs experiences in race relations have occurred over
the greater part of the 20th century, not only on a national level, but in a
University of Colorado, 1982, p. 96-100.
4 There were 49 black YWCA branches in 1919, many of them named
after Phyllis (or "Phillis") Wheatley. Giddings, 156; By 1943, the number had
grown to 73. See list in Phyllis Wheatley Scrapbook No. 23, YWCA
Collection, CHS; With the national YWCA thrust toward full integration in
the 1940s and 1950s, all separate branches were merged with city-wide YWCA
programs by the early 1960s. Adrienne Lash Jones, in Hine, Encyclopedia, p.
1302.
5 Sadly, in late 1994, the YWCA of Metropolitan Denver was forced into
bankruptcy and closed its doors permanently after over a century of service to
the citys women from all walks of life.
3


myriad of distinctly different local contexts. This variety provides historians
ample material with which to compare female race relations on both a
chronological and geographical basis. Issues of organizational separation vs.
integration, white control vs. black autonomy, organizational discrimination and
paternalism are explored in detail in this thesis. YWCA programs have served
a variety of constituencies of women based on age group, occupation, marital
status, cultural or racial background, and educational background. Few
organizations can claim such strong ties to both working class and
professional/middle class women. Inter-generational relations are another key
component of YWCA activity. Extensive youth programs have centered on
young women and girls of all races from grade school through college and have
been a continuing source of organizational vitality. Student YWCAs have
often been at the forefront of the push for racial equality in the organization.
Many Americans associate the modern push for racial integration and
African-American rights with the civil rights movement of the 1960s. In
Denver, for example, the late 1960s brought massive social and political
pressure to break through the barriers of de facto segregation in Denvers
schools. Some blacks warned at the time that while segregated schools must
end, integration might mean a loss of power and cohesiveness in the black
community. Twenty years later, the community remains concerned about
racial inequality in the citys school system the high minority drop out rates,
4


the minority/white test score gap, and academic programs which are still de
facto segregated within each school. The tremendous idealism which
surrounded the movement for integration has been replaced with skepticism.
The demand for "neighborhood schools," once a code phrase for white racists,
is now being heard in black and Chicano neighborhoods. Some are asking the
question, "What good did integration do if education did not improve, if
minority children are not being served?"6
The problem faced by Denvers School system today is that integration
without real equality in society is an empty promise. Few people realize that
decades before school busing began in Denver, the city was grappling with
these same issues. Long before the 1960s, Denvers progressive blacks and
whites advocated racial equality through integration. Strong dynamic black
organizations and neighborhood structures which had been built over time as a
means to survive under segregation became integral components of the
struggle to integrate. The Phyllis Wheatley Branch was such an organization,
made more important by virtue of its competent female leadership. An
examination of race relations in Denvers YWCA reveals that the integration
See, for example, James Traub, "Segregation by Choice: Where integra-
tion has failed, can all-black schools succeed?" The Rocky Mountain News.
April 28, 1991, p. 93.
5


process meant sacrificing one of these important black institutions and the
leadership/power base it provided.
To the women at Phyllis Wheatley, breaking through the barriers
erected by privilege and racism was a far different matter than tearing down
the protective walls of ones own home. Whites who pushed for integration
saw the process of breaking down racial barriers as a social experiment that
would in and of itself correct inequalities in society, whereas blacks viewed the
integration process as more complex jiist one of many tools of survival in a
fundamentally racist society. As historians search through the roots and
branches of racial conflict in modern America, a closer look at little known
experiences like the Phyllis Wheatley Branch in Denver sheds light on the
complexities of relationships between whites and blacks struggling for racial
equality. The experiences of the Phyllis Wheatley Branch vividly illustrate that
blacks have interpreted the goals and processes of racial integration differently
than whites.
Research for this thesis involved extensive examination of the rich and
comprehensive YWCA of Metropolitan Denver Collection, housed at the
Colorado History Museum in Denver, Colorado. The collection consists of
over 43 boxes of detailed organizational records, including meeting minutes,
brochures, organizational histories, scrapbooks, interviews, photographs and
other documents of the YWCA of Metropolitan Denver are housed at the
6


archives of the Colorado History Museum in Denver.7 National YWCA
reports and books published during the various time periods covered in the
study provide concurrent explanations or contrasts with local trends regarding
YWCA race relations.
A growing handful of historians have published articles focusing on
different aspects of racial interaction in the YWCA. One study published in
the recent series on Black Women in the United States by Sharlene Voogd
Cochrane, "And the Pressure Never Let Up,: Black Women, White Women,
and the Boston YWCA, 1918-1948," traces the emergence of an integrated
program and leadership in Boston. Cochrane attributes the progress to
unrelenting pressure from Blacks, and claims that "by 1948, the Boston YWCA
was a fully integrated organization."8 In her book, To Better Our World,
historian Dorothy Salem focuses considerable attention on the early work of
the national YWCA in development of "colored" program and/or branches
from WWI through the 1920s in the context of the general black reform
movement among women begun before the turn of the century. It was
7 Colorado Historical Society, An Inventory of the Papers of the YWCA
of Metropolitan Denver, finding aid written and compiled by Marcia T.
Goldstein (Denver: Colorado Historical Society, 1991).
p
Sharlene Voogd Cochrane, "And the Pressure Never Let Up,: Black
Women, White Women, and the Boston YWCA, 1918-1948," in Vicki L.
Crawford, ed., Women in the Civil Rights Movement: Trailblazers and
Torchbearers, 1941-1965. from the series, Black Women in United States
History (New York: Carlson Publishing Inc., 1990), vol. 16., p. 268.
7


precisely during this time that Denvers Phyllis Wheatley Club and branch was
established.9
Relations between the YWCA and its counterpart, the YMCA have
been the subject of other recent studies. Historian Susan Lynn in "The Quest
for Racial Equality in the YWCA, 1945 to the 1960s" uses the comparison to
make a case for the general proclivity of even privileged women to take up
causes of counter-interest to their class and race interests more readily than
men.10 While the two organizations are and always have been completely
independent and distinct from each other, their general goals and program
have been similar enough to provide interesting comparisons. Examining
differences in organizational democracy, racial relations, and funding between
the organizations could illuminate community gender relations as well as the
relative strengths and weaknesses of male and female organizational strategies.
Evidence of such YWCA-YMCA dynamics can also be seen in Denver
community over time.11
9 Dorothy Salem, To Better Our World: Black Women in Organized
Reform. 1890-1920. from the series Black Women in United States History.
vol. 14.
10 Lynn, Susan, "The Quest for Racial Equality in the YWCA, 1945 to the
1960s," unpublished paper presented to the Organization of American Histori-
ans, April 12, 1991.
11 For example in December, 1947, the all-Black Glenarm YMCA "Moth-
ers Council" requested the help of the YWCA in fighting "unfair racial
practices of the Denver YMCA," up to and including non-participation.
8


Another aspect of YWCA experience that presents challenging issues is
the area of political and class relations within the black community. Black
YWCA leadership has tended to come from the educated middle classes.
There are interesting organizational dynamics which reveal much about the
sometimes conflicting allegiances faced by these women: pursuit of upward
mobility through positive relations with whites vs. allegiance to the black race
and the fight against racial prejudice. It is in this context that the examination
of the growing push toward integration of the organization becomes important.
Discussions of this dynamic in the YWCA and within a variety of other black
womens organizations are touched on in Paula Giddings, When and Where I
19
Enter: the Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America.
One the most recent historical studies of activism among African-
American women is Evelyn Brooks Higginbothams Righteous Discontent.
Higginbotham presents a pathbreaking examination of how organized women
broadened the public arm of the black Baptist church in the late 19th and *
Minutes, Phyllis Wheatley Branch Committee of Management, December 6,
1947, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 469. On another occasion,
rumors of a possible merger of the Phyllis Wheatley Branch and the Glenarm
YMCA were met with open hostility by both Branch leadership and the
general black community. The merger idea was seen as an effort to hamper
the civil rights efforts of the YWCA by forcing them under the umbrella of a
racist Central YMCA establishment. "YMCA Denies Planning To Absorb
Wheatley Branch," The Denver Post. December 22, 1948, clipping, YWCA
Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 469.
1 o
Giddings, op. cit.
9


early 20th century, "making it the most powerful institution of racial self-help
in the African-American community."13 Many similarities can be drawn
between the work of the Baptist Womens Convention, who made up over 2/3
of the membership of the black Baptist movement, and the work of black
women in the YWCA. Both groups built strong community ties by providing
needed social and economic support services. The Womens Convention and
the YWCA alike were adept at arguing for racial equality within a religious
framework.
Two other similarities are striking between the Baptists and the YWCA:
the use of what Higginbotham calls "the politics of respectability," and the
conscious effort to communicate and win the support of whites within their
respective organizations.14 Complex race relations occurred in both groups,
with blacks recognizing the need put white financial and organizational
resources to work on providing for the needs of the black community. Black
middle class churchwomen and YWCA women alike focused on "uplift" and
respectable behavior, not only to build esteem for themselves among whites,
but in an effort to fulfil their perceived duty to raise the level of black lower
classes. Higginbotham points out that these activist women were
Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Righteous Discontent: The Womens
Movement in the Black Baptist Church. 1880-1920 (Cambridge: Harvard
University Press, 1993), p. 1.
14 Higginbotham, p. 14.
10


accommodationist, but utilized a "subversive" language of resistance in their
effort to win respect from whites. What better way to expose the bankruptcy
of white racism than to remove all other behavioral, educational, or moral
differences? The term "uplift" had a double connotation: the perceived need
to make lower class blacks "respectable" to whites, and the greater goal of
overcoming white racism in American society. Finally, like this study of the
women of the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA in Denver, Higginbothams study of
women in the Baptist Womens Convention reveals that these women made
"valiant attempts to navigate their people through the stifling and dangerous
obstacle course of American racism."15
Adrienne Lash Jones extensive biography of Jane Edna Hunter,
founder of the independent Phillis Wheatley Association in Cleveland, Ohio,
explores the life and motivations of a fiercely independent black reformer.
Hunter created an extensive service program similar to those offered by the
YWCA "Colored Branches," but chose to remain independent of the Cleveland
YWCA Board to insure her own autonomy and control over program and
funds.16
15 Higginbotham, p. 18.
16 Adrienne Lash Jones, Jane Edna Hunter: A Case Study of Black
Leadership. 1910-1950 (New York: Carlson Publishing, Inc., 1990), from the
series, Black Women in United States History, vol. 12.
11


Historical studies focusing on the work of the YWCA in the western
United States are virtually non-existent. Yet, the organization existed
historically in major western cities, including Denver, Los Angeles, San
Francisco, and Seattle. In this region, the YWCA served a great variety of
racial groups, including blacks, Indians, Hispanics, Japanese, Chinese, and
assorted white populations. It is likely that complex racial and ethnic dynamics
in the YWCA presented themselves in different ways than in the east, south,
and midwest. Western historian Sarah Deutsch has called on scholars to
explore the western "landscape of enclaves," in which minority groups have
maneuvered around white racism by establishing "a place apart where they
could exercise control over their lives, society, and surroundings."17 18 The
experience of Denvers Phyllis Wheatley YWCA Branch can be viewed as an
example of this enclavement in the 20th century. Black YWCA women were
keenly aware of what Deutsch terms "an enclaves double edge: refuge and
confinement." Nevertheless, the strategy proved a successful one for a time,
until the protective walls were mistaken for racial barriers and were torn down
during the fervor for integration in the 1960s. The exploration of race
17 Sarah Deutsch, "Landscape of Enclaves: Race Relations in the West,
1865-1990," in William Cronon, George Miles, and Jay Gitlin, eds., Under an
Open Sky. Rethinking Americas Western Past (New York: W. W. Norton &
Company, 1992), p. 119.
18 Deutsch, p. 122.
12


relations in Denvers YWCA contributes to the overall exploration of
interactions between the majority white society and minority enclaves in the
west.
Western womens historian, Peggy Pascoe, has offered another useful
framework in which to explore relations between peoples in the west. Her
article, "Western Women at the Cultural Crossroads," complains of previous
studies of western women which suffered from the "dynamic of disappearing
women of color," as if westering white women epitomized the female
experience in the region.19 Pascoe argues instead for a multicultural, cross-
cultural, and intercultural approach to western womens history. "In this
approach," argues Pascoe, "womens lives became microcosms of the
contradictions of conquest embodiments of the relations of rebellion,
cooperation, and subordination that underlay the massive changes conquest
brought to the region."20 Retracing the historical interactions between black
and white women in Denvers YWCA begins to provide a basis from which to
compare analogous experiences in the west and other American regions. For
example, were female black/white race relations in the western YWCA more
19 Peggy Pascoe, "Western Women at the Cultural Crossroads," in Patricia
Nelson Limerick, Clyde A. Miner II, and Charles E. Rankin, eds., Trails:
Toward a New Western History (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1991),
p. 47.
20 Pascoe, p. 55.
13


flexible and the barriers more permeable than in the east, midwest, or south?
Historians of Denver have only begun to explore the citys interracial,
intercultural female experiences. The YWCA in Denver provides a solid
opportunity to explore these relationships.
As a significant urban locality in the west, the city of Denver has
experienced a great degree of inter-racial convergence and conflict, and to a
m
lesser degree, cooperation. An early, little known attempt to present the citys
rich racial and ethnic history was by black historian, James Atkins, Human
Relations in Colorado, published in 1968. Steve Leonard and Tom Noels
From Mining Camp to Metropolis, provides much new factual information on
the general racial climate of Denver over time, as does Leonards work on the
1930s in Colorado, Trials and Triumphs: A Colorado Portrait of the Great
Depression. None of these books adequately explore Denvers minority
women nor the complexities of race relations among women, however. Lynda
Dicksons pathbreaking 1982 sociology dissertation on The Early Club
Movement Among Black Women in Denver: 1890-1925, provides excellent
background on Denvers role in the national movement of black womens
21 James T. Atkins, Human Relations in Colorado; A Historical Record
(Denver: Publishers Press, Inc., 1968).
22 Stephen J. Leonard and Thomas J. Noel, Denver: From Mining Camp
to Metropolis (Niwot: University Press of Colorado, 1990); Stephen J.
Leonard, Trials and Triumphs: A Colorado Portrait of the Great Depression
(Niwot: University Press of Colorado, 1993).
14


clubs, especially the local affiliates of the National Association of Colored
Women. In addition, Dickson provides an overview of conditions in the
citys black community during the early 20th century. Dicksons study focuses
on all-black clubs, and therefore does not explore interracial dynamics within
organizations.
This study will build on the existing literature, by exploring 20th century
black and white race relations among YWCA women in the western urban
setting of Denver, Colorado.
23 Dickson, op. cit.
15


CHAPTER 2
THE EARLY HISTORY OF THE YWCA AND
BLACK WOMENS ORGANIZATIONS, NATIONAL AND LOCAL
The Young Womens Christian Association, founded in 1858 in the
United States, is a large, world-wide womens organization which began as a
Christian support organization for the new population of young working girls
arriving in eastern U.S. cities. It has a long history of activism among working
women and young girls of all races, and is described by YWCA historian
Adrienne Lash Jones as "the oldest and largest womens multiracial
organization in the world."1
Each of the earliest YWCAs each had an ambitious and well-respected
program which included supervised residence halls, social clubs for working
girls, womens employment bureaus, religious and practical educational classes,
and youth programs nationwide. Black women sorely needed these services,
but all-white YWCAs excluded blacks from their early programs. It was not
until the World War I period that YWCAs began to actively reach out to
black women.
1 Adrienne Lash Jones, in Hine, Encyclopedia, p. 1299.
16


/
Nationally, late 19th century African-American groups found that
rejection from white organizations could be turned to their advantage, and
began providing services geared to the needs of the black community. As a
byproduct, these early self-help efforts provided opportunities for the
development of black leadership. Womens groups were no exception. For
example, the National Federation of Afro-American Women was launched in
1895 by Margaret Murray Washington (Mrs. Booker T. Washington) and
Rosetta Sprague, the daughter of Frederick Douglass.2 This group united
with others, resulting in National Association of Colored Women (NACW)
organized by Mary Terrell, which held its first convention in 1896, and enlisted
over 100 clubs nationwide by 1897.3
The turn-of-the-century black womens club movement was far more
than a mimicking of white society. It was a direct response to changes for the
worse for blacks in American society, including stepped up racial prejudice and
segregation, lynch-mob violence, and rapid social upheaval due to increased
2 Dickson, p. 40. See also, Giddings, p. 93.
3 Giddings, p. 93-95. Giddings calls the organization of the NACW "a
watershed in the history of Black women." Attendees at its founding conven-
tion included abolitionist Harriet Tubman and anti-lynching activist Ida B.
Wells Barnett.
17


urbanization and industrialization.4 Denver organizations reflected the
national trends. Under the NACW motto, "Lifting as We Climb," the
Womans League of Denver was formed in 1894 by club woman Ida DePriest
and her cohorts whom she described as "a few high-souled women."5 As with
middle class white women of the day, black club women saw themselves as the
"moral guardians" of their own community. But blacks also challenged their
clubs to fight racism in the larger community. "The responsibility [is] on
women [in] uplifting a downtrodden race above the rockies of prejudice,"
declared the Elizabeth Piper Ensley, President of the Colorado Association of
Colored Womens Clubs (CACWC) in 1904.6 The motto of the CACWC,
4 Salem, p. 1. See also Jacqueline Jones, Labor of Love. Labor of Sorrow:
Black Women. Work, and the Family from Slavery to the Present (New York:
Basic Books, 1985), p. 190.
5 DePriest quoted in Dickson, p. 136. Ida DePriest also founded the
Colored Womens Republican Club also in 1894, the first year Colorado
women were allowed to vote. Dickson, p. 111. DePriest and black suffragist
Elizabeth Ensley were instrumental in the 1894 election of Joseph H. Stuart,
the first black state legislator in Colorado. Dickson, p. 134. Stuarts primary
accomplishment during his two year term was the enactment in 1895 of a civil
rights law, outlawing discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of
"race, creed, or color." The law provided for fines, imprisonment, and money
damages, and was used as the basis for numerous civil rights law suits in
ensuing decades. Atkins, 38, 113.
6 Dickson, p. 129, 131.
18


which consisted of clubs from Colorado Springs, Pueblo, and Denver, was "To
the Stars Through Difficulties."7
Between 1900 and 1925, at least twenty-two clubs had formed in Denver
alone. The most significant and enduring institution of the Association was the
Negro Womens Club Home and Day Nursery, established in 1916 at 2357
Clarkson Street. It still operates in 1995 as the George Washington Carver
Day Nursery.8 A moving force in the establishment of the Club Home was
Mrs. Gertie Ross. Rosss work exemplifies how black womens groups often
encouraged cooperation and planning between organizations, in order to avoid
duplication of resources and unnecessary competition. Ross was an East High
School graduate who joined Taka Art Club in 1913, after her marriage to
attorney and Denver Star publisher George Ross in 1910. As organist at
Denvers Shorter A.M.E Church, she was active and well-known in church
7 Dickson, p. 139. Ensley moved to Denver from Boston in the 1890s,
when she became the Treasurer of the Colorado Equal Suffrage Association
during its successful campaign for womens right to vote in 1893. She was
active in the Womens League, and published regular columns in Womens
Era, the NACWs national newspaper.
8 Dickson, p. 155, 195. See also Mary Anthes, "Lifting as We Climb,"
unpublished paper, University of Colorado, Boulder, 1991. As of 1995, the
George Washington Carver Day Nursery was listed in the telephone book at
2270 Humboldt Street in Denver. The organizational records of the Colorado
Association of Colored Womens Clubs are housed at the Denver Public
Library, Western History Department.
19


circles.9 Ross became President of the State Federation of Colored Womens
Clubs, Colorados affiliate of the National Association of Colored Women, in
1918.10 This female dynamo was the driving force behind the establishment
of the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA during the same year as the founding of the
Negro Womens Club Home in 1916.
The cooperative process between Denvers black womens groups was
facilitated by leadership overlap and a close-knit community of active women
cross-fertilizing each others work. For example, Taka Art Club was founded
by early YWCA leaders Gertie Ross and Lillian Bondurant. Carnation Club,
another member of the Negro Womens Home and the State Federation of
Colored Womens Clubs made regular donations to the YWCA. By the mid-
1920s, it became apparent that the YWCA residence at the Phyllis Wheatley
9 Early Denvers black churches were the first centers for community self-
help efforts. Zion Baptist Church was established in 1865. Shorter, African
Methodist Episcopal (AME) was established in 1868. Their congregations
were instrumental in opening black orphanages and old-age homes. Black
churchmen founded the Glenarm YMCA, which opened in 1908. Dickson, p.
115-116. In addition to Ross, other Shorter churchwomen including Lydia
Smith Ward, wife of pastor A. M. Ward, were instrumental in starting the
YWCA Phyllis Wheatley Club in 1916. Nelsine Howard Campbell, "History of
the Phyllis Wheatley Branch, YWCA," unpublished, 1935, p. 3, YWCA
Collection, CHS, Box 43, Folder 1056.
10 Dickson, p. 164.
20


Branch had fulfilled the need for single womens housing, so the women of the
Club Home turned their primary attention to the day nursery.11
Denver in the late 1910s was the largest city in the Rocky Mountain
region, outnumbered only by Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle in the
west. Denvers small black population was well-established, with families,
businesses, and a small educated middle class. Black men tended to be
employed by the railroads, while black women were domestics and laundry
workers. A few black-owned stores and businesses provided more skilled
employment. The city was segregated, with blacks living in the Five-Points
district north of down town, but early civil rights protections in Colorado had
prevented any legal restrictions on black residents.
Club and church men and women participated in early anti-racism
actions in the Denver community. For example, in 1915, black attorney and
Denver Star publisher George Ross and his wife Gertie, dentist Dr. Clarence
F. Holmes, and George Gross formed the Denver chapter of the National
Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), six years after
the national NAACP was founded.12 The groups first major action was a
11 Dickson, p. 206.
12 Atkins, p. 115. Gertie Ross (b. 1879 d. 1881), was an East High
graduate, and one of Denvers leading Black club women. She was the wife of
noted civil rights lawyer George Ross. Together they published The Denver
Star, the citys leading Black newspaper. Gertie Ross was also the music
director at Shorter Church. It is important to note that Gertie Ross, co-
21


protest against the showing of pro-Ku KIux Klan film, Birth of a Nation. The
states second civil rights law was enacted by the 21st general assembly in 1917,
outlawing discriminatory advertising. Organized protests against rest room
discrimination at the Denver Dry Goods took place in 1918, and an anti-
lynching fund was set up in 1919.13
founder and active member of the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA, was also a leading
activist in the CACWC. This suggests that cooperation rather than rivalry was
the operating philosophy of Denvers black women leaders of the time.
Dickson, p. 164. See also, Federal WPA Writers Program, Colorado, "Negro
Pioneers" Box 1, File 2, c. 1940, Colorado Historical Society.
13 Atkins, p. 38, 114-115; Dickson, p. 180.
22


CHAPTER 3
THE NATIONAL YWCA AND THE
FOUNDING OF DENVERS PHYLLIS WHEATLEY BRANCH
"I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more
abundantly."1 The official YWCA motto rang true in 1915 to Denver
newcomer Miss Isabel Chapman. Upon arriving from Chicago, she "did what
many of us would not have done."2 She befriended a white woman, YWCA
Board member Mrs. I.B. Perkins. Although "Colored girls did not belong," she
yearned to be in the YWCA.3 Chapman had found a home and a job in
Denver through referrals from Chicagos YWCA, and felt that other black
women could also benefit. Persistently, Chapman worked with Mrs. Alice
Travers and her two daughters Myrtle and Ruth, who "left no stone unturned
to have this Christian fellowship extended to include her people in Denver."4
1 Historical Sketch, c. 1940, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 461.
2 Campbell, p. 2-3.
3 Campbell, p. 1-2.
4 Historical Sketch, c. 1940, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 461.
23


Young Nelsine Howard was among those who joined Miss Chapman,
Travers, Mrs. L.M. Froman, and Mrs. I. B. Perkins for a meeting with white
YWCA leader Rosalie Venable to see "if there seemed any possibility of
organizing" a YWCA Club for Denvers colored women. Nelsine Howard
(later Campbell), whose memories later formed the basis of her written history
of the founding of the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA Club for Colored Women,
reported that Perkins, Venable, and Board President Jennie Hendrie were
"most favorable" toward the idea. Miss Rosalie Venable, newly elected
Denver YWCA General Secretary, proudly announced the possible formation
of the club at the October, 1915 YWCA Board meeting.5 The Board was
enthusiastic, believing that"... a club of Colored women and girls would
extend the all inclusive, all participating" idea of the organization.6
Where had this "all inclusive" concept originated in the national
YWCA? As part of the national trend toward separate black womens clubs,
the first YWCA chapter for black women was formed in Dayton, Ohio, in
5 Board Minutes, October 14, 1915, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1,
Folder 1.
Campbell, p. 1-2.
24


1893.7 By the turn of the century, YWCA-YMCA student chapters had been
started at most of the major black college campuses.
In June 1907, the YWCA held a national conference on "Negro work,"
at Asheville, North Carolina. Ironically, the conference was attended only by
whites in deference to Southern associations who would have refused to meet
in the same facilities as blacks. According to historian Dorothy Salem, "The
decisions reached at this conference had a major impact on the form of race
relations and black female participation for years to come."8 The right of
black YWCA clubs to be official YWCA affiliates was affirmed, but they would
remain "subsidiaries" of white-controlled central Ys. A policy approving
separate black community programs also emerged from the conference,
encouraging black self-help and leadership development based on what were
called "natural groupings" (i.e. racial groups) within the YWCA constituency.9
National policy thus endorsed a "separate but equal" doctrine, in keeping with
the need to follow "American folkways," (i.e. segregation).10
7 Salem, p. 47. Giddings, p. 155. Adrienne Lash Jones states that the first
Colored YWCA Club was formed in Philadelphia much earlier, in 1870.
Jones, in Hine, Encyclopedia, p. 1299.
8 Salem, p. 47.
9 Salem, p. 48.
10 Salem, p. 48.
25


A second national conference on "colored work" was held in Louisville,
Kentucky in 1915. After an interim of expanding work and what one report
described as an "awakening of social consciousness," this conference included
both black and white women.11 Debate and discussion revolved around how
to respond to racist attitudes and policies in the South. Two major policy
directions emanated from Louisville: 1) An interracial committee was to be
formed of southern women to expand the dialogue 2) black YWCA groups
would best affiliate as branches of local YWCA Associations, as opposed to
direct affiliation with the National Board.12 13
Black women were thus welcomed into the YWCA fold, but not on an
integrated basis. There were certain advantages to this arrangement, as
historian Dorothy Salem has pointed out: 1) separate black YWCAs offered
an opportunity for black women to develop leadership and organizational
skills, both locally and nationally, and 2) YWCA programs and activities more
13
closely reflected the needs of the black communitys women and girls.
The disadvantages included 1) a structural subservience of black Committees
of Management to local YWCA Boards, and 2) financial dependence, and 3)
11 "The Young Womens Christian Association Among Colored Girls and
Women," 1928 Report, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 11, File Folder 234.
12 "The Young Womens Christian Association Among Colored Girls and
Women," 1928 Report, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 11, File Folder 234.
13 Salem, p. 144.
26


continued accommodation to degrading whites-only policies regarding
recreational facilities and public accommodations.
The National YWCA Board hoped that the 1915 Louisville Conference
and a 1916 interracial conference for student YWCAs at the Spelman
Seminary in Atlanta, would stave off growing criticism among blacks, whom
they were still anxious to recruit. In some cities, black women had become
reluctant to affiliate with the white-run YWCA, preferring to work with the
National Association of Colored Women (NACW).14 National was
concerned about this trend, and so in January, 1913, they named leading black
organizer, Eva Bowles, National Secretary for Colored Work. Called by
historian Adrienne Lash Jones, "the architect of race relations in the largest
multiracial movement for women in the 20th century," Eva del Vakia Bowles
proved a prudent choice to be the YWCAs principal black recruiter. She was
born in Ohio in 1875, where her father was a schoolteacher and postal worker.
She attended Columbia University School of Philanthropy, and soon became
the first black faculty member of Chandler Normal School, Lexington
Kentucky. In 1905 she became the first black YWCA Secretary when she was
hired at the Colored YWCA on 137th Street in New York Citys Harlem.15
14 Salem, p. 250.
15 Adrienne Lash Jones, in Hine, Encyclopedia, p. 152.
27


Eva Bowles possessed "a personal ability of gaining and holding the best
wishes of the white people as easily as she does the colored."16 Through
patient negotiations, she obtained NACW endorsement of the YWCAs efforts
by the early 1920s after a period of intense discord.17 Interestingly, the
NACW had long supported the concept of black women joining and organizing
activities in the YWCA. Between 1910 and the early 1920s, the NACW
primarily lobbied for a breakdown of racial barriers in the YWCA rather than
advocating that women desert in favor df joining the NACW. Only when local
racist Boards (especially in the South) stood in the way of black YWCA
services did the NACW advocate the building of independent YWCA look-
alikes, or "parallel" organizations. Perhaps they saw in the YWCA fruitful
16 according to a YWCA publication in 1932, quoted in Salem, p. 132.
According to historian Adrienne Lash Jones, Bowles fought for "vision of truly
interracial movement" and saw colored work in the YWCA as temporary. She
believed that while black women should make their own decisions among their
own constituency, they should be in "constant conference with white women of
the Central Association." It was her idea that only one YWCA association
should exist in each city, with black branches to serve the black community.
Adrienne Lash Jones, in Hine, Encyclopedia, p. 152.
17 The northern based YWCA continued to have problems in its southern
region, and could point to only limited changes in northern cities. "The racial
awareness and commitment of the YWCA appeared to change, however,"
according to Dorothy Salem. Publications, conferences, and national work of
Eva Bowles highlighted accomplishments of black YWCA leaders, and
expansion of work among black women. "Progress became the official theme,"
and disagreements stemming from openly racist attitudes were often attributed
to need for better communication, downplaying the racism. Salem, p. 250.
28


national arena in which to challenge racism by forcing liberal whites to live up
to espoused "Christian" principles. In the words of Dorothy Salem, "black
women took on the Christian YWCA."18
According to Salem, during and after World War I, the YWCA had
attracted a group of competent, forward-thinking, and increasingly impatient
black leaders:
... a new generation of black women had become vocal in the
YWCA. Better-educated products of urban prosperity, critical of
conservatism in black churches arid other institutions, and proud
of their wartime achievements, these women pressured the
YWCA to fulfill its wartime promises.19
Under increasing pressure to fairly accommodate traveling black
leaders, the National Board set up a Bureau of Colored Work set up in 1920
in response to discrimination in accommodations at national meetings. This
step was too little to late for Catherine Lealtad, National Secretary of the
Department of Methods, who resigned her YWCA post in 1920 to become a
staff member at the New York City Urban League. Planning her action as a
protest, she sought support from other national black secretaries, but only Eva
Bowles spoke out. Many other local black YWCA secretaries resigned to work
with the Urban League, the NAACP, or the NACW.20
18 Salem, p. 245.
19 Salem, p. 240.
20 Salem, p. 242-43.
29


Bowles faith in the interracial movement was undaunted. "As white
and colored women we must understand each other, we must think and work
and plan together, for upon all of us rests the responsibility of the girlhood of
our nation," she declared in 1919.21 With or without the blessing of the
NACW or other black community and civil rights groups, Bowles launched an
exceedingly successful effort to establish black YWCA affiliates at the grass-
roots level in most major cities and campuses. As Secretary under the YWCA
War Work Council, the number of black branches she helped establish went
from sixteen at beginning of World War I, to over 45 in subsequent
decades.22
As could be predicted, some white YWCA Boards were skeptical of
Bowles proposal for local black branches. For example, soon after the
Louisville conference in 1915, she received a cool reception when she traveled
to Cleveland where Jane Edna Hunter had been serving black women and girls
at the popular Phyllis Wheatley Home since 1913. Prior to Bowles arrival
Hunter was open to Bowles suggestion of YWCA affiliation, but changed her
mind quickly after being politely rebuffed by the white Cleveland YWCA
pi
Adrienne Lash Jones, in Hine, Encyclopedia, p. 152.
op
Adrienne Lash Jones, in Hine, Encyclopedia, p. 152. A 1943 listing of
Negro Branches contained in the Denver Phyllis Wheatley Branch desk
reference notebook lists over 73 separate black branches nationwide. YWCA
Collection, CHS, Scrapbook 23.
30


Board.23 Hunters separate Cleveland YWCA, which remained staunchly
independent until the 1940s, was criticized by some black leaders who believed
she should have directly challenged white YWCA racism. On the other hand,
Hunter believed that autonomy for her project and the practical needs of black
women should take priority over the general fight vs. racism in YWCA.
Historian Adrienne Lash Jones calls this debate a reflection of the contrasting
views of accommodationist Booker T. Washington and the more militantly anti-
racist N.A.A.C.P. founder W.E.B. DuBois, and was typical for the time: "...
[The] lines were not hard drawn in the black community as to the best method
for blacks to achieve integration in the long run."24
In contrast, Denvers white YWCA Board and local black leaders
welcomed Bowles and the Phyllis Wheatley Branch idea with open arms when
she travelled to Denver to celebrate the anniversary of the YWCA Colored
Club in 1916.25 A candle lighting service in recognition of the Clubs entry
23 Jones, Hunter, p. 66. Clevelands Jane Hunter was affiliated with
NACW, founding countrys largest independent Phyllis Wheatley Home.
Hunter believed that her segregated, independent operation would lead to
more white financial support, although she regularly consulted with YWCA
Board for advice. Jones, Hunter, p. 50; Jones, Hunter, p. 46.
24 Jones, Hunter, p. 56.
25 "Miss Eva D. Bolles [sic]. . of the National Board of the Y.W.C.A., will
arrive on the twenty-seventh of this month. She will be the principal speaker
at our anniversary celebration on the thirtieth of October." Y.W.C.A. NOTES,
Clipping, unidentified publication, October 21, 1916, YWCA Collection, CHS,
Box 6, File Folder 97. These articles indicate, as do the Central Board
31


into the YWCA fellowship was held at Peoples Presbyterian Church. Nelsine
Howard recalled that "Miss Bowles gave to that first group a glimpse into the
possibilities of its future."26 The YWCA in Denver, which had been founded
in 1886, thus became bi-racial in 1916 27
The timing of the Denver Phyllis Wheatley Clubs formation was not a
coincidence, but rather reflected a general movement among black women
throughout the country. It is also evidence that Denvers black women had
established a national reputation as a significant, organized force for reform in
an important western urban center. During and after World War I, a great
migration of Blacks out of the South to northern and western cities began.
This migration continued until well after World War II. Denver received
thousands of these migrants.
Increased black populations in American cities, coupled with mass
mobilization for the war effort produced an "unintended, but not unexpected
minutes, that original club was actually formed in late 1915. See also Board
Minutes, October, 1915, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 1. However,
Bowles visit in 1916 to officially establish the Club as a YWCA colored branch
could explain why official Central and Branch histories date the founding to
November, 1916.
26 Campbell, p. 4.
27 In large part due to Eva Bowles tireless efforts, there were 49 black
YWCA branches and over 12,000 black girls enrolled as YWCA members
nationwide by 1919. Giddings, p. 156.
32


cooperation between blacks and whites" in the YWCA and elsewhere.28
YWCA "colored work" was taken more seriously when black women proved
themselves in the War Work Councils across the nation. By 1918, $400,000
was allotted to "colored work" by the National Board, with Eva Bowles in
charge of War Work Councils.29 This was a "proving ground" which led to
greater expectation of equality in the YWCA organization and an expansion of
local work.30 The War Work Council made the following appeal to the
YWCA National Board:
As a world-wide organization for women, we stand ready and eager to
do our part ... to bring about a more friendly relationship, greater
sympathy and understanding between the races, justice, and protection
under the law.31
Proclamations to the same effect filtered down to every local area from the
National YWCA office.
Clearly, given the new national directives, Denvers the Phyllis Wheatley
Colored YWCA Club was an idea whose time had come. A year before
Bowles visit, Denver YWCA General Secretary Rosalie Venable announced to
the local YWCA Board that forty three women had attended the Clubs first
28 Salem, p. 144.
29 Salem, p. 208.
30 Salem, p. 208.
31 Salem, p. 233.
33


meeting of the YWCA Colored Club in early November, 1915 at Shorter
A.M.E. Church.32 Ten women paid dues on the spot. The group was
convened by Lydia Smith Ward, the wife of Pastor A. M. Ward of Shorter
A.M.E. Church. Ward had been Colored YWCA Branch Secretary in Kansas
City, and agreed to chair the Executive Committee of the fledgling club for the
first year. The club immediately began to meet weekly at various churches.
The name "YWCA Club for Colored Women" was adopted.33
During the first few months of operation, Sunday afternoon Vesper
services attracted a crowd each week. Club leaders organized classes in Red
Cross work, English, Bible reading, Gymnasium, and Sewing. By May, a
group was ready to take their First Aid examination, fees paid by the Central
Board. Social events "to develop the spirit of fellowship" were held regularly.
Fundraising Concerts were particularly popular.34 The Club was invited to
have their own table at the annual YWCA Jubilee Banquet in February, 1916,
which over 600 of Denvers finest attended.
32 Campbell, p. 3, and Historical Sketch, c. 1940. Both state that the first
meeting was in October, 1916. However, official Board Minutes report the
first organizational meetings were in early November, 1915. Board Minutes,
November 11, 1915, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, FF 1. The discrepancy
could be explained by the fact that the club did not become "official" until the
first meeting during the October/November, 1916 visit of National Secretary
Eva Bowles.
33 Historical Sketch c. 1940, p. 1; Campbell, p. 3.
34 Historical Sketch c. 1940, p. 1.
34


Mrs. Perkins reported to the Board that the group was flourishing, and
was looking for a Club Room, adding that "gifts of furniture will be accept-
able."35 Rent of $6.00 was paid for the first time in December, 1915 for a
Club Room at 318 25th Street, described as a "storeroom."36 Nelsine Howard
recalled how they made the most of the humble, small quarters. The women
carefully arranged the room with a donated stove, rug, chairs, bookcase, a
piano, dishes, and "other articles to make the room attractive."37 These
meager furnishings combined with "hard work, diligence of purpose, prayer and
faith in the ideals of Christian living, put into that club room atmosphere which
pervaded our group life for years."38
By June, 1916, the Club had outgrown its original "storeroom."
"[M]many times the club room was crowded to overflowing," recalled Nelsine
Howard.39 The Central Board soon heard an appeal from Mrs. Perkins for
"a place for colored girls to live when out of employment."40 The Board
35 Board Minutes, November 11, 1915, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1,
Folder 1.
36 Board Minutes, Financial Report, December, 1915, YWCA Collection,
CHS, Box 1, Folder 1; Historical Sketch, c. 1940, p. 1.
37 Campbell, p. 3-4.
38 Campbell, p. 3-4.
39 Campbell, p. 4.
40 Board Minutes, June 9, 1916, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 1.
35


discussed renting additional space for a boarding house, but took no action at
first. According to Venable, "the projected home for the Colored club had not
been pushed because of another home for colored women which was being
started."41 The Minutes were referring to the Negro Womans Club Home,
established in 1916 at 2357 Clarkson Streets.42
Soon after Eva Bowles official visit in November, 1916, Gertie Ross
took over as chair of the Executive Committee. This would mark the
beginning of Rosss long and fruitful career as Denvers earliest major YWCA
black leader. An important YWCA national volunteer workers conference on
Colored Work was held in Indianapolis in March, 1917. Mrs. Ross attended as
Denvers representative, paying part of her own expenses.43 Denvers
YWCA Board heard from Miss Dunham of the West Central Field Committee
about the encouraging outlook for the work among black women, and "the
41 Board Minutes, September 14, 1916, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1,
Folder 1.
42 The Negro Womens Club Home and the Colored YWCA Club had
many members in common, and worked cooperatively throughout their early
years. For example, a letter from the Negro Womens Club Association was
sent in early 1919 thanking the YWCA for their interest and help. Board
Minutes, March 25, 1919, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3.
43 Board Minutes, February 8, 1917, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1,
Folder 1; Campbell, p. 4.
36


pleasing effect made by our delegate, Mrs. Ross."44 Gertie Ross was equally
enthusiastic, reporting to the Board in April about the "sisterhood and
unselfishness of the YWCA" that she had observed at the conference. Ross
had particularly glowing comments to make about Miss Hendrie, Mrs. Perkins
(and her "Fairy Godmother kindness"), and Miss Rosalie Venable of the
Denver YWCA and their substantial support for the Colored Club.45
The conference so energized Club activists that they immediately
planned a Vocational Guidance Conference for Denvers black women in need
of employment.46 By June, 1917, the Club reported 140 adult members and
20 young members of the Grade School Club. A Survey of the City was being
conducted as well47 Mrs. Ross and others offered more and more glowing
reports to the Board during 1917. That year was a watershed for the Central
YWCA as well, for on May 17th of that year, the YWCA had strengthened its
organization through an official merger of the YWCA Rest and Recreation
Rooms and the YWCA, the membership of each organization voting in favor
44 Board Minutes, March 8, 1917, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder
1.
45 Board Minutes, June 8, 1917, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 1.
46 Board Minutes, May 10, 1917, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder
1.
47 Board Minutes, June 8, 1917, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 1.
37


of merging under the new title, "YWCA of Denver."48 Thereafter all
properties and programs were merged under one Board of Directors.
Optimism and enthusiasm in Denvers YWCA could not forestall the
gloomy reports about the countrys entry into the "Great War" in Europe.
Military buildup and social apprehension was taking hold of the nation. For
blacks, the World War I period was a time of great demographic change and
rising expectations for racial equality stemming from the United States
declaration that they had entered the war in order to "save the world for
democracy." For women, both black and white, unprecedented wartime
opportunities in the industrial workforce and in war support work led to
greater expectations for gender equality as well.
The national YWCA was particularly concerned about the fair
treatment of women, who were entering the industrial work force in
unprecedented numbers. For example, the YWCA enthusiastically supported
the Womens Trades Union League in their efforts to win workplace
protections and equitable pay for women. The Denver YWCA Board in turn
formed a committee to look into local labor laws.49
48 Board Minutes, May 28, 1917, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder
1.
49 Board Minutes, May 10, 1917, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder
1.
38


The effects of war buildup were not long in coming to Denver. In an
April, 1917 meeting of Denvers YWCA discussed "What shall be the
contribution of the YWCA in the present world Crisis?" Among the
suggestions were that women could work through the Red Cross at gauze
rooms at Daniels & Fisher Tower, sew sheets and garments which were being
distributed for home construction, or act as volunteer hostesses and greeters at
the Enrollment center at 17th and Welton. A committee was formed to
encourage YWCA members to help German women, volunteer for recreation
and social programs for soldiers so as to "provide a meeting ground for sore
hearts," and care of soldiers wives and families.50 Fundraising for war relief
was a top priority, with $4500 already raised for the National War Council in
conjunction with the local YMCA. The Phyllis Wheatley Colored Club helped
in these efforts, with many taking Red Cross classes and serving in sewing
rooms, knitting socks, sweaters, and making bandages. They helped organize a
dinner for the "poor soldier boys at Fitzimmons [sic]," in January, 1919.51
Addye Lightner, an 18-year-old secretary at the black-owned Woodmen
Insurance, recalled starting her 75 year long YWCA career by joining the
"Business Girls Club" at Phyllis Wheatley in 1918. Like other local YWCA
50 Board Minutes, April 12, 1917, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder
1.
51 Phyllis Wheatley Club Minutes, January 9, 1919, YWCA Collection,
CHS, Box 6, Folder 122.
39


activists, Addye was young, energetic, single, and a college graduate from the
University of Denver School of Business Administration.52 Addye was just
one of many who came into the fold. By 1919, Gertie Ross gave regular
reports to the Central Board on the "splendid work being done among the
colored girls and women of the city."53
Successful fundraising concerts helped defray the growing costs of
community programs.54 A new city wide Room Registry program had been
organized to provide wartime housing for women, including several houses
which were examined for the Colored Club.55 Recreational activities were
particularly popular, and their planning was taken very seriously. For example,
the Education Chairman announced that a new gym class in January, 1919:
"Everyone joining the class is asked to wear white middies, black ties,
regulation gym bloomers with not less than 3 yards of material (this for
52 Personal interview with Addye Lightner, Denver, Colorado, March 26,
1991. Addye became a steadfast leader and life-long YWCA member, serving
as Denvers (and the nations) first black local all-association President in 1969-
1971.
53 Board Minutes, April 8, 1919, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3.
54 Board Minutes, May 14, 1918 announces concert by Colored Quartette,
YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 1; Board Minutes, September 23, 1919
announces a "very successful concert," YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder
3.
55 Minutes, Executive Committee, YWCA Board, December 2, 1919,
YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3.
40


ee
modestys sake), black cotton stockings and black tennis shoes." Club
leaders kept abreast of important national events effecting the black
community. For example, on January 9, 1919, the Club agreed to send
condolences to the daughter of Madame C. J. Walker, upon her death. "Since
[she] lived in Denver at one time and some of us knew her . ."56 57
At the end of this whirlwind year of success, Cordelia Winn of the
National YWCA Board visited in November, 1919 to recommend hiring a
"Colored Secretary" to coordinate thriving Club activities.58 Both black and
white leaders agreed that the Club was bursting at the seams and needed
larger and more permanent quarters. These discussions signalled a major
56 Phyllis Wheatley Club Minutes, January 9, 1919, YWCA Collection,
CHS, Box 6, Folder 122.
57 Phyllis Wheatley Club Minutes, January 9, 1919, YWCA Collection,
CHS, Box 6, Folder 122. Madame C. J. Walker (1867-1919) was a
philanthropist and entrepreneur in black hair care products. Born Sarah
Breedlove, she started work early in life in Southern cotton fields. She worked
as a domestic, laundress, and saleswoman in St. Louis before moving to
Denver to be with relatives in 1905. Here she married Joseph Walker, who
became her business partner as a mail-order distributor of hair care products.
Her "hair-growing" and straightening formulas became nationally famous. The
company moved from Denver to Indianapolis in 1910, after which Walker built
a million dollar enterprise. She is believed to be the first black woman
millionaire in America. Walker became active in black political and cultural
affairs, when she moved to Harlem in 1916. She died there at age 51 in 1919,
leaving her fortune to charity causes and her daughter ALelia Walker (1885-
1931), an important figure in the Harlem Renaissance. Alelia Perry Bundles,
in Hine, Encyclopedia. 1209-1213.
58 Minutes, Executive Committee, YWCA Board, October 1, 1919, and
Board Minutes, October 14, 1919, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3.
41


change in the status of Denvers Phyllis Wheatley YWCA, from a "club" to a
permanent institution.
"After the armistice was signed," recalled Nelsine Howard, the Club
which had made great strides with Mrs. Ross as chairman," was invited to
"become more truly a part" of the Denver YWCA program. Indeed, 1920 was
a watershed year when "Phyllis Wheatley Branch had its real beginning."59
The Central Board set up "Branch relations," the first step in the process of
becoming an official branch of the YWCA. An Affiliating Committee of both
black and white women was formed; these women were the connecting link
with the Central Association. The Chair of this committee, Mrs. Howard
Young, represented the newly formed Branch on the Central Board.60 A
Committee of Management was elected on January 12, 1920.61 Elected
officers were Chair Mrs. Gertie Ross; Vice-chair Mrs. Eliza Green;
Secretary Miss Ethel Layton; Asst Secretary Mrs. Zipporah Parks.
Treasurer Mrs Mary Clinkscale.62
59 Campbell, p. 6.
60 Campbell, p. 9.
61 One year terms: Mrs. Ethel Caldwell, Mrs. Georgia Contee, Mrs.
Mabel Fallings, Mrs. Espanola Graham, Mrs. Anna B. Hicks. 2-year terms:
Miss Isabel Chapman, Mrs. Mary Clinkscale, Mrs. Mattie King, Mrs. Zipporah
Parks, Mrs. Rachel Triplett 3 year terms: Mrs. Lillian Bondurant, Mrs. Eliza
Green, Mrs. Nellie Jenkins, Miss Ethel Layton, Mrs. Gertie Ross. Campbell, 6,
62 Campbell, p. 8.
42


The Club had thus "proven its eligibility" and in early 1920 was officially
invited to become part of the Denver YWCA as the Phyllis Wheatley
Branch.63 The Annual Meeting of the YWCA Association on January 31,
1920 adopted the following amendment to its Constitution:
There shall be a branch Association among colored women and
girls, the Committee of Management being composed of from
twelve to twenty-four representative colored women who can be
chairmen of committees. The chairman of the Committee of
Management shall be a colored woman. An affiliating committee
of three white women, one of whom acts as chairman, and three
colored women shall be the link between the committee of
management and the Board of Directors . The employed
officers of the branch shall be a part of the staff of the Associa-
tion, and are responsible to the Board of Directors as well as to
the Committee of Management.64
By March, 1920, the new Branch was open. The Board enthusiastically
approved the hiring of a full time Secretary at $1200 per year, and the
purchase of a house on the southeast corner of 25th and Welton Street for
63 Historical Sketch, c. 1940, p. 1, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder
461.
64 "Information Concerning Phyllis Wheatley Branch," undated fact sheet
(c. 1920s), YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 43, Folder 1057. This arrangement
seemed to be the standard structure whereby black branches were established
during this time. A few years earlier, examples of a more restrictive, white
dominated structure were recommended. For example, when the Cleveland
Phillis Wheatley Club was contemplating whether to remain independent or
affiliate with the citys white YWCA, the Central Board proposed complete
control over who would be on the Branchs governing Board, both black and
white. Jones, Hunter, p. 66.
43


what they now called "the Phyllis Wheatley Center."65 "Commodious
quarters" at the old Barth home at 2460 Welton were available for a price of
$8637.50 with a down payment of $1500, and reasonable mortgage terms.66 67
Where were the funds to make all of this possible? Nelsine Howard Campbell
credited Gertie Ross, who "contacted and interviewed Mrs. Vernor Z. Reed, in
the interests of the Branch." Reeds "philanthropic spirit is well known in
Denver." Campbell proudly emphasized Mrs. Ross independent
accomplishment, claiming that "Mrs. Reed had not been interested in YWCA,
and her gift was unquestionably to the Phyllis Wheatley Branch." Reeds
65 Board Minutes, March 2, 1920 and March 9, 1920, YWCA Collection,
CHS, Box 1, Folder 3.
66 The first proposal required the YWCA to assume the existing $5000
mortgage on property at a rate of 7% for three years, with the remainder of
$2137.50 to bear interest at 6% paid in monthly installments of $75.00. Board
Minutes, March 9, 1920, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3. Final
terms of the closing held on March 29, 1920, consisted of a down payment of
$1137 and an assumed mortgage of $7500 at 7% to be paid quarterly to the
note holder Mr. Thomas Hext. YWCA lawyer Mr. Fowler recommended that
they should "find some one friendly to the Association to take over the
mortgage as soon as possible." YWCA Advisory Board member C. S. Morey
agreed to take over. Board Minutes, April 6, 1920, YWCA Collection, CHS,
Box 1, Folder 3.
67 Campbell, p. 7. Mary Reeds late husband made millions in Cripple
Creek gold mining and Wyoming oil. Reed also helped establish the Margery
Reed Mayo Day Care Center in Five Points, and was a regular contributor to
health and birth control organizations.
44


substantial donation of $1000 made the down payment possible.68 69 An
additional sum of $1000 from the War Work Council was earmarked for
Branch expenses as well. $458 from the Triangle War Fund was transferred
to the Phyllis Wheatley furnishings fund, together with $146 in the concert
savings account.70 The hope was that membership dues, activity fees, and
room rentals, would facilitate self-sufficiency.
The YWCA took possession on April 1, and found that the brick house
was in great need of repair. The 12 room home was described as an "old
fashioned building ... this lovely old home has high ceiling, plenty of windows
and beautiful wood work."71 Adjoining lots and an old carriage barn would
offer room to expand. Mr. George Brown was contracted to make
improvements at a cost of $1170.00. New floors in the kitchen and pantries,
clean walls, wallpapering, new 3rd floor window, and plumbing were included
68 Historical Sketch, c. 1958, p. 1, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 43, Folder
1055.
69 Board Minutes, May, 1920 Financial Report, YWCA Collection, CHS,
Box 1, Folder 3. The report does not state whether the $1000 War Work
Council came from local or national sources. It is most likely from national,
since by 1918, $400,000 was allotted to "colored work" by the National Board,
with Eva Bowles in charge of War Work Councils. Salem, p. 208.
70 Board Minutes, November 15, 1919 and Board Annual Financial Report
January 1, 1920, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3.
71 Campbell, p. 6-7.
45


in the price.72 The work would need to be completed quickly, in time for the
planned "house-warming" festivities to begin on May 20th.73 Campbell
recalled great jubilation at almost five years of patient, hard work bearing fruit
at last. After formal dedication ceremonies she declared, "Denver was made
glad indeed. A home for girls, lovely clean and attractive rooms, meals at a
reasonable rate!"74
The new Phyllis Wheatley Branch acquired a key employee when the
new home opened. Miss Josephine Davis, native of Kentucky and a graduate
of Fisk University, became the Branchs first hired Secretary. Miss Davis was
to be paid $1200 per year in salary, and would live at the Branch rent free.75
The newly elected Phyllis Wheatley Committee of Management recommended
that Miss Davis should have "general supervision" over the home, and should
therefore live on the premises.
72 Board Minutes, April 27, 1920, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder
3.
73 Board Minutes, May 11, 1920, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder
3. The house warming was planned to take place on May 20th, with a
program for "mens night" the next day, Girls night on May 22, and Sunday
Vespers and Dedication on May 23rd. $50 was approved by the Board for
Branch dedication events. Board Minutes, May 18, 1920, YWCA Collection,
CHS, Box 1, Folder 3. Nelsine Campbell gives the date of dedication as June
9, 1920. Campbell, p. 7.
74 Campbell, p. 7.
75 Campbell, p. 7; Board Minutes, March 9, 1920 and March 4, 1920,
YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3.
46


Over the next months, the Central Board approved several thousand
dollars toward a long list of repairs and furnishings. Branch recreational and
social activities, such as gymnasium sessions and fundraising concerts,
continued uninterrupted.76 Miss Davis gave her first report to the Central
Board in July, proclaiming 208 paid members, 2 grade school clubs, 1 high
school club, 1 business girls club, and 12 girls living at the residence.
The financial success of the Branch was deemed less substantial.
Despite deposits of $260 resulting from fundraising concerts and room rentals
from May to July, the Central Board became skittish, recommending that Mrs.
Young, Chair of the Affiliating Committee submit monthly financial reports on
the Branch, and "endeavor to put the Center on a paying basis."77 By
November, the Executive Committee itself recognized that if the new Branch
were to operate on a permanent basis, a great deal of subsidization would be
required. It recommended that the YWCA underwrite the Phyllis Wheatley
Center, for "it cannot pay without at least 30 girls in the home." Further, an
assistant for Miss Davis should be hired immediately in order to accommodate
the growing numbers of women using Branch services. A final
76 Minutes, Executive Committee, YWCA Board, May 4, 1920, YWCA
Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3; Campbell, p. 9.
77 Board Minutes, September 14, 1920, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1,
Folder 3.
47


recommendation was for a new set of by-laws which would clarify the responsi-
bilities of the Branch Committee of Management and the Central Board.78
At the end of the whirlwind year of 1920, Branch leadership had much
to be proud of. According to Campbell, "With a secretary in charge, a house-
keeper at work, the wheels of the organization were set in motion . the
Branch seemed well started."79
78 Board Minutes, November 30, 1920, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1,
Folder 3.
79
Campbell, p. 7, 9.


CHAPTER 4
"A MAJOR COMMUNITY SUPPORT SYSTEM"
THE PHYLLIS WHEATLEY BRANCH IN THE 1920s
During the 1920s, the Phyllis Wheatley Branch became, according to
historian Lynda Dickson, "a major community support system."1 2 "Denver is
really a very splendid place," reported National Secretary Winn in 1922 to
Branch Secretary candidate Mrs. Fairfax Richey. "[There are] wonderful
possibilities for a big development," she continued. .. it should be our
demonstration place in that section of the country, as Denver is our largest
A
Colored population in that vicinity." [emph. added] The national office was
particularly impressed with the talented and committed core of volunteer
African-American YWCA leadership which emerged during the early years of
the Branch. Not satisfied with just socializing, they put a priority on organizing
activities and services which were badly needed in the community. These early
leaders cleverly negotiated support and resources from the Central Board and
nurtured cordial interracial relations. They also effectively communicated the
1 Dickson, 117.
2 Cordelia Winn to Fairfax Richey, January 17, 1922, YWCA Collection,
CHS, Box 11, Folder 232.
49


needs and issues important to young women in Denvers black community
during a period characterized by racial divisions in the city.
In accordance with national patterns, an elected Committee of Manage-
ment ran the day to day affairs of the Branch, overseen by the central YWCA
q
Board of Directors. Denvers black leadership was strong, independent, and
self-reliant from the beginning. White YWCA leaders were generally
supportive, adopting a "hands-off' approach which allowed Phyllis Wheatley
leaders to develop their own style and program. Black volunteer leadership
and paid staff members were often selected and admired on the basis of their
ability to communicate with both blacks and whites in the YWCA community.
The best example of strong, enduring leadership was the Branchs first
Chair of the Committee of Management, founder Gertie Ross. Ross became
the first African-American woman to serve on Denvers Central Board in 1923,
when new by-laws required the Chair of the Branch Committee of Manage-
ment to be a permanent member of the Central Board.* 4 Ross was admired
by both black and white YWCA activists for her amazing organizational ability
Q
All major decisions made by the Committee of Management were
subject to approval by the Central Board. For example, in January, 1921, the
Board approved a Branch Committee of Management proposed by-law change
limiting Committee members to two elected terms. Board Minutes, January
11, 1921, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3.
4 Board Minutes, September 25, 1923, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1,
Folder 4.
50


and perseverance. She enjoyed a national reputation due to her frequent
attendance as Denvers delegate at national conferences. Branch leaders
recalled later that "No member of the organization has given finer, more
faithful, more consecrated and more fruitful service than has Mrs. Ross. The
YWCA loves her and reveres her."5 Ross served as Chair of the Committee
of Management and on the Central Board from 1923 to 1928, when she passed
the torch to Lillian Bondurant, another community leader and interracial
communicator of well established stature.6
Despite the low salary ($1200 to $1500 per year) and challenging
responsibility, recruitment of talented Executive Secretaries was relatively easy.
All candidates were referred by the National YWCA office, who kept a pool of
qualified new college graduates or experienced YWCA workers readily accessi-
ble. However, there was a revolving door every other year. The Branch
"could not keep them because of Cupid."7
A string of talented young Executive Secretaries directed Branch
activities during its early years. Miss Josephine Davis served competently for
two years as the first Branch Secretary, during which time "many of the basic
5 Historical Sketch, c. 1940, p. 1.
6 Campbell, p. 28, 33.
7 Historical Sketch, c. 1940, p. 3.
51


accomplishments came to pass."8 "It must be said for this secretary who
paved the way for all who have succeeded her, that no one has more truly
exemplified the principles of Christian living than she."9 Davis served until
her marriage to William Price in 1922, when she resigned her paid position.
She continued as a volunteer for many years on the Committee of Manage-
ment.10 The Branch "found itself casting for a secretary" until Mrs. Fairfax
Butler Richey was lured away from the YWCA in Davenport, Iowa to take the
Denver Branch Secretary position in 1922.11 According to Nelsine Campbell,
Richey was "a charming and efficient woman from Chicago. Her fine appreci-
ation of people and her excellent grasp of the relationship of her work to the
community so endeared her to the Association that we had thought she was
8 Historical Sketch, c. 1940, p. 2.
9 Campbell, p. 11.
10 There is some evidence that the national office expedited Davis
departure, believing that the responsibilities had outgrown her abilities.
Cordelia Winn to Josephine Davis, January 12, 1922, YWCA Collection, CHS,
Box 11, Folder 232; Board Minutes, January 31, 1922, YWCA Collection, CHS,
Box 1, Folder 3. Branch feelings for Davis remained positive, for she was
elected to the Committee of Management in April, 1924. Campbell, p. 16.
11 Richey came so highly recommended that she was able to demand a
$1500 annual salary, a substantial increase from the previous Branch Secretary
salary of $1200 per year. Minutes, Executive Committee, YWCA Board,
January 31, 1922, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3; In a letter to
Cordelia Winn, Richey stated that". .while I am anxious to leave Davenport I
feel that I am justified in wanting something just as good if not better than I
have here." Fairfax Richey to Cordelia Winn, January 14, 1922, YWCA
Collection, CHS, Box 11, Folder 232.
52


indispensable."12 After one year, Richey married Dr. Clarence F. Holmes, a
mainstay in Denvers black community and outspoken advocate of civil rights.
The Branch held a reception in the new couples honor, with national Colored
Secretary Cordelia Winn in attendance. Mrs. Holmes too resigned, but
remained an active leader on the Committee of Management for many
years.13 The Holmes home at 2330 Downing Street was designated a Denver
landmark in 1994.
Miss Helen Taylor, an accomplished musician, was hired as Mrs.
Richeys assistant, Girl Reserve Secretary, and succeeded Richey as Secretary
in 1924. "... it is rare that one finds in one so young, such a combination of
personality, vision, and executive ability . .," recalled admirers.14 Taylor was
especially remembered for her leadership in acquiring Camp Nizhoni,
Colorados first and only all-black camp for girls in 1923. She too resigned
upon marriage in May, 1926. The Branch held a farewell party for Taylor at
which admirers of both races paid tribute:
With deep regret in having to lose ... a person whom the association
had learned to love, and for whom all of us had the highest respect.
Among both races are to be found persons who declare that her won-
12 Historical Sketch, c. 1940, p. 2.
13 Historical Sketch, c. 1940, p.2.
14 Historical Sketch, c. 1940, p. 2.
53


derfully attractive personality, did much toward bringing about a fine
feeling of inter-racial understanding.15
Dorothy Guinn, known for her "brilliancy of mind, her ability to express
herself clearly, her gracious manner, and her ability to meet people with ease,"
was enthusiastically hired as Executive Secretary in September, 1926. The
Radcliffe College graduate had been Executive Secretary in Bridgeport,
Connecticut. Guinn came highly recommended from National, who suggested
a salary of $2000/year as she was "worth having and very constructive."16
Guinn was so well respected locally and nationally, she was recruited to a
National staff position after the Minneapolis National Convention in 1932.17
"This was counted as a signal honor to Denver, especially to the Phyllis
Wheatley Branch," Branch historian Nelsine Campbell recalled.18
National leaders often visited Denvers Phyllis Wheatley Branch and the
Central Board during the early years of Branch formation. A network of black
branches and an active exchange of program ideas was thereby maintained.
These leaders also hoped to shore up white support for "colored work," which
in most cases needed extra money and resources from the YWCA central
15 Campbell, p. 18-19.
16 Cordelia Winn to Phyllis Wheatley Branch, June 4, 1926, YWCA
Collection, CHS, Box 11, Folder 234.
17 Campbell, p. 19, 33; Historical Sketch, c. 1940, p. 2.
18 Campbell, p. 33.
54


organization. Eva Bowles came to Denver to welcome the new Branch into
the YWCA fold in 1916. National Secretary Cordelia Winn visited Denver to
meet with the Central Board as well as the Branch Committee of Management
almost on an annual basis.19 Winn always advised Central Board members
on staffing issues, and offered new approaches to the "colored work." For
example, in May, 1926, Winn recommended to President Anna McClintock
that a local committee for colored work be established.20 21
Another way that black YWCA activists exchanged ideas and kept
motivated was through attendance at national conferences, many of which were
interracial. Denvers Central Board was always well represented, but Phyllis
Wheatley Branch made sure it was represented by at least one delegate to
every major meeting as well. Four Phyllis Wheatley members attended a
AJ
volunteer workers conference in St. Louis in 1921. The National YWCA
Bi-ennial Convention in Hot Springs, Arkansas, in 1922 was attended by Gertie
19 Campbell, pp. 9, 13, 17, 20; Board Minutes, April 26, 1921, and January
24, 1922, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3; Board Minutes, November
24, 1925 and May 4, 1926, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 5.
20 Minutes, Executive Committee, YWCA Board, May 4, 1926, YWCA
Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 5. Miss McClintock agreed to look into the
idea, upon consultation with Mrs. Ross. Two weeks later, Board member Mrs.
Runette suggested that a joint committee would be superfluous "and might
cause misunderstanding and lack of interest and initiative." Board Minutes,
May 11, 1926, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 5.
21 Attending were Mrs. Clinkscale, Mrs. Lillian Bondurant, Mrs. Contee,
and Mrs. Parks. Campbell, p. 10.
55


Ross, at the Branchs expense.22 Miss Helen Taylor represented the Branch
at the New York National Convention in 1924, and Josephine Price and Miss
Russell attended the next bi-ennial in Milwaukee in 1926. Mrs. Ross led a
delegation of four black women to the 1928 National Convention in
Sacramento, California.
YWCA race relations were relatively cordial and friendly during the
1920s, despite the general racism pervading Denver due to the widespread
influence of the Ku Klux Klan. Discriminatory and racist policies were fre-
quently and openly challenged by the Phyllis Wheatley Branch and sympathetic
white Board members. For example, in 1927, the Branch went on record
protesting efforts to officially segregate Denver Public Schools. Dorothy Guinn
reported that
The recent racial difficulties and the agitation concerning segregation in
public schools have affected the thinking in every meeting of our group
during the month. The Committee of Management felt the situation
sufficiently significant to go on record as endorsing the present status of
mixed schools in Colorado as consistent with the State Laws.23
Nelsine Campbell recalled of the same incident:
This branch went on record in its stand for the safety of the Colored
children in the public schools of Denver. A movement for the segrega-
22 Campbell, p. 11.
23 Monthly Report, Dorothy Guinn, February, 1927, YWCA Collection,
CHS, Box 11, Folder 234.
56


tion of Colored children has been attempted by a most intolerant
group.24
The Branch donated money to black lawyer George Ross, who had led the
fight to preserve the mixed race school system. Guinn praised the "splendid
spirit" of Central Board members for allowing Branch representatives to
explain their concerns on the issue.25 Special letters of thanks were written
to Mrs. Runnette and Miss McClintock.26 27
References abound to "interracial friendship" and praise for white
YWCA friends in Nelsine Campbells historical memoirs: "The names of Miss
Jennie Hendrie, Mrs. I. B. Perkins, Miss Anna McClintock and Mrs. Harry
Runnette are woven into a beautiful pattern in our branch fabric." Upon
the death of Mrs. Perkins, "our good friend and true inspiration" in 1923, the
Committee of Management expressed deep appreciation for her unwavering
support of their efforts.28
24 Campbell, p. 19-20.
25 Monthly Report, Dorothy Guinn, February, 1927, YWCA Collection,
CHS, Box 11, Folder 234.
26 Campbell, p. 19-20.
27 Campbell, p. 12.
28 Campbell, p. 12. The Central Board passed a resolution honoring
Perkins special relationship with the Branch as well. Board Minutes, April 24,
1923, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 4.
57


In March, 1922, Branch leadership requested and was granted permis-
sion "when feasible" to sit in on Central Association committee meetings.29 30 31
in September, 1923, the Board officially approved the Chair of the Phyllis
Wheatley Committee of Management as a permanent member of the Central
on
Board. Gertie Ross, the first black Board member, often read the opening
prayer and gave regular reports about Phyllis Wheatley activities to the Board.
Miss Howard, Phyllis Wheatley chair of religious education led devotions and
sang the National Negro anthem at the May 13, 1924 Board meeting.
That same year, an interracial study group of three white and three
black women was organized to study Dr. W. E. B. DuBois book, The
Negro. Gertie Ross and Denvers YWCA took the lead in organizing a
29 Board Minutes, March 28, 1922, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder
3.
30 Board Minutes, September 25, 1923, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1,
Folder 4.
31 W. E. B. DuBois (1868-1963), was a graduate of Fisk University,
Harvard University, and the University of Berlin, where he earned his Ph.D. in
1895. DuBois was a scholar, journalist, and principal founder of the "Niagara
Movement" and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored
People (NAACP). He organized numerous protests against lynching, racial
discrimination, and war. His articles and books celebrating African-American
history and culture were widely read by blacks throughout the 1910s, 1920s,
and 1930s. He was a world leader in Pan-Africanism and became a member
of the Communist Party, U.S.A. in 1961, right before his death in Ghana in
1963. DuBois was outspoken in his belief in interracial cooperation and an
integrated society as an eventual goal, but advocated racial solidarity in the
face of deeply entrenched white racism in America. DuBois life and
philosophy was dedicated to the careful balance and interrelationship between
58


city-wide "Interracial Committee" in 1923, "to study the problems and come to
a better understanding of the colored people."32 The Central YWCA Board
officially endorsed this committee, which was an outgrowth of the YWCA
Affiliating Committee (which had paved the way for the establishment of the
Phyllis Wheatley Branch). It included representatives from the black YMCA,
black ministers and white community leaders and government officials, includ-
ing Governor William E. Sweet, educator Emily Griffith, and many others.33
All were encouraged to attend a planned program on the "problems of the
colored race" by Dr. W. E. B. DuBois in Denver on March 26, 1923.34 By
1924, the Denver Interracial Commission had been established out of this early
these two roads to black equality. See Meyer Weinberg, W.E.B. DuBois: A
Reader (New York: Harper and Row, 1970), pp. xi-xvii.
32 Board Minutes, March 20, 1923, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder
4.
33 The Glenarm "Colored" YMCA opened in 1908. A wood frame house
at 28th and Glenarm Streets was purchased in 1915. A new 3-story building
and recreational facilities were built in 1925 at the same location. Moya
Hansen, "Entitled to Full and Equal Enjoyment: Leisure and Entertainment in
the Denver Black Community, 1900-1930," University of Colorado Historical
Studies Journal. Denver, Colorado, vol 10, No.l, Spring, 1993, p. 59. William
E. Sweet, Colorados governor from 1923 to 1925, was an outspoken
proponent of racial justice. In 1936, Sweet ran against Ed Johnson for the
Democratic nomination for U. S. Senate, campaigning against Johnsons
dispassionate attitudes about relief for the unemployed, and his racist armed
blockade at Colorado borders to keep Mexican-American workers out of the
state. Sweet lost the race two to one. Leonard, Trials, p. 80.
34 Board Minutes, March 20, 1923, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder
4.
59


committee.35 On February 14, 1926, the Commission, YWCA, and YMCA
co-sponsored "Race Relations Sunday" at Central Presbyterian Church,
featuring sermons by white, black, and Chinese ministers.36 "Race Relations
Sunday" thus became a tradition in Denver over the next two decades (see
Chapter 6), with a day set aside each February for a citywide interfaith,
interracial service and other educational events.
One other measure of the cohesiveness of Denvers black community
was a popular recreational tradition which began in May, 1922. The annual
joint YM-YWCA Field Meet and Picnic, held at Denvers Rocky Mountain
Lake Park, attracted up to 1800 participants.37 According to Nelsine
Campbell, the picnics were held throughout the 1920s and 1930s, and were a
celebration of community progress. They offered food, music, boating, and
track competition, as well as rest and relaxation. "The financial returns are
35 Atkins, p. 116.
36 Speakers were Reverend Nona L. Brooks discussing "White America,"
Rev. C. H. Uggams of Shorter A.M.E. Church speaking on "The Negro in
America," and Paul Chih Meng, General Secretary of the Student Christian
Association on "The Oriental in America." Board Minutes, February 9, 1926,
YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 5.
37 Phyllis Wheatley Branch Statistical Report, May, 1923, YWCA
Collection, CHS, Box 8, Folder 165. The Rocky Mountain Lake site was
accessible by streetcar, and had been used frequently since the turn of the
century for fundraising and community events for black organizations in
Denver, including the Masons, Denver black newspaper, The Colorado
Statesman, as well as the black YMCA and YWCA. Hansen, p. 64.
60


small, the work long and hard, but the satisfaction to the citizens is of value
not to be estimated."38
Although its membership and programs were segregated, Denvers
YWCA prided itself in promoting interracial understanding among young girls
in the 1920s. "Camp Company," a newsletter distributed at the Girl Reserve
Conference at Estes Park in 1922 contained a letter on "The Race Question"
from a white camper.
Since I came to conference I have had my views on the race problem
changed considerably. I have often been told that the negroes should
be respected and given a chance but not until now have I really seen it.
They have natural music in them and many have written beautiful
poems. I hope that every girl will go back feeling as I do that the
races should all be given equal chance.39
The YWCA High School Girl Reserves held an inter-racial Vesper
Service on "Racial Sunday" in 1925, with participants from both the Central
association and Phyllis Wheatley Branch. According to the 1924-25 Annual
38 Campbell, p. 9-10.
39 "Camp Company" Newsletter, YWCA Girl Reserve Conference, Estes
Park, Colorado, Summer, 1922, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 8, Folder 148.
There is no indication whether black girls attended the conference. However,
such attendance is unlikely, since such attendance was a big issue later in 1925.
In the absence of blacks at the conference, it is possible that this letter was the
result of a theoretical discussion about race relations in the YWCA.
61


Report, Mrs. Ross "very clearly and beautifully told the girls the part of
younger girls in making the race relations right."40
Race relations in the YWCA were cordial on the surface, but a test of
commitment came in 1925, when a local debate arose over attendance by black
delegates to a National Conference in Estes Park, which was to be held July 29
- August 6, 1925. Eva Bowles wrote a memo to all black Branches in Febru-
ary, encouraging wider participation in the national conference, and urging
them to raise money now to send their best delegation. "Have you ever
stopped to think how much your Branch is worth to your city?" she asked.
"What difference would it make if it dropped out of existence tomorrow? Who
would care?"41 Denvers Central YWCA was open to the idea, but skittish
about how to handle an integrated conference. In May, 1925, national head-
quarters requested an "expression" from the Denver Association "as to whether
Colored Girls will be eligible to [go to] the Estes Park Conference."42 The
Denver Board discussed the issue at length, expressing general agreement to
cooperate toward this end. They wrote a letter expressing "hearty sympathy"
40 Annual Report, Girl Reserves, Phyllis Wheatley Branch, September,
1924 September, 1925, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 8, Folder 142.
41 Eva Bowles to local YWCA Branches, February 14, 1925, YWCA
Collection, CHS, Box 11, Folder 234.
42 Minutes, Executive Committee, YWCA Board, May 18, 1925, YWCA
Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 5.
62


for Colored girls to attend the Estes Park Community Conference, but "such
delegates should not be sent until the Conference has the opportunity to study
and discuss the question...."43 The Board further recommended that "a care-
fully selected colored leader [should] present the point of view of our colored
membership" to the Conference.44
Hard feelings about the Estes Park issue had apparently arisen from the
Phyllis Wheatley Branch leadership, although there is no written record of the
specific local complaints. However, a series of letters between white leaders at
the Central Denver YWCA and National Colored Secretary Eva Bowles over
the conference issue reveals in more detail than usual the strained nature of
internal discussions over race relations. Bowles letters give some clues as to
her own sense of strategy and tactics on the race question as well. In her
letter of May 19, 1925 to Denvers Central Executive Secretary, Bowles politely
stated her position that attendance by blacks at national conferences should be
a natural process, and should not require a forced discussion as a separate
issue:
Our experience through the years has been an aim to develop natural
interracial contacts and to build such a basis of understanding through
these contacts that issues, when they arise, can be dealt with through
principles involved instead of the issue itself. ... if normal contacts
43Board Minutes, May 19, 1925, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 5.
44 Board Minutes, May 19, 1925, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder
5.
63


between white and Colored women and girls in any community are
established, conference attendance will then take care of itself in a
natural way. As thinking Colored people we resent making color a plea
for recognition as much as we do making it a plea for segregation or
non recognition. Our only sane approach is by going as far as the
white and colored group are agreed together to go. [emph. added] I
think we must keep in mind that we are an interracial movement and it
is for us to manifest it and make it real. In this course there is a time
element and we make progress only through getting a basis upon which
to build.45
Executive Secretary Norma Stauffers defended the well meaning Denver
Board, who had suggested a pre-conference discussion in order to defend the
idea that black delegates should be "allowed" to attend the conference:
From your letter I hardly know what your own attitude is on the matter.
So far as the business girls group is concerned they had no intention of
"making color a plea for recognition." They felt very decidedly that as
business girls within the Association we had common needs and prob-
lems and that the conference should serve us all alike.46
Stauffer wrote again to Bowles in July, to report that Miss Taylor,
Phyllis Wheatley Branch Executive Secretary, would hopefully be attending the
Estes Park Conference: "I think her attendance will quietly pave the way for
the attendance of other delegations from the Branch for another year."47 In
45 Eva Bowles to Mrs. Wilson (Denver Central YWCA), May 19, 1925,
YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 11, Folder 234.
46 Norma Stauffer to Eva Bowles, May 26, 1925, YWCA Collection, CHS,
Box 11, Folder 234.
47 Norma Stauffer to Eva Bowles, July 14, 1925, YWCA Collection, CHS,
Box 11, Folder 234.
64


her reply Bowles reiterated her position that attendance by blacks at the
conference should be viewed as a natural process: "I hope that Miss Taylor
does go to the conference this year. There is no special urge for Colored
people to go because they are colored. As Branch Secretary, she is eligible."
Others will go as they are eligible, Bowles went on, and "will naturally become
a part of each group. This is the only logical basis for representation in such a
AQ
movement as ours."
The next year (1926), the Central Board discussed the fact that "the
policy of sending colored delegates [to the Estes Park Conference] was to be
much more generally adopted this year," and voted to support this concept.48 49
The Central Board was forced to recognize that black women and girls were
becoming a real force in the Denver organization. The growing community
presence of the Phyllis Wheatley Branch through its popular recreational
programs, social life, and services was becoming a national model.
". . the girlhood of the city was in the right hands for proper guidance,"
asserted Nelsine Howard Campbell about the Phyllis Wheatley Branchs place
in the community during the 1920s.50 "The association grew to be a real
48 Eva Bowles to Norma Stauffer, July 23, 1925, YWCA Collection, CHS,
Box 11, Folder 234.
49 Board Minutes, May 11, 1926, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder
5.
50 Campbell, p. 19.
65


social necessity for these years. No one can state the spread of its service," she
concluded.51 Annual Reports to the national YWCA office touted the Phyllis
Wheatley branch as "the Community Center for the colored women of the
city." [emphasis added].52
When Phyllis Wheatley became an official Branch, it was required to
submit regular national reports of its work. The national report form for 1921
asked "Just what work do you do among colored girls?" The Denver YWCA
answer was short and sweet, filling the two lines provided: "We have a Phyllis
Wheatley Center . with boarding home, employment department, room
registry, girls work, gymnasium, club."53 The details behind this brief listing of
activities reveal that the Branch served a unique and vital function for women
in Denvers black community.
As with all other cities where black branches existed, the Phyllis Wheat-
ley Branch provided safe, clean, inexpensive rooms to young single women.
This was perhaps its most valuable service. Few hotels, including the Central
YWCA Residence, would accept black guests, and most would have been too
51 Campbell, p. 21.
52 Annual Report, Phyllis Wheatley Branch, 1922, YWCA Collection,
CHS, Box 8, Folder 141.
53 National Board Report, Phyllis Wheatley Branch, 1921, YWCA
Collection, CHS, Box 8, Folder 141.
66


expensive anyway.54 In the Welton Street house there were 12 rooms, with
sleeping space for up to 19 women.55 56 A room registry of neighborhood
homes willing to take in temporary boarders supplemented the boarding house.
Boarders were often referred by YWCA Branches in other cities, or by
Denvers YWCA Travelers Aid Service, located at the train station. Daily
meals were served in the handsomely furnished formal dining room. Although
small fees were charged for room and board, revenues rarely kept up with
expenses. Hardship cases were rarely turned away. For example, 103 free
beds went to "girls ill, stranded or out of work" during 1923.
The hardship stories about transient women who were assisted by the
Branch were often repeated in reports to show the necessity and effectiveness
of the new facilities. For example, during 1922, Branch Secretary Fairfax
Richey told of
a twenty year old mother with six months old babe ran away
from her home in a small Colorado town and came to the
Y.W.C.A. Her plan was to give her baby away and find work,
54 Denvers YWCA Residence barred non-whites until the late 1940s,
when segregated facilities were officially ended. Occasionally, an exception
was made, as in the case of a young Japanese woman who in 1923 was
granted special permission to stay in the residence while in town to study
Denvers Juvenile Court. Board Minutes, September 25, 1923, YWCA
Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 4.
55 Annual Report, Phyllis Wheatley Branch, 1922, YWCA Collection,
CHS, Box 8, Folder 141. Emergency beds were added when necessary.
56 Campbell, p. 15.
67


but after a few days of rest from routine of her home and coun-
sel from the Secretary and older girls in the house she decided to
return to the two children and husband whom she had desert-
ed."57
Richey related other stories about "friendless, homeless" women,
aged 18 to 70, who found a refuge at the Branch.
A sampling of boarding statistics reveals how busy the Branch had
become. In October, 1921, nine girls lived in the house. A new house
secretary had just been hired and was "starting in with good spirits."58
Revenues for the month totaled $441, receipts $253. In another month, March
1922, sixteen girls lived in the house, and 692 meals were served (including
inexpensive lunches for women who worked or lived in the neighborhood
nearby.)59 In November, 1922, the number of boarders had grown to 19.
The 1922 Annual Report listed a total of 309 women housed during the year.
A total of 310 were housed in 1923, with total meals reaching 13,404. The
dining room was closed temporarily in November of 1924, "after a losing fight
57 Phyllis Wheatley Branch Annual Report, Fairfax Richey, 1922, YWCA
Collection, CHS, Box 8, Folder 141.
58 Miss Jamesie Pope held the position until her marriage in September,
1921. Mrs. Clara Banks of Colorado Springs took over. Campbell, p. 10.
Board Minutes, October 11, 1921, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3.
59 Board Minutes, March 14, 1922, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder
3.
68


to keep this part of our work going as a service to the community."60 Month-
ly receipts averaged $450 $700 per month, with monthly expenses approach-
ing $1000. The Branch found the resources to reopen in May, 1925.61
Black migration in the United States was continually in evidence in
Denver. Branch Secretary Dorothy Guinn reported in the fall of 1926 that "A
number of transients going East to Chicago or West to Los Angeles have
continued to stop at the Branch."62 She later reported that the house was
full of travelers and tourists in the summer of 1927. Few Denver hotels
allowed blacks, and traveling single women had learned that the local Phyllis
Wheatley YWCA was a safe haven.
The Branch Employment Department found jobs for women when jobs
were available. In 1922, the Branch placed 114 women in jobs ranging from
laundries, to maid and cook positions, to secretarial. The next year the
placements rose to over 300. Dorothy Guinn reported in late 1926 that the
Employment Service
is in the process of becoming a real factor. Girls and Women of various
ages call for work. The girl who comes to Denver for her health, yet
who is to do some work, the girl who is trained to do stenography yet
finds no opening, the young mother with children who needs to supple-
60 Campbell, p. 17.
61 Campbell, p. 17.
62 Branch Monthly Report, Dorothy Guinn, September 15 November 11,
1926, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 11, Folder 234.
69


ment her income, these indeed and many others make our service a
real factor in the lives of girls and women. ... we are to lead them to
more abundant living.63
The ugly effects of job discrimination were difficult to avoid. In 1927, Phyllis
Wheatley job counselors complained that they could not place enough appli-
cants, stating that "We have a number of experienced women who command a
fair wage over against employers who can pay a very inadequate wage."64
The job referral service was a fruitful recruiting ground for the Business
and Employed Girls Clubs. Club meetings, Banquets, and musical productions
kept the young working women busy and entertained. The Branch Business
Girls League was one of the first groups to attend regular joint meetings with
their counterparts at the Central "Y."65 The Industrial Girls sang spirituals at
the citywide Industrial Banquet at Central in 1926.
The clubs were later divided into "Business" (secretarial, retail, and
accounting) and "Industrial" (domestic service, factory, and laundry) groups in
1927. Differences in class and educational background led to many "heated
although not especially profitable discussion[s] on the relative value of Experi-
63 Branch Monthly Report, Dorothy Guinn, September 15 November 11,
1926, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 11, Folder 234.
64 Monthly Branch Report, Dorothy Guinn, September, 1927, YWCA
Collection, CHS, Box 11, Folder 234.
65 Branch Monthly Report, Dorothy Guinn, November, 1926, YWCA
Collection, CHS, Box 11, Folder 234.
70


ence and Education in various undertakings."66 In frustration, Dorothy Guinn
finally implemented the separation. "It took tact, leadership, love and prayer to
give to each of these girls the proper attitude . ., Nelsine Campbell recalled.
Branch staff engaged in "intensive work in developing a program to meet the
changing needs of the girls and women of our race."67
The Industrial Girls were perhaps the largest and most active group.
Nelsine Campbell reported that in the late 1920s, progress in this group was
"probably the most outstanding of any program . ."68 69 Twenty-two members
joined the first year in 1927. Fifty four members belonged in 1928, and eighty
five by 1930. The active working class women socialized at weekly club
suppers, waffle suppers, carnivals, and sponsored dances to show off their
boyfriends. They published their own newsletter, "The Peacock Gazette," and
ran a cooperative gift shop. A lending library composed contemporary Negro
authors was available to all members. Large Industrial Girls delegations
fiQ
attended national conferences.
66 Branch Monthly Report, Dorothy Guinn, January, 1927, YWCA
Collection, CHS, Box 11, Folder 234.
67 Campbell, p. 20.
68 Campbell, p. 28.
69 The 1928 National Conference at Okobogee drew a Denver delegation
of 50 Industrial Girls. Campbell, p. 21.
71


Crowds of little girls in the yard and tennis court during the early years
of the Branch attracted much attention and admiration. Black mothers were
anxious to expose their daughters to the healthy moral influence and
comraderie of the YWCA. "The YWCA molded my life!" claims early
member Sarah Sims.70 Sims was an active member of the "Yakawanna Club"
of the Girl Reserves beginning in 1919 at age 11. Work with younger black
girls in Denver, including camp, school, and after-school programs were
modelled after successful work nationwide. The largest program was the Girl
Reserves, which provided clubs and activities for elementary to high school
girls. In 1923, five school-aged girls clubs welcomed youngsters to the Branch
for games, arts and crafts classes, and social activities.
Miss Lucy Charlotte Stevens reported to work in May, 1926 as the new
Girl Reserve Secretary. Under her leadership, the girls clubs enjoyed ever
more popularity and improved activities. Enrollment soared to 107.71 As
was the hope, girls frequently dropped by the Branch after school. In 1927
Dorothy Guinn reported to the Central Board that "it is indeed gratifying to
realize that there is a definite place in their young lives for their Girl Reserve
70 Sarah Sims, interview with author, Denver, Colorado, April 15, 1991.
71 Campbell, p. 20.
72


Club." Stevens resigned in October, 1928 and was replaced by Mary
Elizabeth Wood of Des Moines a year later.72 73 The Branch girls showed off
for National Girl Reserve Secretary, Miss Bella Knight, when she visited the
Branch in 1929.74
A principal attraction for girls to the YWCA was the prospect of
summer camp in the mountains a chance to get away from overprotective
parents and wearing dirty, grubby clothes to their hearts content. While the
girls just wanted to have fun, adults had a more purposeful motive for
organizing camp, as Nelsine Howard articulated so well:
Camp life brings out of the camper either the finest or the worst
elements of her being. Most girls develop in living with one
another, a tolerance and comradeship, an understanding of their
leaders .... which lasts as the years go by.75
The first black YWCA Camp in the country was Camp Gicharbu at
Harrods Creek, Kentucky, established by the Louisville branch around
WWI.76 In Denver, YWCA camp programs for black girls began in the early
1920s at various sites. In 1926, the Phyllis Wheatley Branch founded Camp
72 Branch Monthly Report, Dorothy Guinn, September, 1927, YWCA
Collection, CHS, Box 11, Folder 234.
73 Campbell, p. 28.
74 Campbell, p. 28.
75 Campbell, p. 23.
76 Salem, p. 218.
73


Nhizoni, Colorados first all-black camp, located at Lincoln Hills near
Pinecliffe. Camp Lookout, the Central YWCAs large, well-equipped girls
camp established in 1923 near Idaho Springs, was available only to white girls.
Until the Phyllis Wheatley Branch took the initiative to start them, there were
no "camp life" opportunities for black girls anywhere in the Rocky Mountain
region.
According to Nelsine Campbell, the first Phyllis Wheatley camp session
was a weekend outing held at a cabin in Sunset near Boulder in the summer of
1921, organized by Lillian Bondurant and Zipporah Parks.77 78 Sarah Simss
fond memories of travelling as a young girl to camp near Boulder in Lieuten-
ant Earl Manns car are as vivid as yesterday. Sims recalled, "The girls
learned to get along, to play fair. Nobody was a loser."79 Three adult
women and twelve girls braved the elements, feeling like pioneers. The group
was a bit apprehensive, for according to Campbell, "it was probably too far
from Denver, or at least too far from the beaten path."80 Dr. P. E. Spratlin,
77 Campbell, p. 10.
78 Sims interview. Lt. Earl Mann was a highly regarded community leader
for several decades before he was elected to the Colorado State Legislature in
1943. Atkins, p. 121.
79 Sims interview.
80 Campbell, p. 22.
74


a noted black physician and founder of early black charities in Denver, and
businessman Luther Walton arranged the financing for the trip.81 82
Blatant racism interrupted enthusiastic Phyllis Wheatley Branch efforts
to expand the newly discovered camping experience for their young members.
In 1923, Girl Reserve chairwoman Lillian Bondurant and Fairfax Richey
selected a beautiful site near Dumont, near Georgetown and the famous
"Loop" railroad, offering to rent it for $30.00 per month. Just as the deal was
to go through, local controversy set in. Hearing rumors of a "Colored girls
camp" in their town, Dumont residents Estelle Philleo, M. E. Gibbs, C. W.
Lerchan, and L. M. Hunt fired off an angry letter to the YWCA Central Board
vehemently opposing the plan. "Certainly we did not wish any trouble or
that our girls or our secretaries should be menaced in camp," recalled Nelsine
Campbell. "... Without any ado whatever, we gave up the idea of
Dumont."83 Disappointment and anger were dissipated when a generous
YWCA friend, Mrs. Morris, offered to let the girls pitch their tents on the site
of her 4- room cottage in Chicago Creek near Idaho Springs. This "glorious
81 Earlier that year, the Central Board accepted a donation of two lots at
Dome Rock in North Platte Canyon to be set aside as a camp site for Phyllis
Wheatley girls. There is no record of this site being used. Board Minutes,
January 11, 1921, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3.
82 Campbell, p. 15.
83 Campbell, p. 22-23. A copy of this letter is not contained in Central
Board records, nor is the incident mentioned in Board Minutes at the time.
75


adventure" lasted 5 weeks, with a total of 101 girls and 94 visitors attending.84
The girls returned in large numbers to the Idaho Springs site for several more
summers.
Discriminatory attitudes and whites-only rental and admission policies
had long prevented black residents of Colorado from enjoying the outdoor
recreational experiences enjoyed by the states white citizens.85 For example,
Colorados internationally famous Glenwood Hot Springs Pool had an official
whites only admission policy until well into the 1950s. As a result, a pair of
ambitious black entrepreneurs from Denver set their sites on developing an
all-Black mountain resort. Promoters Mr. Renier and Mr. Euwalt launched
their dream project in 1925 at Lincoln Hills, a site on Pine Creek near
Pinecliffe. The pine forested area was easily accessible from Denver by the
Moffat railroad. One observer, Dr. J. H. P. Westbrook, expressed his
enchantment with the Lincoln Hills concept:
This is the last opportunity for colored people to get such a location. In
a few years it will be impossible for our group to get anything half as
desirable . There is no segregation about it, only a chance to get a
large acreage where we can go in peace and contentment. ,86
84 Campbell, p. 23.
85 Hansen, pp. 47-48.
86 Dr. J. H. P. Westbrook to Lincoln Hills developers, 1925, quoted in
Hansen, p. 69.
76


Renier and Euwalt, at the suggestion of their friend Mr. Luther Walton,
invited fifty two Phyllis Wheatley girls to camp at Lincoln Hills in the summer
of 1925. Waltons influence bore more fruit early the next year when Lincoln
Hills developers announced their plan to offer several sites and a large cabin
to the Phyllis Wheatley Branch, for use as a permanent camp site. The
original agreement proposed was that the YWCA would rent the site for $65,
and would be responsible for repairs. Estimated costs for repairs came in
higher than expected, so Walton negotiated a better arrangement. It the site
was used as a camp for three years, the owners would transfer the property
deed to the Phyllis Wheatley Branch.87
Branch leaders were ecstatic. Gertie Ross quickly recommended
acceptance of the offer by the Central YWCA Board. She reported that the
property was free of encumbrances, and that the owners had agreed to "rid the
place of rats, build a bridge, and make the place habitable."88 The location
would provide a welcome and accepting atmosphere to Phyllis Wheatley girls,
Ross believed, since one thousand lots at the Lincoln Hills resort had already
been sold to blacks. Ross further reported that the Branch had $600 in its
budget for camp expenses, and with careful planning, needed repairs could be
made. On the motion of Board member Dr. Fraser and President Anna
87 Campbell, p. 24-25.
88 Board Minutes, May 4, 1926, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 5.
77


McClintock, the YWCA Executive Committee unanimously accepted the
Lincoln Hills offer on May 4, 1926.89 Camp Nizhoni was born.
A delegation of Phyllis Wheatley and Central Board members rode the
train to Lincoln Hills soon after to inspect the property. According to Nelsine
Campbell, what they found was in many ways awe-inspiring:
... a large old structure, falling to pieces, was occupied by pack rats
and cattle. It was without windows, but obviously there were possibili-
ties. Its size and location recommended it instantly. Up in our glorious
mountains, [it was] easily reached by train: canopied by blue sky by
day, and by starry sky by night.90
The Board quickly approved $1640 for immediate repairs to the property,
allowing the money to come from the "contingency fund" if necessary.91
Thus began the creation of two decades of happy memories for Phyllis
Wheatley youngsters and adults alike at Camp Nizhoni. Groups of campers
arrived each summer continuously until it was closed in 1945, when black girls
were finally allowed to participate in integrated camps at YWCA Camp
Lookout. Despite constant financial problems and deteriorating facilities, the
Phyllis Wheatley Branch always found a way to keep Camp Nizhoni open.
Often its survival depended upon extra funding from the Central Board, or
89 Minutes, Executive Committee, YWCA Board, May 4, 1926, YWCA
Collection, CHS, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 5. Board approval
followed.
90 Campbell, p. 24.
91 Board Minutes, June 4, 1926, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 5.
78


occasional donations from generous individuals in community. Like the rest of
the Branch programs, Camp Nizhoni was never financially self-sufficient.
During the 1920s, the Central YWCA had provided about one half to
2/3 of the revenues needed to keep the doors open at the Phyllis Wheatley
Branch.92 These funds were minimal compared to the overall budget of the
Denver YWCA as a whole. There had never been any official formula
established for Branch financial support. Nevertheless, Branch supporters on
Centrals Board differed with the Finance Committee over how self-sufficient
the Branch should be. Centrals Executive Director Norma Stauffer wrote to
Eva Bowles in July, 1925:
One point .. which greatly concerns us at this time, is the Standard
Percentage of self-support for a Phyllis Wheatley Branch. Some of us
feel that our Finance Committee expects too large a per cent of self-
support from the Branch .... please advise.93
Bowles quickly replied, emphasizing the need to continue financial support
while encouraging Branch self-sufficiency and control:
Of course, if you consider, there could be no standard percentage for a
Phyllis Wheatley Branch. The standards for our Branches among
Colored women and girls are no different from any other part of the
work. We do feel, however, that the colored people should become
92 According to Nelsine Campbell, the Branch was 53%-55% self-sufficient
in 1923, 47% in 1924, and 37% in 1925. Even during the worst years of the
Great Depression of the 1930s, Branch was able to remain 28% self-sufficient.
Campbell, p. 17, 35.
93 Norma Stauffer to Eva Bowles, July 14, 1925, YWCA Collection, CHS,
Box 11, Folder 234.
79


more and more responsible for the budget and the administration of
it.94
Bowles went on to stress the necessity of allowing Branch members to learn
from Central finance committees how to manage a YWCA budget and raise
necessary funds.
In Denver, wealthy and well connected YWCA Board members easily
enlisted the financial support from the entire community during annual pledge
drives or "campaigns." While memberships and activity fees provided some
revenues, the overall budget of both the Central and Phyllis Wheatley YWCAs
was largely dependent on charitable and philanthropic giving. Additionally, the
Denver Community Chest offered annual funds for many YWCA programs,
including those offered by the Phyllis Wheatley Branch. For example, in 1923
the Denver Community Chest allotted $6233.24 to the Phyllis Wheatley
Branch, and in 1928 they gave $6,830.94.95 In turn, Branch activists always
helped with both the annual citywide YWCA and Community Chest
fundraising drives.96
94 Eva Bowles to Norma Stauffer, July 23, 1925, YWCA Collection, CHS,
Box 11, Folder 234.
95 Campbell, p. 16; Federal WPA Writers Program, Life in Denver
Series. 1936-1942, "Negroes," Colorado Historical Society, p. 153.
96 Branch Monthly Report, Dorothy Guinn, November, 1926, YWCA
Collection, CHS, Box 11, Folder 234.
80


Managing a budget and financial self-sufficiency were two different
matters. Black women did not have access to the citys well-established
funding network. Phyllis Wheatley leaders and members were not wealthy,
and yet they were called upon to provide aid to hardship cases at a much
higher proportional rate than Central. If Centrals Finance Committee
expected financial self-sufficiency, they offered little guidance on how to
overcome these obstacles. Lillian Bondurant became the first member of the
Branch Committee of Management allowed to sit on Centrals Finance
Committee. She hoped thereby to communicate the Branchs financial needs
and concerns in a forceful and consistent manner.
During the 1920s, obtaining money for small expenditures like bed
sheets, lamp shades, or bicycle racks was generally a matter of Mrs. Ross
getting the request approved at the monthly Central Board meeting.97
Approval of major projects like a new gymnasium proved more troublesome.
The gym was sorely needed because both racism and sexism combined to
severely limit recreational options for black girls and women. Blacks were
barred from virtually all city swimming pools and gymnasiums, including the
97 $304 purchased four pairs of pillows, 6 beds, one ice box, and a 4 1/2
foot claw foot bath tub for the Branch in 1921. Approval for purchase of
battleship linoleum for the hall and bathrooms, rugs, washing machine,
plumbing and a $150 piano were approved the next year. Board Minutes,
April 26, 1921, and August 1, 1922, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3.
81


YWCA downtown facility. In 1922, Mrs. Richey reported that the Branch had
finally secured a day each week for colored women and girls at the Municipal
Bath House, the citys public pool and gymnasium.98 Hours of female access
to black male facilities like the Glenarm YMCA was severely limited as well,
and many girls felt self-conscious around so many young men.
As early as 1921, the newly organized Phyllis Wheatley Branch began
requesting their own gym facilities, finding that their other options inadequate.
The Central Board rejected the suggestion that Phyllis Wheatley girls obtain
the use of the East High School gym (located at 19th and Stout Street in
downtown Denver), deeming it "unwise." The only suggestion offered was that
the "colored girls will start a fund for the purpose of enlarging the Recreation
Room," (a badly maintained horse garage in the yard at the Branch).99 A
month later, the Board approved the following resolution: "That the out-
standing campaign pledges made through the Phyllis Wheatley Center be
allowed for their gymnasium, provided they are collected by that Branch."100
98 Board Minutes, November 14, 1922, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1,
Folder 3.
99 Board Minutes, October 11, 1921, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1,
Folder 3.
100 Board Minutes, December 13, 1921, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1,
Folder 3.
82


By 1925, the problem of a black womens gymnasium had still not been
resolved. Phyllis Wheatley members had helped in the campaign to build a
new Glenarm YMCA facility, which opened its swimming pool and gymnasium
to the black community in 1925.101 Black women and girls could use these
facilities at certain limited times, but were uncomfortable with the predomi-
nantly male constituency. Black girls were not allowed to use the Central
YWCA gymnasium facilities except during very few hours when no whites were
present. When Central Executive Secretary suggested that a new gymnasium
for Phyllis Wheatley be included in the 1925 YWCA Campaign, the motion
was defeated by the Board on the grounds that details about what the funds
were to be used for had already been publicized, and "it seemed unwise to
change the amount."102 It should be noted that Phyllis Wheatley members
worked long hours in Denvers black community on that fundraising campaign
on behalf of the YWCA.
The next year, womens and girls gymnasium and swimming classes were
organized at the Glenarm YMCA. Alarmed at girls being in such close
proximity to young boys and men, Branch Secretary Dorothy Guinn was
pessimistic about the success of the program:
101 Hansen, p. 59.
102 Minutes, Executive Committee, YWCA Board, October 6, 1926,
YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 5.
83


... our girls gymnasium class at the YMCA with an enrollment of 14 girls
... has not been especially successful. We doubt seriously ... whether
there has been any real constructive educational work. It may perhaps
even be with these teen age youngsters the moral effect of fostering
their appreciation of a Mans building and of scheming to shirk respon-
sibility for paying legitimate fees even if small will be a lessening of
their sense of values and thereby outweigh the slight value on the health
side
103
Guinn frequently complained about the difficulty of collecting fees from
youngsters in recreational programs, feeling that it showed a lack of responsi-
bility and should not be allowed. The financial effects of the lack of payment
were secondary, since the fees were so low. In January, 1927, she reported
the increasing popularity of gym classes, especially basketball, but lamented
that "We still have to devise some method whereby the girls will come to
realize the need of paying fees."103 104
As the decade of the 1920s came to a close, the Phyllis Wheatley
Branch faced more pressing financial problems than the nonpayment of gym
fees. A decade of tremendous growth of both activities and spirit among the
women and girls in Five Points would give way to financial challenges which
would threaten the very survival of the Branch. Black women were not new to
hardship, however. Skilled at making much out of a little, the Phyllis Wheatley
103 Branch Monthly Report, Dorothy Guinn, November, 1926, YWCA
Collection, CHS, Box 11, Folder 234.
104 Branch Monthly Report, Dorothy Guinn, January, 1927, YWCA
Collection, CHS, Box 11, Folder 234.
84


female fellowship pulled together during the Depression years, enabling them
to provide vital services during their communitys greatest hour of need.
85


CHAPTER 5
FELLOWSHIP AND SURVIVAL IN THE 1930S
These last few years when our economic standing has been so very
insecure; when unemployment has been our great problem; when
relief has played a part that we shall never forget; Phyllis Wheatley
Branch has remembered that it was a part of a fellowship. We have
shared even the little that we have had. At one time 53% self-support-
ing, and then only 28%, but trusting in His grace we go forward. Our
heads are up.
- Nelsine Howard Campbell, 19351 *
Denvers YWCA worked during the 1930s to ameliorate conditions of
unemployment and hardship in Five Points. Government relief and jobs
programs which put an explicit priority on hiring young white males, mostly
A
bypassed women, and minorities of both genders. The Civilian Conservation
Corps established in 1933 accepted only males 18-25, and in Colorado sent
black male recruits to segregated camps in New Mexico, Texas, and Arizona.
1 Campbell, p. 35
o
'Although willing to buck conventional attitudes that decreed that
women would stay at home, FERA (Federal Emergency Relief Administration)
still gave the bulk of its work to men, concentrating on tasks demanding heavy
labor." Leonard, Trials, p. 50-51.
86


Hispanics, who later formed 40% of Colorado CCC recruits by 1938, were
likewise isolated in segregated projects.
Black population in Denver in 1930 was 11,828, 60% living in Five
Points neighborhood.3 4 A YWCA local study reported 1930 census figures as
follows: 84% white, 10.9% foreign born white, 2.5% negro, and 2.7% "other
races" (2.4% of these defined as Mexican).5 6 The same report listed womens
primary employment in four fields: the largest number in household
(domestic) employment, clerical and steno, telephone operation, and retail
clerking. While 45% of all women between the ages of 16 and 24 were
household employees in 1930, factory employment for women in Denver was
c
"scarce and seasonal."
Findings of an employment study by the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA and
other black womens organizations in the early 1930s revealed that both black
men and women were losing ground due to the Depression. For example,
white women were being hired to replace black elevator operators at a lower
wage at the Denver Dry Goods. The El Jebel Temple had similarly replaced
3 Leonard, Trials, p. 61.
4 Leonard, Trials, p. 42.
5 Program Study, 1938, Mildred Esgar, p. 15, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box
16, Folder 388.
6 Program Study, 1938, Mildred Esgar, p. 52, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box
16, Folder 388.
87


black waiters with less expensive white waitresses. The report claimed that
housework worth $15.00 a year before, now brought $10.00. A maids hours
were routinely increased with no raise in pay, under threat of losing the
position altogether. The report recommended a series of steps to ameliorate
the situation, all of which encouraged members of the black community to
assist each other in time of need. "In this time when jobs are scarce any defect
is doubly noticeable. Because labor is plentiful, Negro labor has to stand a
very severe test . the question of efficiency cannot be overlooked," the
report concluded, admonishing black women workers to avoid slovenly
appearance, walking off with food from the larder, or noisy, quarrelsome,
discourteous behavior on the bus to and from work.7
The Federal Works Progress Administration in Denver was one of the
largest operations in the western states. Blacks complained that few of the
jobs were available to them, however. Black women were hired for a sewing
project at Whittier School. The project was clearly segregated, and many
complaints were registered. Administrator Mary F. Adams excused the policy
of segregation by "indicates merely an attempt at making convenient
transportation arrangements for the colored people who live in the near
7 "Findings of Representatives of Negro Womens Organizations in Recent
discussions of Employment Conditions as they Affect Negro Women,"
(undated), c. 1930s, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 381.
88


vicinity of the school. Paul Shriver, state head of the Works Progress
Administration (WPA), claimed that "colored women were segregated as a
result of their own desire." He claimed that Colorados WPA had made
special efforts to avoid racial discrimination. Yet, the National Youth
Administration channelled black youths into "acceptable occupational fields"
like auto-repair school and the black choir program.8
Many organizations mobilized to assist Denvers unemployed citizens.
The Unemployed Citizens League, organized in 1932 claimed over 30,000
members in 22 district offices in Denver.9 On October 29, 1934, unemployed
Denverites of all races assembled at the State Capitol Building to protest lack
of relief programs, and discrimination against blacks and Hispanics.10 Grace
Methodist Church, headed by Reverend Edgar M. Wahlberg, was a 1930s
action center for relief and community support programs. He organized the
Grace Self-Help Cooperative, a food dispensary, clinic, and free barbershop.
Partially funded by banker John Evans. Black dentist and Interracial
8 Leonard, Trials, p. 95.
9 Leonard, Trials, p. 40.
10 Leonard, Trials, p. 57.
89


Commission member, Dr. Clarence Holmes, provided free dental care at
Grace throughout the period.11 12
Relief for Spanish-speaking migrant workers was particularly acute
during winter months, when over 5,000 were laid off and moved to Denver for
help or temporary jobs. The YWCAs Industrial Department began organizing
a female Agricultural Workers Club around 1938, and lobbying with the
Congress of Industrial Organizations (C.I.O.) Agricultural Workers Union for
fair labor laws as well as relief for farm workers. Work with Japanese
household employees was carried out by the YWCA Industrial Program as
well.
Discrimination against minorities was frequent and public. For example
August 17, 1932, brought the Washington Park "race riot," when whites
attacked blacks who wanted to swim in the lake. The Denver chapter of the
NAACP was denied help from its national office in 1932 for a legal case
against segregated swimming pools.13 These discriminatory practices did not
go unchallenged, however. For example, Phyllis Wheatley and Central YWCA
leaders were the mainstay of Denvers Interracial Commission during the
11 Leonard, Trials, p. 36. See also Edgar M. Wahlberg, Voices in the
Darkness: A Memoir (Boulder: Roberts Rinehart, 1983).
12 "Narrative Report for the Industrial Department," YWCA Denver,
September 1938 to September, 1939, p. 2-3, Box 15, Folder 378.
13 Leonard, Trials, p. 211.
90


1930s. This multiracial group of male and female community leaders met
monthly throughout the decade to plan and carry out anti-racism activities (see
Chapter 6).
The Depression years were times of hardship for Denvers YWCA in
general. However, at no time did any program or service at the Phyllis
Wheatley Branch have to be discontinued. In fact, the decade saw unprece-
dented growth of working womens clubs, specifically the Business and
Professional Girls Club and the Industrial Girls Club. Programs for youth
were as popular as ever, and each summer Camp Nizhoni received a new
delegation of little girls into its "Camp family."
As the decade of economic Depression began, the Phyllis Wheatley
Committee of Management took stock of a decade of amazing
accomplishments since the Branch was established. After many years of wise
and dedicated leadership by Gertie Ross, the Branch welcomed Lillian
Bondurant as their a new Chairwoman in 1930. Serving for over 12 years on
the Committee of Management, and heading up many youth and camp
programs, Bondurant had, according to Nelsine Campbell, "won the friendship
and admiration of this body."14 A "faithful and ardent worker," Bondurant
served for five years as Chair until 1935. She was also the first black woman
14 Campbell, p. 33.
91


Full Text

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BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS: BLACK AND WHITE WOMEN'S VISIONS OF INTEGRATION The Young Women's Christian Association in Denver and the Phyllis Wheatley Branch 19151964 by Marcia Tremmel Goldstein B. A., Metropolitan State College of Denver, 1982 A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado at Denver in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts History 1995

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1995 by Marcia Tremmel Goldstein All rights reserved.

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This thesis for the Master of Arts degree by Marcia Tremmel Goldstein has been approved by J. NOel I Date

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Goldstein, Marcia Tremmel (M.A., History) Breaking Down Barriers: Black and White Visions of Integration The Young Women's Christian Association in Denver and the Phyllis Wheatley Branch, 1915 1964 Thesis directed by Professor Thomas J. Noel ABSTRACT Race relations in Denver, a western urban center inhabited by diverse peoples, remain largely unexamined by historians. This thesis explores the changing attitudes of black and white women about race relations and integration in the city, through an examination of the YWCA's Phyllis Wheatley Branch for Colored Women, which operated continuously in Denver's Five Points neighborhood from 1916 to 1964. The work of this significant community center for black women and girls, and its relationship to the YWCA's predominantly white Central Board, provides a rich case study of women and race relations in the 20th century urban American West. With the founding of the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA Colored Club in 1916, Denver's YWCA became "bi-racial" inclusive of both races but segregated. Each decade brought increased interaction between the black and' iv

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white YWCA members, following the national YWCA's directives in favor of integration. Throughout these decades, the Phyllis Wheatley Branch provided vital community services: a boarding house, employment bureau, health and recreational programs, clubs for working women, youth and camp activities, social events, and a meeting center for black community organizations. Branch leadership spearheaded struggles against racial discrimination, both within the YWCA and in the Denver community at large. A strong leadership core maintained the Branch's autonomy and community base in the face of numer ous pressures to abandon black-oriented programs for the sake of integration. The Branch remained active until the early 1960s, when by mutual consent of both black and white local YWCA leadership, the building was closed and the operation was absorbed into the officially integrated YWCA of Metropolitan Denver. Leaders and members of the former black Branch remained active in the YWCA until 1994, when bankruptcy forced an end to the 107 year old YWCA of Metropolitan Denver. The history of the YWCA and its Phyllis Wheatley Branch highlights the often oversimplified issue of integration, and points to the disruption the integration process has caused among African-Americans. The YWCA experience also underscores Denver's long history of groups and individuals v

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who have fought for racial equality and respect for the city's diversity. The YWCA exemplifies the important role of women's organizations in this multicultural legacy. Black and white women in Denver's YWCA have been essential characters in the overall story of the American West as a meeting ground of gender, race, and class. This abstract accurately represents the content o}l::th candidate's thesis. I recommend its publication. Signed Thomas vi

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CONTENTS ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS. ................................ vtn CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 2. THE EARLY HISTORY OF THE YWCA AND BLACK WOMEN'S ORGANIZATIONS, NATIONAL AND LOCAL . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 3. THE NATIONAL YWCA AND THE FOUNDING OF DENVER'S PHYLLIS WHEATLEY BRANCH ......... 23 4. "A MAJOR COMMUNITY SUPPORT SYSTEM:" THE PHYLLIS WHEATLEY BRANCH IN THE 1920s ....... 49 5. FELLOWSHIP AND SURVIVAL IN THE 1930s . . . . . 86 6. THE YWCA AND DENVER'S INTERRACIAL COMMISSION: 1924-1935 ......................... 118 7. BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS: THE WORLD WAR II YEARS .................... 131 8. "OUR HEADS ARE UP!": CONCLUSION . . . . . . . 167 BIBLIOGRAPHY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 174 vii

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Many people have been of great assistance during the research and writing of this thesis. The research goes back to 1989-90, when Stan Oliner, Head of the Books and Manuscripts Department at the Colorado Historical Society, graciously allowed me to work as his intern. Stan and Dr. Ellen Fisher supervised the enormous task of processing over 43 boxes of papers in the YWCA of Metropolitan Denver Collection, and the compiling of the computerized Finding Aid. A portion of the research on the Phyllis Wheatley Branch in the 1940s was completed in 1991, under the wise and scholarly direction of Dr. Myra Rich at the University of Colorado at Denver, and Dr. Lee Chambers Schiller of the University of Colorado at Boulder. Dr. Thomas J. Noel patiently worked with me during over five years of history graduate work at UCD, providing much motivation and enthusiasm for my research on women in Colorado. Dr. Noel and Dr. Rich were kind enough to read and critique this thesis, greatly enhancing .its readability and content. Jeffrey Goldstein, my husband, generously turned over his home office computer to me for the writing of this lengthy project. He has given great encouragement and support to all of my historical work, as have my daughter Deanna, and mother Phyllis Tremmel. viii

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Lastly, I would like to dedicate this thesis to life long Phyllis Wheatley YWCA member and former Denver YWCA All-Association President Addye Lightner, now deceased, who graciously gave of her time and memories to assist in the research. Long time YWCA activists Ellen Moose and Sarah Sims also helped to bring the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA story back to life. They and many other former members still reside in Denver, where the Phyllis Wheatley Branch and the YWCA played such an important part of their lives. ix

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CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Associations should continue to work for the building of a society nearer to the Kingdom of God by attempting to create within the Association a fellowship in which barriers of race, nationality, education and social status are broken down in the pursuit of the common objective of a better life for all. Resolution Adopted at 1936 YWCA National Convention As members of The Young Women's Christian Associations of the United States of America we humbly and resolutely pledge ourselves to continue to pioneer in an interracial experience that shall be increasingly democratic and christian. YWCA Interracial Charter, 1946 ... race should not be a barrier between women working toward a common goal. YWCA National Board, 1949.1 Denver's "Phyllis Wheatley Colored YWCA Club" met for the first time in October, 1915 at Shorter A.M.E. (African Methodist Episcopal) Church. The club grew quickly, and became an official Branch of the Central Denver and National YWCA in 1920. The Phyllis Wheatley YWCA Branch, named after the 18th century slave poet, was the city's major center for young African-1 YWCA National Board, Interracial Practices in Community YWCAs: A Study Under the Auspices of the Commission to Gather Interracial Experience as Requested by the 16th National Convention of the YWCAs of the United States (New York: The Woman's Press, 1944), p. 3. 1

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American working women and school-aged girls.2 For almost fifty years, the Phyllis Wheatley organization operated a residence hall, youth and camp programs, an employment bureau, and arts and recreation classes. They operated these programs out of their own building, supported a paid staff of four, and sustained a large volunteer support system. From 1920 until the early 1960s, the Branch was located at 2460 Welton Street, in the heart of Denver's Five Points neighborhood.3 It was one of the last traditionally black 2 Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784) was the first Mrican-American woman in the U.S. to publish a volume of verse. Born in 1753 in Gambia, Mrica, Wheatley was brought to the U.S. on a slave ship named "Phillis" in 1761, and sold as a house slave to the Wheatley family. By 1773, her first poems, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, had been published. Her poem honoring George Washington earned her a special audience with him during the American Revolution. Wheatley died in 1784 at age 31 in dire poverty. John Shields, "Wheatley, Phillis (Peters)," in Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia (New York: Carlson Publishing, Inc., 1993), p. 1251-1255. See also Denver Area Welfare Council, "Study of the Place of the Welton Street Branch," 1955, p. 45, YWCA of Metropolitan Denver, Collection No. 1254, Colorado Historical Society, Denver, Colorado, Box 24, Folder 577, (hereafter "YWCA Collection, CHS"). See also Paula Giddings, When and Where I Enter: the Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America (New York: Bantam Books, 1984), p. 41. 3 Denver in the late 1910s and 1920s was the largest city in the western region outside of California. Its small black population was well-established, with families, businesses, and a strong, educated middle class. Many black men were employed by the railroads, while black women were domestics and laundry workers. A few black-owned stores and businesses provided more skilled employment. The city's blacks were concentrated in the so-called "Five Points" district north of downtown, around 27th and Welton Streets, where in 1929 5,500 of the city's 7,000 blacks lived. Ira De A. Reid, The Negro Population in Denver, Colorado: A Survey of Its Economic and Social Status (Denver: Lincoln Press, 1929). See also, Lynda Dickson, The Early Club Movement among Black Women in Denver: 1890-1925, Ph. D. dissertation, 2

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YWCA Branches in the United States to close its doors.4 This Thesis represents initial research into the untapped history of interracial relations in Denver's YWCA --one of the city's oldest and most influential women's organizations. 5 The historical examination of American race relations has been a driving force toward developing a more inclusive and accurate presentation of our country's past. Studies of gender relations have moved the historical field towards the same end. While the task is difficult and complicated, combining the various elements of these neglected interactions is one of the most important challenges facing modern historians. The YWCA is an exceptional example of a major national women's organization which has a long history of multi-racial leadership, membership, and program. The YWCA's experiences in race relations have occurred over the greater part of the 20th century, not only on a national level, but in a University of Colorado, 1982, p. 96-100. 4 There were 49 black YWCA branches in 1919, many of them named after Phyllis (or "Phillis") Wheatley. Giddings, 156; By 1943, the number had grown to 73. See list in Phyllis Wheatley Scrapbook No. 23, YWCA Collection, CHS; With the national YWCA thrust toward full integration in the 1940s and 1950s, all separate branches were merged with city-wide YWCA programs by the early 1960s. Adrienne Lash Jones, in Hine, Encyclopedia, p. 1302. 5 Sadly, in late 1994, the YWCA of Metropolitan Denver was forced into bankruptcy and. closed its doors permanently after over a century of service to the city's women from all walks of life. 3

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myriad of distinctly different local contexts. This variety provides historians ample material with which to compare female race relations on both a chronological and geographical basis. Issues of organizational separation vs. integration, white control vs. black autonomy, organizational discrimination and paternalism are explored in detail in this thesis. YWCA programs have served a variety of constituencies of women based on age group, occupation, marital status, cultural or racial background, and educational background. Few organizations can claim such strong ties to both working class and professional/middle class women. Inter-generational relations are another key component of YWCA activity. Extensive youth programs have centered on young women and girls of all races from grade school through college and have been a continuing source of organizational vitality. Student YWCA's have often been at the forefront of the push for racial equality in the organization. Many Americans associate the modern push for racial integration and African-American rights with the civil rights movement of the 1960s. In Denver, for example, the late 1960s brought massive social and political pressure to break through the barriers of de facto segregation in Denver's schools. Some blacks warned at the time that while segregated schools must end, integration might mean a loss of power and cohesiveness in the black community. Twenty years later, the community remains concerned about racial inequality in the city's school system the high minority drop out rates, 4

PAGE 14

the minority/white test score gap, and academic programs which are still de facto segregated within each school. The tremendous idealism which surrounded the movement for integration has been replaced with skepticism. The demand for "neighborhood schools," once a code phrase for white racists, is now being heard in black and Chicano neighborhoods. Some are asking the question, "What good did integration do if education did not improve, if minority children are not being served?"6 The problem faced by Denver's school system today is that integration without real equality in society is an empty promise. Few people realize that decades before school busing began in Denver, the city was grappling with these same issues. Long before the 1960s, Denver's progressive blacks and whites advocated racial equality through integration. Strong dynamic black organizations and neighborhood structures which had been built over time as a means to survive under segregation became integral-components of the struggle to integrate. The Phyllis Wheatley Branch was such an organization, made more important by virtue of its competent female leadership. An examination of race relations in Denver's YWCA reveals that the integration 6 See, for example, James Traub, "Segregation by Choice: Where integra tion has failed, can all-black schools succeed?" The Rocky Mountain News, April 28, 1991, p. 93. 5

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process meant sacrificing one of these important black institutions and the leadership/power base it provided. To the women at Phyllis Wheatley, breaking through the barriers erected by privilege and racism was a far different matter than tearing down the protective walls of one's own home. Whites who pushed for integration saw the process of breaking down racial barriers as a social experiment that would in and of itself correct inequalities in society, whereas blacks viewed the integration process as more complex just one of many tools of survival in a fundamentally racist society. As historians search through the roots and branches of racial conflict in modern America, a closer look at little known experiences like the Phyllis Wheatley Branch in Denver sheds light on the complexities of relationships between whites and blacks struggling for racial equality. The experiences of the Phyllis Wheatley Branch vividly illustrate that blacks have interpreted the goals and processes of racial integration differently than whites. Research for this thesis involved extensive examination of the rich and comprehensive YWCA of Metropolitan Denver Collection, housed at the Colorado History Museum in Denver, Colorado. The collection consists of over 43 boxes of detailed organizational records, including meeting minutes, brochures, organizational histories, scrapbooks, interviews, photographs and other documents of the YWCA of Metropolitan Denver are housed at the 6

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archives of the Colorado History Museum in Denver? National YWCA reports and books published during the various time periods covered in the study provide concurrent explanations or contrasts with local trends regarding YWCA race relations. A growing handful of historians have published articles focusing on different aspects of racial interaction in the YWCA. One study published in the recent series on Black Women in the United States by Sharlene Voogd Cochrane, '"And the Pressure Never Let Up,': Black Women, White Women, and the Boston YWCA, 1918-1948," traces the emergence of an integrated program and leadership in Boston. Cochrane attributes the progress to unrelenting pressure from Blacks, and claims that "by 1948, the Boston YWCA was a fully integrated organization."8 In her book, To Better Our World, historian Dorothy Salem focuses considerable attention on the early work of the national YWCA in development of "colored" program and/or branches from WWI through the 1920s in the context of the general black reform movement among women begun before the turn of the century. It was 7 Colorado Historical Society, An Inventory of the Papers of the YWCA of Metropolitan Denver, finding aid written and compiled by Marcia T. Goldstein (Denver: Colorado Historical Society, 1991). 8 Sharlene Voogd Cochrane, "'And the Pressure Never Let Up,': Black Women, White Women, and the Boston YWCA, 1918-1948," in Vicki L. Crawford, ed., Women in the Civil Rights Movement: Trailblazers and Torchbearers, 1941-1965, from the series, Black Women in United States History (New Y ark: Carlson Publishing Inc., 1990), vol. 16., p. 268. 7

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precisely during this time that Denver's Phyllis Wheatley Club and branch was established. 9 Relations between the YWCA and its counterpart, the YMCA have been the subject of other recent studies. Historian Susan Lynn in "The Quest for Racial Equality in the YWCA, 1945 to the 1960s" uses the comparison to make a case for the general proclivity of even privileged women to take up causes of counter-interest to their class and race interests more readily than men.1 0 While the two organizations are and always have been completely independent and distinct from each other, their general goals and program have been similar enough to provide interesting comparisons. Examining differences in organizational democracy, racial relations, and funding between the organizations could illuminate community gender relations as well as the relative strengths and weaknesses of male and female organizational strategies. Evidence of such YWCA-YMCA dynamics can also be seen in Denver community over time.11 9 Dorothy Salem, To Better Our World: Black Women in Organized Reform, 1890-1920, from the series Black Women in United States History, vol. 14. 10 Lynn, Susan, "The Quest for Racial Equality in the YWCA, 1945 to the 1960s," unpublished paper presented to the Organization of American Histori ans, April 12, 1991. 11 For example in December, 1947, the all-Black Glenarm YMCA "Moth er's Council" requested the help of the YWCA in fighting "unfair racial practices of the Denver YMCA," up to and including non-participation. 8

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Another aspect of YWCA experience that presents challenging issues is the area of political and class relations within the black community. Black YWCA leadership has tended to come from the educated middle classes. There are interesting organizational dynamics which reveal much about the sometimes conflicting allegiances faced by these women: pursuit of upward mobility through positive relations with whites vs. allegiance to the black race and the fight against racial prejudice. It is in this context that the examination of the growing push toward integration of the organization becomes important. Discussions of this dynamic in the YWCA and within a variety of other black women's organizations are touched on in Paula Giddings, When and Where I Enter: the Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America.12 One the most recent historical studies of activism among AfricanAmerican women is Evelyn Brooks' Higginbotham's Righteous Discontent. Higginbotham presents a pathbreaking examination of how organized women broadened the public arm of the black Baptist church in the late 19th and Minutes, Phyllis Wheatley Branch Committee of Management, December 6, 1947, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 469. On another occasion, rumors of a possible merger of the Phyllis Wheatley Branch and the Glenarm YMCA were met with open hostility by both Branch leadership and the general black community. The merger idea was seen as an effort to hamper the civil rights efforts of the YWCA by forcing them under the umbrella of a racist Central YMCA establishment. "YMCA Denies Planning To Absorb Wheatley Branch," The Denver Post, December 22, 1948, clipping, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 469. 12 Giddings, op. cit. 9

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early 20th century, "making it the most powerful institution of racial self-help in the African-American community."13 Many similarities can be drawn between the work of the Baptist Women's Convention, who made up over 2/3 of the membership of the black Baptist movement, and the work of black women in the YWCA. Both groups built strong community ties by providing needed social and economic support services. The Women's Convention and the YWCA alike were adept at arguing for racial equality within a religious framework. Two other similarities are striking between the Baptists and the YWCA: the use of what Higginbotham calls "the politics of respectability," and the conscious effort to communicate and win the support of whites within their respective organizations.14 Complex race relations occurred in both groups, with blacks recognizing the need put white financial and organizational resources to work on providing for the needs of the black community. Black middle class churchwomen and YWCA women alike focused on "uplift" and respectable behavior, not only to build esteem for themselves among whites, but in an effort to fulfil their perceived duty to raise the level of black lower classes. Higginbotham points out that these activist women were 13 Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Righteous Discontent: The Women's Movement in the Black Baptist Church, 1880-1920 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993), p. 1. 14 Higginbotham, p. 14. 10

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accommodationist, but utilized a "subversive" language of resistance in their effort to win respect from whites. What better way to expose the bankruptcy of white racism than to remove all other behavioral, educational, or moral differences? The term "uplift" had a double connotation: the perceived need to make lower class blacks "respectable" to whites, and the greater goal of overcoming white racism in American society. Finally, like this study of the women of the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA in Denver, Higginbotham's study of women in the Baptist Women's Convention reveals that these women made "valiant attempts to navigate their people through the stifling and dangerous obstacle course of American racism."15 Adrienne Lash Jones' extensive biography of Jane Edna Hunter, founder of the independent Phillis Wheatley Association in Cleveland, Ohio, explores the life and motivations of a fiercely independent black reformer. Hunter created an extensive service program similar to those offered by the YWCA "Colored Branches," but chose to remain independent of the Cleveland YWCA Board to insure her own autonomy and control over program and funds.16 15 Higginbotham, p. 18. 16 Adrienne Lash Jones, Jane Edna Hunter: A Case Study of Black Leadership. 1910-1950 (New York: Carlson Publishing, Inc., 1990), from the series, Black Women in United States History, val. 12. 11

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Historical studies focusing on the work of the YWCA in the western United States are virtually non-existent. Yet, the organization existed historically in major western cities, including Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle. In this region, the YWCA served a great variety of racial groups, including blacks, Indians, Hispanics, Japanese, Chinese, and assorted white populations. It is likely that complex racial and ethnic dynamics in the YWCA presented. themselves in different ways than in the east, south, and midwest. Western historian Sarah Deutsch has called on scholars to explore the western "landscape of enclaves," in which minority groups have maneuvered around white racism by establishing "a place apart where they could exercise control over their lives, society, and surroundings."17 The experience of Denver's Phyllis Wheatley YWCA Branch can be viewed as an example of this enclavement in the 20th century. Black YWCA women were keenly aware of what Deutsch terms "an enclave's double edge: refuge and confinement."18 Nevertheless, the strategy proved a successful one for a time, until the protective walls were mistaken for racial barriers and were torn down during the fervor for integration in the 1960s. The exploration of race 17 Sarah Deutsch, "Landscape of Enclaves: Race Relations in the West, 1865-1990," in William Cronon, George Miles, and Jay Gitlin, eds., Under an Open Sky. Rethinking America's Western Past (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1992), p. 119. 18 Deutsch, p. 122. 12

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relations in Denver's YWCA contributes to the overall exploration of interactions between the majority white society and minority enclaves in the west. Western women's historian, Peggy Pascoe, has offered another useful framework in which to explore relations between peoples in the west. Her article, "Western Women at the Cultural Crossroads," complains of previous studies of western women which suffered from the "dynamic of disappearing women of color," as if westering white women epitomized the female experience in. the region.19 Pascoe argues instead for a multicultural, crosscultural, and intercultural approach to western women's history. "In this approach," argues Pascoe, "women's lives became microcosms of the contradictions of conquest embodiments of the relations of rebellion, cooperation, and subordination that underlay the massive changes conquest brought to the region.''20 Retracing the historical interactions between black and white women in Denver's YWCA begins to provide a basis from which to compare analogous experiences in the west and other American regions. For example, were female black/white race relations in the western YWCA more 19 Peggy Pascoe, "Western Women at the Cultural Crossroads," in Patricia Nelson Limerick, Clyde A. Miner II, and Charles E. Rankin, eds., Trails: Toward a New Western History (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1991), p. 47. 20 Pascoe, p. 55. 13

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flexible and the barriers more permeable than in the east, midwest, or south? Historians of Denver have only begun to explore the city's interracial, intercultural female experiences. The YWCA in Denver provides a solid opportunity to explore these relationships. As a significant urban locality in the west, the city of Denver has experienced a great degree of inter-racial convergence and conflict, and to a lesser degree, cooperation. An early, little known attempt to present the city's rich racial and ethnic history was by black historian, James Atkins, Human Relations in Colorado, published in 1968.21 Steve Leonard and Tom Noel's From Mining Camp to Metropolis, provides much new factual information on the general racial climate of Denver over time, as does Leonard's work on the 1930s in Colorado, Trials and Triumphs: A Colorado Portrait of the Great Depression.22 None of these books adequately explore Denver's minority women nor the complexities of race relations among women, however. Lynda Dickson's pathbreaking 1982 sociology dissertation on The Early Club Movement Among Black Women in Denver: 1890-1925, provides excellent background on Denver's role in the national movement of black women's 21 James T. Atkins, Human Relations in Colorado: A Historical Record (Denver: Publisher's Press, Inc., 1968). 22 Stephen J. Leonard and Thomas J. Noel, Denver: From Mining Camp to Metropolis (Niwot: University Press of Colorado, 1990); Stephen J. Leonard, Trials and Triumphs: A Colorado Portrait of the Great Depression (Niwot: University Press of Colorado, 1993). 14

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clubs, especially the local affiliates of the National Association of Colored Women.23 In addition, Dickson provides an overview of conditions in the city's black community during the early 20th century. Dickson's study focuses on all-black clubs, and therefore does not explore interracial dynamics within organizations. This study will build on the existing literature, by exploring 20th century black and white race relations among YWCA women in the western urban setting of Denver, Colorado. 23 Dickson, op. cit. 15

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CHAPTER 2 THE EARLY HISTORY OF THE YWCA AND BLACK WOMEN'S ORGANIZATIONS, NATIONAL AND LOCAL The Young Women's Christian Association, founded in 1858 in the United States, is a large, world-wide women's organization which began as a Christian support organization for the new population of young working girls arriving in eastern U.S. cities. It has a long history of activism among working women and young girls of all races, and is described by YWCA historian Adrienne Lash Jones as "the oldest and largest women's multiracial organization in the world."1 Each of the earliest YWCAs each had an ambitious and well-respected program which included supervised residence halls, social clubs for working girls, women's employment bureaus, religious and practical educational classes, and youth programs nationwide. Black women sorely needed these services, but all-white YWCAs excluded blacks from their early programs. It was not until the World War I period that YWCA's began to actively reach out to black women. 1 Adrienne Lash Jones, in Hine, Encyclopedia, p. 1299. 16

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Nationally, late 19th century African-American groups found that rejection from white organizations could be turned to their advantage, and began providing services geared to the needs of the black community. As a byproduct, these early self-help efforts provided opportunities for the development of black leadership. Women's groups were no exception. For example, the National Federation of Afro-American Women was launched in 1895 by Margaret Murray Washington (Mrs. Booker T. Washington) and Rosetta Sprague, the of Frederick Douglass.2 This group united with others, resulting in National Association of Colored Women (NACW) organized by Mary Terrell, which held its first convention in 1896, and enlisted over 100 clubs nationwide by 1897.3 The turn-of-the-century black women's club movement was far more than a mimicking of white society. It was a direct response to changes for the worse for blacks in American society, including stepped up racial prejudice and segregation, lynch-mob violence, and rapid social upheaval due to increased 2 Dickson, p. 40. See also, Giddings, p. 93. 3 Giddings, p. 93-95. Giddings calls the organization of the NACW "a watershed in the history of Black women." Attendees at its founding conven tion included abolitionist Harriet Tubman and anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells Barnett. 17 I

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urbanization and industrialization.4 Denver organizations reflected the national trends. Under the NACW motto, "Lifting as We Climb," the Woman's League of Denver was formed in 1894 by club woman Ida DePriest and her cohorts whom she described as "a few high-souled women."5 As with middle class white women of the day, black club women saw themselves as the "moral guardians" of their own community. But blacks also challenged their clubs to fight racism in the larger community. "The responsibility [is] on women [in] uplifting a downtrodden race above the rockies of prejudice," declared the Elizabeth Piper Ensley, President Of the Colorado Association of Colored Women's Clubs (CACWC) in 1904.6 The motto of the CACWC, 4 Salem, p. 1. See also Jacqueline Jones, Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work, and the Family from Slavery to the Present (New York: Basic Books, 1985), p. 190. 5 DePriest quoted in Dickson, p. 136. Ida DePriest also founded the Colored Women's Republican Club also in 1894, the first year Colorado women were allowed to vote. Dickson, p. 111. DePriest and black suffragist Elizabeth Ensley were instrumental in the 1894 election of Joseph H. Stuart, the first black state legislator in Colorado. Dickson, p. 134. Stuart's primary accomplishment during his two year term was the enactment in 1895 of a civil rights law, outlawing discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of "race, creed, or color." The law provided for fines, imprisonment, and money damages, and was used as the basis for numerous civil rights law suits in ensuing decades. Atkins, 38, 113. 6 Dickson, p. 129, 131. 18

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which consisted of clubs from Colorado Springs, Pueblo, and Denver, was "To the Stars Through Difficulties."7 Between 1900 and 1925, at least twenty-two clubs had formed in Denver alone. The most significant and enduring institution of the Association was the Negro Women's Club Home and Day Nursery, established in 1916 at 2357 Clarkson Street. It still operates in 1995 as the George Washington Carver Day Nursery.8 A moving force in the establishment of the Club Home was Mrs. Gertie Ross. Ross's work exemplifies how black women's groups often encouraged cooperation and planning between organizations, in order to avoid duplication of resources and unnecessary competition. Ross was an East High School graduate who joined Taka Art Club in 1913, after her marriage to attorney and Denver Star publisher George Ross in 1910. As organist at Denver's Shorter A.M.E Church, she was active and well-known in church 7 Dickson, p. 139. Ensley moved to Denver from Boston in the 1890s, when she became the Treasurer of the Colorado Equal Suffrage Association during its successful campaign for women's right to vote in 1893. She was active in the Women's League, and published regular columns in Women's Era, the NACW's national newspaper. 8 Dickson, p. 155, 195. See also Mary Anthes, "Lifting as We Climb," unpublished paper, University of Colorado, Boulder, 1991. As of 1995, the George Washington Carver Day Nursery was listed in the telephone book at 2270 Humboldt Street in Denver. The organizational records of the Colorado Association of Colored Women's Clubs are housed at the Denver Public Library, Western History Department. 19

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circles. 9 Ross became President of the State Federation of Colored Women's Clubs, Colorado's affiliate of the National Association of Colored Women, in 1918.10 This female dynamo was the driving force behind the establishment of the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA during the same year as the founding of the Negro Women's Club Home in 1916. The cooperative process between Denver's black women's groups was facilitated by leadership overlap and a close-knit community of active women cross-fertilizing each other's work. For example, Taka Art Club was founded by early YWCA leaders Gertie Ross and Lillian Bondurant. Carnation Club, another member of the Negro Women's Home and the State Federation of Colored Women's Clubs made regular donations to the YWCA. By the mid1920s, it became apparent that the YWCA residence at the Phyllis Wheatley 9 Early Denver's black churches were the first centers for community self help efforts. Zion Baptist Church was established in 1865. Shorter, African Methodist Episcopal (AME) was established in 1868. Their congregations were instrumental in opening black orphanages and old-age homes. Black churchmen founded the Glenarm YMCA, which opened in 1908. Dickson, p. 115-116. In addition to Ross, other Shorter churchwomen including Lydia Smith Ward, wife of pastor A. M. Ward, were instrumental in starting the YWCA Phyllis Wheatley Club in 1916. Nelsine Howard Campbell, "History of the Phyllis Wheatley Branch, YWCA," unpublished, 1935, p. 3, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 43, Folder 1056. 10 Dickson, p. 164. 20

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Branch had fulfilled the need for single women's housing, so the women of the Club Home turned their primary attention to the day nursery.11 Denver in the late 1910s was the largest city in the Rocky Mountain region, outnumbered only by Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle in the west. Denver's small black population was well-established, with families, businesses, and a small educated middle class. Black men tended to be employed by the railroads, while black women were domestics and laundry workers. A few black-owned stores and businesses provided more skilled employment. The city was segregated, with blacks living in the Five-Points district north of down town, but early civil rights protections in Colorado had prevented any legal restrictions on black residents. Club and church men and women participated in early anti-racism actions in the Denver community. For example, in 1915, black attorney and Denver Star publisher George Ross and his wife Gertie, dentist Dr. Clarence F. Holmes, and George Gross formed the Denver chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), six years after the national NAACP was founded.12 The group's first major action was a 11 Dickson, p. 206. 12 Atkins, p. 115. Gertie Ross (b. 1879 d. 1881), was an East High graduate, and one of Denver's leading Black club women. She was the wife of noted civil rights lawyer George Ross. Together they published The Denver Star, the city's leading Black newspaper. Gertie Ross was also the music director at Shorter Church. It is important to note that Gertie Ross, co-21

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protest against the showing of pro-Ku Klux Klan film, Birth of a Nation. The state's second civil rights law was enacted by the 21st general assembly in 1917, outlawing discriminatory advertising. Organized protests against rest room discrimination at the Denver Dry Goods took place in 1918, and an antilynching fund was set up in 1919.13 founder and active member of the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA, was also a leading activist in the CACWC. This suggests that cooperation rather than rivalry was the operating philosophy of Denver's black women leaders of the time. Dickson, p. 164. See also, Federal WPA Writers' Program, Colorado, "Negro Pioneers" Box 1, File 2, c. 1940, Colorado Historical Society. 13 Atkins, p. 38, 114-115; Dickson, p. 180. 22

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CHAPTER 3 THE NATIONAL YWCA AND THE FOUNDING OF DENVER'S PHYLLIS WHEATLEY BRANCH "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."1 The official YWCA motto rang true in 1915 to Denver newcomer Miss Isabel Chapman. Upon arriving from Chicago, she "did what many of us would not have done."2 She befriended a white woman, YWCA Board member Mrs. LB. Perkins. Although "Colored girls did not belong," she yearned to be in the YWCA.3 Chapman had found a home and a job in Denver through referrals from Chicago's YWCA, and felt that other black women could also benefit. Persistently, Chapman worked with Mrs. Alice Travers and her two daughters Myrtle and Ruth, who "left no stone unturned to have this Christian fellowship extended to include her people in Denver."4 1 Historical Sketch, c. 1940, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 461. 2 Campbell, p. 2-3. 3 Campbell, p. 1-2. 4 Historical Sketch, c. 1940, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 461. 23

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Young Nelsine Howard was among those who joined Miss Chapman, Travers, Mrs. L.M. Froman, and Mrs. I. B. Perkins for a meeting with white YWCA leader Rosalie Venable to see "if there seemed any possibility of organizing" a YWCA Club for Denver's colored women. Nelsine Howard (later Campbell), whose memories later formed the basis of her written history of the founding of the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA Club for Colored Women, reported that Perkins, Venable, and Board President Jennie Hendrie were "most favorable" toward the idea. Miss Rosalie Venable, newly elected Denver YWCA General Secretary, proudly announced the possible formation of the club at the October, 1915 YWCA Board meeting.5 The Board was enthusiastic, believing that ... a club of Colored women and girls would extend the all inclusive, all participating" idea of the organization.6 Where had this "all inclusive" concept originated in the national YWCA? As part of the national trend toward separate black women's clubs, the first YWCA chapter for black women was fotrned in Dayton, Ohio, in 5 Board Minutes, October 14, 1915, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 1. 6 Campbell, p. 1-2. 24

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1893? By the turn of the century, YWCAYMCA student chapters had been started at most of the major black college campuses. In June 1907, the YWCA held a national conference on "Negro work," at Asheville, North Carolina. Ironically, the conference was attended only by whites in deference to Southern associations who would have refused to meet in the same facilities as blacks. According to historian Dorothy Salem, "The decisions reached at this conference had a major impact on the form of race relations and black female participation for years to come."8 The right of black YWCA clubs to be official YWCA affiliates was affirmed, but they would remain "subsidiaries" of white-controlled central Y's. A policy approving separate black community programs also emerged from the conference, encouraging black self-help and leadership development based on what were called "natural groupings'i (i.e. racial groups) within the YWCA constituency.9 National policy thus endorsed a "separate but equal" doctrine, in keeping with the need to follow "American folkways," (i.e. segregation).10 7 Salem, p. 47. Giddings, p. 155. Adrienne Lash Jones states that the first Colored YWCA Club was formed in Philadelphia much earlier, in 1870. Jones, in Hine, Encyclopedia, p. 1299. 8 Salem, p. 47. 9 Salem, p. 48. 1 0 Salem, p. 48. 25

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A second national conference on "colored work" was held in Louisville, Kentucky in 1915. After an interim of expanding work and what one report clescribed as an "awakening of social consciousness," this conference included both black and white women.11 Debate and discussion revolved around how to respond to racist attitudes and policies in the South. Two major policy directions emanated from Louisville: 1) An interracial committee was to be formed of southern women to expand the dialogue 2) black YWCA groups would best affiliate as branches of local YWCA Associations, as opposed to direct affiliation with the National Board.12 Black women were thus welcomed into the YWCA fold, but not on an integrated basis. There were certain advantages to this arrangement, as historian Dorothy Salem has pointed out: 1) separate black YWCA's offered an opportunity for black women to develop leadership and organizational skills, both locally and nationally, and 2) YWCA programs and activities more closely reflected the needs of the black community's women and girls.13 The disadvantages included 1) a structural subservience of black Committees of Management to local YWCA Boards, and 2) financial dependence, and 3) 11 "The Young Women's Christian Association Among Colored Girls and Women," 1928 Report, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 11, File Folder 234. 12 "The Young Women's Christian Association Among Colored Girls and Women," 1928 Report, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 11, File Folder 234. 13 Salem, p. 144. 26

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continued accommodation to degrading whites-only policies regarding recreational facilities and public accommodations. The National YWCA Board hoped that the 1915 Louisville Conference and a 1916 interracial conference for student YWCAs at the Spelman Seminary in Atlanta, would stave off growing criticism among blacks, whom they were still anxious to recruit. In some cities, black women had become reluctant to affiliate with the white-run YWCA, preferring to work with the National Association of Colored Womeri (NACW).14 National was concerned about this trend, and so in January, 1913, they named leading black organizer, Eva Bowles, National Secretary for Colored Work. Called by historian Adrienne Lash Jones, "the architect of race relations in the largest multiracial movement for women in the 20th century," Eva del Vakia Bowles proved a prudent choice to be the YWCA's principal black recruiter. She was born in Ohio in 1875, where her father was a schoolteacher and postal worker. She attended Columbia University School of Philanthropy, and soon became the first black faculty member of Chandler Normal School, Lexington Kentucky. In 1905 she became the first black YWCA Secretary when she was hired at the Colored YWCA on 137th Street in New York City's Harlem.15 14 Salem, p. 250. 15 Adrienne Lash Jones, in Hine, Encyclopedia, p. 152. 27

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Eva Bowles possessed "a personal ability of gaining and holding the best wishes of the white people as easily as she does the colored."16 Through patient negotiations, she obtained NACW endorsement of the YWCA's efforts by the early 1920s after a period of intense discord.17 Interestingly, the NACW had long supported the concept of black women joining and organizing activities in the YWCA. Between 1910 and the early 1920s, the NACW primarily lobbied for a breakdown of racial barriers in the YWCA rather than advocating that women desert in favor df joining the NACW. Only when local racist Boards (especially in the South) stood in the way of black YWCA services did the NACW advocate the building of independent YWCA lookalikes, or "parallel" organizations. Perhaps they saw in the YWCA fruitful 16 according to a YWCA publication in 1932, quoted in Salem, p. 132. According to historian Adrienne Lash Jones, Bowles fought for "vision of tnily interracial movement" and saw colored work in the YWCA as temporary. She believed that while black women should make their own decisions among their own constituency, they should be in "constant conference with white women of the Central Association." It was her idea that only one YWCA association should exist in each city, with black branches to serve the black community. Adrienne Lash Jones, in Hine, Encyclopedia, p. 152. 17 The northern based YWCA continued to have problems in its southern region, and could point to only limited changes in northern cities. "The racial awareness and commitment of the YWCA appeared to change, however," according to Dorothy Salem. Publications, conferences, and national work of Eva Bowles highlighted accomplishments of black YWCA leaders, and expansion of work among black women. "Progress became the official theme," and disagreements stemming from openly racist attitudes were often attributed to need for better communication, downplaying the racism. Salem, p. 250. 28

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national arena in which to challenge racism by forcing liberal whites to live up to espoused "Christian" principles. In the words of Dorothy Salem, "black women took on the 'Christian' YWCA."18 According to Salem, during and after World War I, the YWCA had attracted a group of competent, forward-thinking, and increasingly impatient black leaders: ... a new generation of black women had become vocal in the YWCA. Better-educated products of urban prosperity, critical of conservatism in black churches and other institutions, and proud of their wartime achievements, these women pressured the YWCA to fulfill its wartime promises.19 Under increasing pressure to fairly accommodate traveling black leaders, the National Board set up a Bureau of Colored Work set up in 1920 in response to discrimination in accommodations at national meetings. This step was too little to late for Catherine Lealtad, National Secretary of the Department of Methods, who resigned her YWCA post in 1920 to become a staff member at the New York City Urban League. Planning her action as a protest, she sought support from other national black secretaries, but only Eva Bowles spoke out. Many other local black YWCA secretaries resigned to work with the Urban League, the NAACP, or the NACW.20 18 Salem, p. 245. 19 Salem, p. 240. 20 Salem, p. 242-43. 29

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Bowles' faith in the interracial movement was undaunted. "As white and colored women we must understand each other, we must think and work and plan together, for upon all of us rests the responsibility of the girlhood of our nation," she declared in 1919.21 With or without the blessing of the NACW or other black community and civil rights groups, Bowles launched an exceedingly successful effort to establish black YWCA affiliates at the grassroots level in most major cities and campuses. As Secretary under the YWCA War Work Council, the number of black branches she helped establish went from sixteen at beginning of World War I, to over 45 in subsequent decades.22 As could be predicted, some white YWCA Boards were skeptical of Bowles' proposal for local black branches. For example, soon after the Louisville conference in 1915, she received a cool reception when she traveled to Cleveland where Jane Edna Hunter had been serving black women and girls at the popular Phyllis Wheatley Home since 1913. Prior to Bowles' arrival Hunter was open to Bowles' suggestion of YWCA affiliation, but changed her mind quickly after being politely rebuffed by the white Cleveland YWCA 21 Adrienne Lash Jones, in Hine, Encyclopedia, p. 152. 22 Adrienne Lash Jones, in Hine, Encyclopedia, p. 152. A 1943 listing of Negro Branches contained in the Denver Phyllis Wheatley Branch desk reference notebook lists over 73 separate black branches nationwide. YWCA Collection, CHS, Scrapbook 23. 30

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Board.23 Hunter's separate Cleveland YWCA, which remained staunchly independent until the 1940s, was criticized by some black leaders who believed she should have directly challenged white YWCA racism. On the other hand, Hunter believed that autonomy for her project and the practical needs of black women should take priority over the general fight vs. racism in YWCA. Historian Adrienne Lash Jones calls this debate a reflection of the contrasting views of accommodationist Booker T. Washington and the more militantly antiracist N.A.A.C.P. founder W.E.B. DuBois, and was typical for the time: ... [The] lines were not hard drawn in the black community as to the best method for blacks to achieve integration in the long run."24 In contrast, Denver's white YWCA Board and local black leaders welcomed Bowles and the Phyllis Wheatley Branch idea with open arms when she travelled to Denver to celebrate the anniversary of the YWCA Colored Club in 1916.25 A candle lighting service in recognition of the Club's entry 23 Jones, Hunter, p. 66. Cleveland's Jane Hunter was affiliated with NACW, founding country's largest independent Phyllis Wheatley Home. Hunter believed that her segregated, independent operation would lead to more white financial support, although she regularly consulted with YWCA Board for advice. Jones, Hunter, p. 50; Jones, Hunter, p. 46. 24 Jones, Hunter, p. 56. 25 "Miss Eva D. Bolles [sic] ... of the National Board of the Y.W.C.A., will arrive on the twenty-seventh of this month. She will be the principal speaker at our anniversary celebration on the thirtieth of October." Y.W.C.A. NOTES, Clipping, unidentified publication, October 21, 1916, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 6, File Folder 97. These articles indicate, as do the Central Board 31

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into the YWCA fellowship was held at People's Presbyterian Church. Nelsine Howard recalled that "Miss Bowles gave to that first group a glimpse into the possibilities of its future."26 The YWCA in Denver, which had been founded in 1886, thus became bi-racial in 1916.27 The timing of the Denver Phyllis Wheatley Club's formation was not a coincidence, but rather reflected a general movement among black women throughout the country. It is also evidence that Denver's black women had established a national reputation as a significant, organized force for reform in an important western urban center. During and after World War I, a great migration of Blacks out of the South to northern and western cities began. This migration continued until well after World War II. Denver received thousands of these migrants. Increased black populations in American cities, coupled with mass mobilization for the war effort produced an "unintended, but not unexpected minutes, that original club was actually formed in late 1915. See also Board Minutes, October, 1915, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 1. However, Bowles' visit in 1916 to officially establish the Club as a YWCA colored branch could explain why official Central and Branch histories date the founding to November, 1916. 26 Campbell, p. 4. 27 In large part due to Eva Bowles' tireless efforts, there were 49 black YWCA branches and over 12,000 black girls enrolled as YWCA members nationwide by 1919. Giddings, p. 156. 32

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cooperation between blacks and whites" in the YWCA and elsewhere.28 YWCA "colored work" was taken more seriously when black women proved themselves in the War Work Councils across the nation. By 1918, $400,000 was allotted to "colored work" by the National Board, with Eva Bowles in charge of War Work Councils.29 This was a "proving ground" which led to greater expectation of equality in the YWCA organization and an expansion of local work.30 The War Work Council made the following appeal to the YWCA National Board: As a world-wide organization for women, we stand ready and eager to do our part ... to bring about a more friendly relationship, greater sympathy and understanding between the races, justice, and protection under the law.31 Proclamations to the same effect filtered down to every local area from the National YWCA office. Clearly, given the new national directives, Denver's the Phyllis Wheatley Colored YWCA Club was an idea whose time had come. A year before Bowles' visit, Denver YWCA General Secretary Rosalie Venable announced to the local YWCA Board that forty three women had attended the Club's first 28 Salem, p. 144. 29 Salem, p. 208. 30 Salem, p. 208. 31 Salem, p. 233. 33

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meeting of the YWCA Colored Club in early November, 1915 at Shorter A.M.E. Church.32 Ten women paid dues on the spot. The group was convened by Lydia Smith Ward, the wife of Pastor A.M. Ward of Shorter A.M.E. Church. Ward had been Colored YWCA Branch Secretary in Kansas City, and agreed to chair the Executive Committee of the fledgling club for the first year. The club immediately began to meet weekly at various churches. The name "YWCA Club for Colored Women" was adopted.33 During the first few months of operation, Sunday afternoon Vesper services attracted a crowd each week. Club leaders organized classes in Red Cross work, English, Bible reading, Gymnasium, and Sewing. By May, a group was ready to take their First Aid examination, fees paid by the Central Board. Social events "to develop the spirit of fellowship" were held regularly. Fundraising Concerts were particularly popular.34 The Club was invited to have their own table at the annual YWCA Jubilee Banquet in February, 1916, which over 600 of Denver's finest attended. 32 Campbell, p. 3, and Historical Sketch, c. 1940. Both state that the first meeting was in October, 1916. However, official Board Minutes report the first organizational meetings were in early November, 1915. Board Minutes, November 11, 1915, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, FF 1. The discrepancy could be explained by the fact that the club did not become "official" until the first meeting during the October/November, 1916 visit of National Secretary Eva Bowles. 33 Historical Sketch c. 1940, p. 1; Campbell, p. 3. 34 Historical Sketch c. 1940, p. 1. 34

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Mrs. Perkins reported to the Board that the group was flourishing, and was looking for a Club Room, adding that "gifts of furniture will be accept able."35 Rent of $6.00 was paid for the first time in December, 1915 for a Club Room at 318 25th Street, described as a "storeroom."36 Nelsine Howard recalled how they made the most of the humble, small quarters. The women carefully arranged the room with a donated stove, rug, chairs, bookcase, a piano, dishes, and "other articles to make the room attractive."37 These meager furnishings combined with "hard work, diligence of purpose, prayer and faith in the ideals of Christian living, put into that club room atmosphere which pervaded our group life for years."38 By June, 1916, the Club had outgrown its original "storeroom." "[M]many times the club room was crowded to overflowing, .. recalled Nelsine Howard.39 The Central Board soon heard an appeal from Mrs. Perkins for "a place for colored girls to live when out of employment."40 The Board 35 Board Minutes, November 11, 1915, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 1. 36 Board Minutes, Financial Report, December, 1915, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 1; Historical Sketch, c. 1940, p. 1. 37 Campbell, p. 3-4. 38 Campbell, p. 3-4. 39 Campbell, p. 4. 40 Board Minutes, June 9, 1916, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 1. 35

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discussed renting additional space for a boarding house, but took no action at first. According to Venable, "the projected home for the Colored club had not been pushed because of another home for colored women which was being started."41 The Minutes were referring to the Negro Woman's Club Home, established in 1916 at 2357 Clarkson Streets.42 Soon after Eva Bowles' official visit in November, 1916, Gertie Ross took over as chair of the Executive Committee. This would mark the beginning of Ross's long and fruitful career as Denver's earliest major YWCA black leader. An important YWCA national volunteer workers conference on Colored Work was held in Indianapolis in March, 1917. Mrs. Ross attended as Denver's representative, paying part of her own expenses.43 Denver's YWCA Board heard from Miss Dunham of the West Central Field Committee about the encouraging outlook for the work among black women, and "the 41 Board Minutes, September 14, 1916, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 1. 42 The Negro Women's Club Home and the Colored YWCA Club had many members in common, and worked cooperatively throughout their early years. For example, a letter from the Negro Women's Club Association was sent in early 1919 thanking the YWCA for their interest and help. Board Minutes, March 25, 1919, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3. 43 Board Minutes, February 8, 1917, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 1; Campbell, p. 4. 36

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pleasing effect made by our delegate, Mrs. Ross."44 Gertie Ross was equally enthusiastic, reporting to the Board in April about the "sisterhood and unselfishness of the YWCA" that she had observed at the conference. Ross had particularly glowing comments to make about Miss Hendrie, Mrs. Perkins (and her "Fairy Godmother kindness"), and Miss Rosalie Venable of the Denver YWCA and their substantial support for the Colored Club.45 The conference so energized Club activists that they immediately planned a Vocational Guidance Conference for Denver's black women in need of employment.46 By June, 1917, the Club reported 140 adult members and 20 young members of the Grade School Club. A Survey of the City was being conducted as well.47 Mrs. Ross and others offered more and more glowing reports to the Board during 1917. That year was a watershed for the Central YWCA as well, for on May 17th of that year, the YWCA had strengthened its organization through an official merger of the YWCA Rest and Recreation Rooms and the YWCA, the membership of each organization voting in favor 1. 1. 44 Board Minutes, March 8, 1917, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 45 Board Minutes, June 8, 1917, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 1. 46 Board Minutes, May 10, 1917, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 47 Board Minutes, June 8, 1917, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 1. 37

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of merging under the new title, "YWCA of Denver."48 Thereafter all properties and programs were merged under one Board of Directors. Optimism and enthusiasm in Denver's YWCA could not forestall the gloomy reports about the country's entry into the "Great War" in Europe. Military buildup and social apprehension was taking hold of the nation. For blacks, the World War I period was a time of great demographic change and rising expectations for racial equality stemming from the United States' declaration that they had entered the war in order to "save the world for democracy." For women, both black and white, unprecedented wartime opportunities in the industrial workforce and in war support work led to greater expectations for gender equality as well. The national YWCA was particularly concerned about the fair treatment of women, who were entering the industrial work force in unprecedented numbers. For example, the YWCA enthusiastically supported the Women's Trades Union League in their efforts to win workplace protections and equitable pay for women. The Denver YWCA Board in tum formed a committee to look into local labor laws.49 1. 1. 48 Board Minutes, May 28, 1917, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 49 Board Minutes, May 10, 1917, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 38

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The effects of war buildup were not long in coming to Denver. In an April, 1917 meeting of Denver's YWCA discussed "What shall be the contribution of the YWCA in the present world Crisis?" Among the suggestions were that women could work through the Red Cross at gauze rooms at Daniels & Fisher Tower, sew sheets and garments which were being distributed for home construction, or act as volunteer hostesses and greeters at the Enrollment center at 17th and Welton. A committee was formed to encourage YWCA members to help Getman women, volunteer for recreation and social programs for soldiers so as to "provide a meeting ground for sore hearts," and care of soldier's wives and families. 5 Fundraising for war relief was a top priority, with $4500 already raised for the National War Council in conjunction with the local YMCA. The Phyllis Wheatley Colored Club helped in these efforts, with many taking Red Cross classes and serving in sewing rooms, knitting socks, sweaters, and making bandages. They helped organize a dinner for the "poor soldier boys at Fitzimmons [sic]," in January, 1919.51 Addye Lightner, an 18-year-old secretary at the black-owned Woodmen Insurance, recalled starting her 75 year long YWCA career by joining the "Business Girls Club" at Phyllis Wheatley in 1918. Like other local YWCA 50 Board Minutes, April 12, 1917, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 1. 51 Phyllis Wheatley Club Minutes, January 9, 1919, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 6, Folder 122. 39

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activists, Addye was young, energetic, single, and a college graduate from the University of Denver School of Business Administration. 5 2 Addye was just one of many who came into the fold. By 1919, Gertie Ross gave regular reports to the Central Board on the "splendid work being done among the colored girls and women of the city."53 Successful fundraising concerts helped defray the growing costs of community programs.54 A new city Room Registry program had been organized to provide wartime housing for women, including several houses which were examined for the Colored Club.55 Recreational activities were particularly popular, and their planning was taken very seriously. For example, the Education Chairman announced that a new gym class in January, 1919: "Everyone joining the class is asked to wear white middies, black ties, regulation gym bloomers with not less than 3 yards of material (this for 52 Personal interview with Addye Lightner, Denver, Colorado, March 26, 1991. Addye became a steadfast leader and life-long YWCA member, serving as Denver's (and the nation's) first black local all-association President in 1969-1971. 53 Board Minutes, April 8, 1919, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3. 54 Board Minutes, May 14, 1918 announces concert by Colored Quartette, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 1; Board Minutes, September 23, 1919 announces a "very successful concert," YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3. 55 Minutes, Executive Committee, YWCA Board, December 2, 1919, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3. 40

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modesty's sake), black cotton stockings and black tennis shoes."56 Club leaders kept abreast of important national events effecting the black community. For example, on January 9, 1919, the Club agreed to send condolences to the daughter of Madame C. J. Walker, upon her death. "Since [she] lived in Denver at one time and some of us knew her ... "57 At the end of this whirlwind year of success, Cordelia Winn of the National YWCA Board visited in November, 1919 to recommend hiring a "Colored Secretary" to coordinate thrivirig Club activities.58 Both black and white leaders agreed that the Club was bursting at the seams and needed larger and more permanent quarters. These discussions signalled a major 56 Phyllis Wheatley Club Minutes, January 9, 1919, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 6, Folder 122. 57 Phyllis Wheatley Club Minutes, January 9, 1919, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 6, Folder 122. Madame C. J. Walker (1867-1919) was a philanthropist and entrepreneur in black hair care products. Born Sarah Breedlove, she started work early in life in Southern cotton fields. She worked as a domestic, laundress, and saleswoman in St. Louis before moving to Denver to be with relatives in 1905. Here she married Joseph Walker, who became her business partner as a mail-order distributor of hair care products. Her "hair-growing" and straightening formulas became nationally famous. The company moved from Denver to Indianapolis in 1910, after which Walker built a million dollar enterprise. She is believed to be the first black woman millionaire in America. Walker became active in black political and cultural affairs, when she moved to Harlem in 1916. She died there at age 51 in 1919, leaving her fortune to charity causes and her daughter A'Lelia Walker (18851931), an important figure in the Harlem Renaissance. A'lelia Perry Bundles, in Hine, Encyclopedia, 1209-1213. 58 Minutes, Executive Committee, YWCA Board, October 1, 1919, and Board Minutes, October 14, 1919, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3. 41

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change in the status of Denver's Phyllis Wheatley YWCA, from a "club" to a permanent institution. "Mter the armistice was signed," recalled Nelsine Howard, the Club which had made great strides with Mrs. Ross as chairman," was invited to "become more truly a part" of the Denver YWCA program. Indeed, 1920 was a watershed year when "Phyllis Wheatley Branch had its real beginning."59 The Central Board set up "Branch relations," the first step in the process of becoming an official branch of the YWCA. An Mfiliating Committee of both black and white women was formed; these women were the connecting link with the Central Association. The Chair of this committee, Mrs. Howard Young, represented the newly formed Branch on the Central Board.60 A Committee of Management was elected on January 12, 1920.61 Elected officers were Chair Mrs. Gertie Ross; Vice-chair Mrs. Eliza Green; Secretary Miss Ethel Layton; Asst Secretary Mrs. Zipporah Parks. Treasurer Mrs Mary Clinkscale.62 59 Campbell, p. 6. 6 Campbell, p. 9. 61 One year terms: Mrs. Ethel Caldwell, Mrs. Georgia Contee, Mrs. Mabel Failings, Mrs. Espanola Graham, Mrs. Anna B. Hicks. 2-year terms: Miss Isabel Chapman, Mrs. Mary Clinkscale, Mrs. Mattie King, Mrs. Zipporah Parks, Mrs. Rachel Triplett 3 year terms: Mrs. Lillian Bondurant, Mrs. Eliza Green, Mrs. Nellie Jenkins, Miss Ethel Layton, Mrs. Gertie Ross. Campbell, 6. 62 Campbell, p. 8. 42

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The Club had thus "proven its eligibility" and in early 1920 was officially invited to become part of the Denver YWCA as the Phyllis Wheatley Branch.63 The Annual Meeting of the YWCA Association on January 31, 1920 adopted the following amendment to its Constitution: There shall be a branch Association among colored women and girls, the Committee of Management being composed of from twelve to twenty-four representative colored women who can be chairmen of committees. The chairman of the Committee of Management shall be a colored woman. An affiliating committee of three white women, one of whom acts as chairman, and three colored women shall be the link between the committee of management and the Board of Directors ... The employed officers of the branch shall be a part of the staff of the Associa tion, and are responsible to the Board of Directors as well as to the Committee of Management. 64 By March, 1920, the new Branch was open. The Board enthusiastically approved the hiring of a full time Secretary at $1200 per year, and the purchase of a house on the southeast corner of 25th and Welton Street for 63 Historical Sketch, c. 1940, p. 1, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 461. 64 "Information Concerning Phyllis Wheatley Branch," undated fact sheet (c. 1920s), YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 43, Folder 1057. This arrangement seemed to be the standard structure whereby black branches were established during this time. A few years earlier, examples of a more restrictive, white dominated structure were recommended. For example, when the Cleveland Phillis Wheatley Club was contemplating whether to remain independent or affiliate with the city's white YWCA, the Central Board proposed complete control over who would be on the Branch's governing Board, both black and white. Jones, Hunter, p. 66. 43

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what they now called "the Phyllis Wheatley Center."65 "Commodious quarters" at the old Barth home at 2460 Welton were available for a price of $8637.50 with a down payment of $1500, and reasonable mortgage terms.66 Where were the funds to make all of this possible? Nelsine Howard Campbell credited Gertie Ross, who "contacted and interviewed Mrs. Vernor Z. Reed, in the interests of the Branch." Reed's "philanthropic spirit is well known in Denver." Campbell proudly emphasized Mrs. Ross' independent accomplishment, claiming that "Mrs. Reed had not been interested in YWCA, and her gift was unquestionably to the Phyllis Wheatley Branch."67 Reed's 65 Board Minutes, March 2, 1920 and March 9, 1920, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3. 66 The first proposal required the YWCA to assume the existing $5000 mortgage on property at a rate of 7% for three years, with the remainder of $2137.50 to bear interest at 6% paid in monthly installments of $75.00. Board Minutes, March 9, 1920, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3. Final terms of the closing held on March 29, 1920, consisted of a down payment of $1137 and an assumed mortgage of $7500 at 7% to be paid quarterly to the note holder Mr. Thomas Hext. YWCA lawyer Mr. Fowler recommended that they should "find some one friendly to the Association to take over the mortgage as soon as possible." YWCA Advisory Board member C. S. Morey agreed to take over. Board Minutes, April 6, 1920, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3. 67 Campbell, p. 7. Mary Reed's late husband made millions in Cripple Creek gold mining and Wyoming oil. Reed also helped establish the Margery Reed Mayo Day Care Center in Five Points, and was a regular contributor to health and birth control organizations. 44

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substantial donation of $1000 made the down payment possible.68 An additional sum of $1000 from the War Work Council was earmarked for Branch expenses as wel1.69 $458 from the Triangle War Fund was transferred to the Phyllis Wheatley furnishings fund, together with $146 in the concert savings account. 70 The hope was that membership dues, activity fees, and room rentals, would facilitate self-sufficiency. The YWCA took possession on April 1, and found that the brick house was in great need of repair. The 12 room home was described as an "old fashioned building .... this lovely old home has high ceiling, plenty of windows and beautiful wood work."71 Adjoining lots and an old carriage barn would offer room to expand. Mr. George Brown was contracted to make improvements at a cost of $1170.00. New floors in the kitchen and pantries, clean walls, wallpapering, new 3rd floor window, and plumbing were included 68 Historical Sketch, c. 1958, p. 1, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 43, Folder 1055. 69 Board Minutes, May, 1920 Financial Report, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3. The report does not state whether the $1000 War Work Council came from local or national sources. It is most likely from national, since by 1918, $400,000 was allotted to "colored work" by the National Board, with Eva Bowles in charge of War Work Councils. Salem, p. 208. 70 Board Minutes, November 15, 1919 and Board Annual Financial Report January 1, 1920, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3. 71 Campbell, p. 6-7. 45

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in the price.72 The work would need to be completed quickly, in time for the planned "house-warming" festivities to begin on May 20th. 73 Campbell recalled great jubilation at almost five years of patient, hard work bearing fruit at last. After formal dedication ceremonies she declared, "Denver was made glad indeed. A home for girls, lovely clean and attractive rooms, meals at a reasonable rate!"74 The new Phyllis Wheatley Branch acquired a key employee when the new home opened. Miss Josephine Davis, native of Kentucky and a graduate of Fisk University, became the Branch's first hired Secretary. Miss Davis was to be paid $1200 per year in salary, and would live at the Branch rent free?5 The newly elected Phyllis Wheatley Committee of Management recommended that Miss Davis should have "general supervision" over the home, and should therefore live on the premises. 72 Board Minutes, April 27, 1920, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3. 73 Board Minutes, May 11, 1920, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3. The house warming was planned to take place on May 20th, with a program for "men's night" the next day, Girls night on May 22, and Sunday Vespers and Dedication on May 23rd. $50 was approved by the Board for Branch dedication events. Board Minutes, May 18, 1920, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3. Nelsine Campbell gives the date of dedication as June 9, 1920. Campbell, p. 7. 74 Campbell, p. 7. 75 Campbell, p. 7; Board Minutes, March 9, 1920 and March 4, 1920, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3. 46

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Over the next months, the Central Board approved several thousand dollars toward a long list of repairs and furnishings. Branch recreational and social activities, such as gymnasium sessions and fundraising concerts, continued uninterrupted.76 Miss Davis gave her first report to the Central Board in July, proclaiming 208 paid members, 2 grade school clubs, 1 high school club, 1 business girls club, and 12 girls living at the residence. The financial success of the Branch was deemed less substantial. Despite deposits of $260 resulting from fundraising concerts and room rentals from May to July, the Central Board became skittish, recommending that Mrs. Young, Chair of the Affiliating Committee submit monthly financial reports on the Branch, and "endeavor to put the Center on a paying basis."77 By November, the Executive Committee itself recognized that if the new Branch were to operate on a permanent basis, a great deal of subsidization would be required. It recommended that the YWCA underwrite the Phyllis Wheatley Center, for "it cannot pay without at least 30 girls in the home." Further, an assistant for Miss Davis should be hired immediately in order to accommodate the growing numbers of women using Branch services. A final 76 Minutes, Executive Committee, YWCA Board, May 4, 1920, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3; Campbell, p. 9. 77 Board Minutes, September 14, 1920, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3. 47

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recommendation was for a new set of by-laws which would clarify the responsi bilities of the Branch Committee of Management and the Central Board.78 At the end of the whirlwind year of 1920, Branch leadership had much to be proud of. According to Campbell, "With a secretary in charge, a housekeeper at work, the wheels of the organization were set in motion ... the Branch seemed well started."79 78 Board Minutes, November 30, 1920, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3. 79 Campbell, p. 7, 9. 48

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CHAPTER 4 11A MAJOR COMMUNITY SUPPORT SYSTEM .. THE PHYLLIS WHEATLEY BRANCH IN THE 1920s During the 1920s, the Phyllis Wheatley Branch became, according to historian Lynda Dickson, .. a major community support system.111 11Denver is really a very splendid place, .. reported National Secretary Winn in 1922 to Branch Secretary candidate Mrs. Fairfax Richey. 11[There are] wonderful possibilities for a big development, .. she continued. 11 it should be our demonstration place in that section of the country, as Denver is our largest Colored population in that vicinity ... [emph. added]2 The national office was particularly impressed with the talented and committed core of volunteer African-American YWCA leadership which emerged during the early years of the Branch. Not satisfied with just socializing, they put a priority on organizing activities and services which were badly needed in the community. These early leaders cleverly negotiated support and resources from the Central Board and nurtured cordial interracial relations. They also effectively communicated the 1 Dickson, 117. 2 Cardella Winn to Fairfax Richey, January 17, 1922, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 11, Folder 232. 49

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needs and issues important to young women in Denver's black community during a period characterized by racial divisions in the city. In accordance with national patterns, an elected Committee of Management ran the day to day affairs of the Branch, overseen by the central YWCA Board of Directors.3 Denver's black leadership was strong, independent, and self-reliant from the beginning. White YWCA leaders were generally supportive, adopting a "hands-off' approach which allowed Phyllis Wheatley leaders to develop their own style and program. Black volunteer leadership and paid staff members were often selected and admired on the basis of their ability to communicate with both blacks and whites in the YWCA community. The best example of strong, enduring leadership was the Branch's first Chair of the Committee of Management, founder Gertie Ross. Ross became the first African-American woman to serve on Denver's Central Board in 1923, when new by-laws required the Chair of the Branch Committee of Management to be a permanent member of the Central Board.4 Ross was admired by both black and white YWCA activists for her amazing organizational ability 3 All major decisions made by the Committee of Management were subject to approval by the Central Board. For example, in January, 1921, the Board approved a Branch Committee of Management proposed by-law change limiting Committee members to two elected terms. Board Minutes, January 11, 1921, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3. 4 Board Minutes, September 25, 1923, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 4. 50

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and perseverance. She enjoyed a national reputation due to her frequent attendance as Denver's delegate at national conferences. Branch leaders recalled later that "No member of the organization has given finer, more faithful, more consecrated and more fruitful service than has Mrs. Ross. The YWCA loves her and reveres her."5 Ross served as Chair of the Committee of Management and on the Central Board from 1923 to 1928, when she passed the torch to Lillian Bondurant, another community leader and interracial communicator of well established stature.6 Despite the low salary ($1200 to $1500 per year) and challenging responsibility, recruitment of talented Executive Secretaries was relatively easy. All candidates were referred by the National YWCA office, who kept a pool of qualified new college graduates or experienced YWCA workers readily accessi ble. However, there was a revolving door every other year. The Branch "could not keep them because of Cupid."7 A string of talented young Executive Secretaries directed Branch activities during its early years. Miss Josephine Davis served competently for two years as the first Branch Secretary, during which time "many of the basic 5 Historical Sketch. c. 1940, p. 1. 6 Campbell, p. 28, 33. 7 Historical Sketch, c. 1940, p. 3. 51

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accomplishments carne to pass."8 "It must be said for this secretary who paved the way for all who have succeeded her, that no one has more truly exemplified the principles of Christian living than she."9 Davis served until her marriage to William Price in 1922, when she resigned her paid position. She continued as a volunteer for many years on the Committee of Managernent.1 The Branch "found itself casting for a secretary" until Mrs. Fairfax Butler Richey was lured away from the YWCA in Davenport, Iowa to take the Denver Branch Secretary position in 1922.11 According to Nelsine Campbell, Richey was "a charming and efficient woman from Chicago. Her fine appreciation of people and her excellent grasp of the relationship of her work to the community so endeared her to the Association that we had thought she was 8 Historical Sketch, c. 1940, p. 2. 9 Campbell, 11. 1 0 There is some evidence that the national office expedited Davis' departure, believing that the responsibilities had outgrown her abilities. Cardella Winn to Josephine Davis, January 12, 1922, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 11, Folder 232; Board Minutes, January 31, 1922, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3. Branch feelings for Davis remained positive, for she was elected to the Committee of Management in April, 1924. Campbell, p. 16. 11 Richey came so highly recommended that she was able to demand a $1500 annual salary, a substantial increase from the previous Branch Secretary salary of $1200 per year. Minutes, Executive Committee, YWCA Board, January 31, 1922, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3; In a letter to Cordelia Winn, Richey stated that ... while I am anxious to leave Davenport I feel that I am justified in wanting something just as good if not better than I have here." Fairfax Richey to Cordelia Winn, January 14, 1922, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 11, Folder 232. 52

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indispensable."12 After one year, Richey married Dr. Clarence F. Holmes, a mainstay in Denver's black community and outspoken advocate of civil rights. The Branch held a reception in the new couple's honor, with national Colored Secretary Cordelia Winn in attendance. Mrs. Holmes too resigned, but remained an active leader on the Committee of Management for many years.13 The Holmes' home at 2330 Downing Street was designated a Denver landmark in 1994. Miss Helen Taylor, an accomplished musician, was hired as Mrs. Richey's assistant, Girl Reserve Secretary, and succeeded Richey as Secretary in 1924. ... it is rare that one finds in one so young, such a combination of personality, vision, and executive ability ... ,"recalled admirers.14 Taylor was especially remembered for her leadership in acquiring Camp Nizhoni, Colorado's first and only all-black camp for girls in 1923. She too resigned upon marriage in May, 1926. The Branch held a farewell party for Taylor at which admirers of both races paid tribute: With deep regret in having to lose ... a person whom the association had learned to love, and for whom all of us had the highest respect. Among both races are to be found persons who declare that her won-12 Historical Sketch, c. 1940, p. 2. 13 Historical Sketch, c. 1940, p.2. 14 Historical Sketch, c. 1940, p. 2. 53

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derfully attractive personality, did much toward bringing about a fine feeling of inter-racial understanding.15 Dorothy Guinn, known for her "brilliancy of mind, her ability to express herself clearly, her gracious manner, and her ability to meet people with ease, .. was enthusiastically hired as Executive Secretary in September, 1926. The Radcliffe College graduate had been Executive Secretary in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Guinn came highly recommended from National, who suggested a salary of $2000/year as she was 11worth having and very constructive."16 Guinn was so well respected locally and nationally, she was recruited to a National staff after the Minneapolis National Convention in 1932.17 .. This was counted as a signal honor to Denver, especially to the Phyllis Wheatley Branch," Branch historian Nelsine Campbell recalled.18 National leaders often visited Denver's Phyllis Wheatley Branch and the Central Board during the early years of Branch formation. A network of black branches and an active exchange of program ideas was thereby maintained. These leaders also hoped to shore up white support for .. colored work, .. which in most cases needed extra money and resources from the YWCA central 15 Campbell, p. 18-19. 16 Cordelia Winn to Phyllis Wheatley Branch, June 4, 1926, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 11, Folder 234. 17 Campbell, p. 19, 33; Historical Sketch, c. 1940, p. 2. 18 Campbell, p. 33. 54

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organization. Eva Bowles' came to Denver to welcome the new Branch into the YWCA fold in 1916. National Secretary Cordelia Winn visited Denver to meet with the Central Board as well as the Branch Committee of Management almost on an annual basis.19 Winn always advised Central Board members on staffing issues, and offered new approaches to the "colored work." For example, in May, 1926, Winn recommended to President Anna McClintock that a local committee for colored work be established.20 Another way that black YWCA activists exchanged ideas and kept motivated was through attendance at national conferences, many of which were interracial. Denver's Central Board was always well represented, but Phyllis Wheatley Branch made sure it was represented by at least one delegate to every major meeting as well. Four Phyllis Wheatley members attended a volunteer workers' conference in St. Louis in 1921.21 The National YWCA Bi-ennial Convention in Hot Springs, Arkansas, in 1922 was attended by Gertie 19 Campbell, pp. 9, 13, 17, 20; Board Minutes, April 26, 1921, and January 24, 1922, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3; Board Minutes, November 24, 1925 and May 4, 1926, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 5. 20 Minutes, Executive Committee, YWCA Board, May 4, 1926, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 5. Miss McClintock agreed to look into the idea, upon consultation with Mrs. Ross. Two weeks later, Board member Mrs. Runette suggested that a joint committee would be superfluous "and might cause misunderstanding and lack of interest and initiative." Board Minutes, May 11, 1926, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 5. 21 Attending were Mrs. Clinkscale, Mrs. Lillian Bondurant, Mrs. Contee, and Mrs. Parks. Campbell, p. 10. 55

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Ross, at the Branch's expense.22 Miss Helen Taylor represented the Branch at the New York National Convention in 1924, and Josephine Price and Miss Russell attended the next bi-ennial in Milwaukee in 1926. Mrs. Ross led a delegation of four black women to the 1928 National Convention in Sacramento, California. YWCA race relations were relatively cordial and friendly during the 1920s, despite the general racism pervading Denver due to the widespread influence of the Ku Klux Klan. Discriminatory and racist policies were frequently and openly challenged by the Phy11is Wheatley Branch and sympathetic white Board members. For example, in 1927, the Branch went on record protesting efforts to officially segregate Denver Public Schools. Dorothy Guinn reported that The recent racial difficulties and the agitation concerning segregation in public schools have affected the thinking in every meeting of our group during the month. The Committee of Management felt the situation sufficiently significant to go on record as endorsing the present status of mixed schools in Colorado as consistent with the State Laws.23 Nelsine Campbell recalled of the same incident: This branch went on record in its stand for the safety of the Colored children in the public schools of Denver. A movement for the segrega-22 Campbell, p. 11. 23 Monthly Report, Dorothy Guinn, February, 1927, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 11, Folder 234. 56

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tion of Colored children has been attempted by a most intolerant group.24 The Branch donated money to black lawyer George Ross, who had led the fight to preserve the mixed race school system. Guinn praised the "splendid spirit" of Central Board members for allowing Branch representatives to explain their concerns on the issue. 25 Special letters of thanks were written to Mrs. Runnette and Miss McCiintock.26 References abound to "interracial friendship" and praise for white YWCA friends in Nelsine Campbell's historical memoirs: "The names of Miss Jennie Hendrie, Mrs. I. B. Perkins, Miss Anna McClintock and Mrs. Harry Runnette are woven into a beautiful pattern in our branch fabric."27 Upon the death of Mrs. Perkins, "our good friend and true inspiration" in 1923, the Committee of Management expressed deep appreciation for her unwavering support of their efforts.28 24 Campbell, p. 19-20. 25 Monthly Report, Dorothy Guinn, February, 1927, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 11, Folder 234. 26 Campbell, p. 19-20. 27 Campbell, p. 12. 28 Campbell, p. 12. The Central Board passed a resolution honoring Perkins' special relationship with the Branch as well. Board Minutes, April 24, 1923, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 4. 57

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In March, 1922, Branch leadership requested and was granted permission "when feasible" to sit in on Central Association committee meetings.2 9 In September, 1923, the Board officially approved the Chair of the Phyllis Wheatley Committee of Management as a permanent member of the Central Board.30 Gertie Ross, the first black Board member, often read the opening prayer and gave regular reports about Phyllis Wheatley activities to the Board. Miss Howard, Phyllis Wheatley chair of religious education led devotions and sang the National Negro anthem at the May 13, 1924 Board meeting. That same year, an interracial study group of three white and three black women was organized to study Dr. W. E. B. DuBois' book, The Negro.31 Gertie Ross and Denver's YWCA took the lead in organizing a 29 Board Minutes, March 28, 1922, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3. 30 Board Minutes, September 25, 1923, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 4. 31 W. E. B. DuBois (1868-1963), was a graduate of Fisk University, Harvard University, and the University of Berlin, where he earned his Ph.D. in 1895. DuBois was a scholar, journalist, and principal founder of the "Niagara Movement" and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He organized numerous protests against lynching, racial discrimination, and war. His articles and books celebrating African-American history and culture were widely read by blacks throughout the 1910s, 1920s, and 1930s. He was a world leader in Pan-Africanism and became a member of the Communist Party, U.S.A. in 1961, right before his death in Ghana in 1963. DuBois was outspoken in his belief in interracial cooperation and an integrated society as an eventual goal, but advocated racial solidarity in the face of deeply entrenched white racism in America. DuBois' life and philosophy was dedicated to the careful balance and interrelationship between 58

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city-wide "Interracial Committee" in 1923, "to study the problems and come to a better understanding of the colored people."32 The Central YWCA Board officially endorsed this committee, which was an outgrowth of the YWCA Affiliating Committee (which had paved the way for the establishment of the Phyllis Wheatley Branch). It included representatives from the black YMCA, black ministers and white community leaders and government officials, including Governor William E. Sweet, educator Emily Griffith, and many others.33 All were encouraged to attend a planned program on the "problems of the colored race" by Dr. W. E. B. DuBois in Denver on March 26, 1923.34 By 1924, the Denver Interracial Commission had been established out of this early these two roads to black equality. See Meyer Weinberg, W.E.B. DuBois: A Reader (New York: Harper and Row, 1970), pp. xi-xvii. 32 Board Minutes, March 20, 1923, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 4. 33 The Glenarm "Colored" YMCA opened in 1908. A wood frame house at 28th and Glenarm Streets was purchased in 1915. A new 3-story building and recreational facilities were built in 1925 at the same location. Maya Hansen, "Entitled to Full and Equal Enjoyment: Leisure and Entertainment in the Denver Black Community, 1900-1930," University of Colorado Historical Studies Journal, Denver, Colorado, val 10, No.1, Spring, 1993, p. 59. William E. Sweet, Colorado's governor from 1923 to 1925, was an outspoken proponent of racial justice. In 1936, Sweet ran against Ed Johnson for the Democratic nomination for U. S. Senate, campaigning against Johnson's dispassionate attitudes about relief for the unemployed, and his racist armed blockade at Colorado borders to keep Mexican,.American workers out of the state. Sweet lost the race two to one. Leonard, Trials, p. 80. 34 Board Minutes, March 20, 1923, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 4. 59

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committee.35 On February 14, 1926, the Commission, YWCA, and YMCA co-sponsored "Race Relations Sunday" at Central Presbyterian Church, featuring sermons by white, black, and Chinese ministers.36 "Race Relations Sunday" thus became a tradition in Denver over the next two decades (see Chapter 6), with a day set aside each February for a citywide interfaith, interracial service and other educational events. One other measure of the cohesiveness of Denver's black community was a popular recreational tradition which began in May, 1922. The annual joint YM-YWCA Field Meet and Picnic, held at Denver's Rocky Mountain Lake Park, attracted up to 1800 participants.37 According to Nelsine Campbell, the picnics were held throughout the 1920s and 1930s, and were a celebration of community progress. They offered food, music, boating, and track competition, as well as rest and relaxation. "The financial returns are 35 Atkins, p. 116. 36 Speakers were Reverend Nona L. Brooks discussing "White America," Rev. C. H. Uggams of Shorter A.M.E. Church speaking on "The Negro in America," and Paul Chih Meng, General Secretary of the Student Christian Association on "The Oriental in America." Board Minutes, February 9, 1926, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 5. 37 Phyllis Wheatley Branch Statistical Report, May, 1923, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 8, Folder 165. The Rocky Mountain Lake site was accessible by streetcar, and had been used frequently since the turn of the century for fundraising and community events for black organizations in Denver, including the Masons, Denver black newspaper, The Colorado Statesman, as well as the black YMCA and YWCA. Hansen, p. 64. 60

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small, the work long and hard, but the satisfaction to the citizens is of value not to be estimated."3 8 Although its membership and programs were segregated, Denver's YWCA prided itself in promoting interracial understanding among young girls in the 1920s. "Camp Company," a newsletter distributed at the Girl Reserve Conference at Estes Park in 1922 contained a letter on "The Race Question" from a white camper. Since I came to conference I have had my views on the race problem changed considerably. I have often been told that the negroes should be respected and given a chance but not until now have I really seen it. They have natural music in them and many have written beautiful poems. I hope that every girl will go back feeling as I do that the races should all be given equal chance.39 The YWCA High School Girl Reserves held an inter-racial Vesper Service on "Racial Sunday" in 1925, with participants from both the Central association and Phyllis Wheatley Branch. According to the 1924-25 Annual 38 Campbell, p. 9-10. 39 "Camp Company" Newsletter, YWCA Girl Reserve Conference, Estes Park, Colorado, Summer, 1922, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 8, Folder 148. There is no indication whether black girls attended the conference. However, such attendance is unlikely, since such attendance was a big issue later in 1925. In the absence of blacks at the conference, it is possible that this letter was the result of a theoretical discussion about race relations in the YWCA. 61

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Report, Mrs. Ross "very clearly and beautifully told the girls the part of younger girls in making the race relations right."40 Race relations in the YWCA were cordial on the surface, but a test of commitment came in 1925, when a local debate arose over attendance by black delegates to a National Conference in Estes Park, which was to be held July 29 -August 6, 1925. Eva Bowles wrote a memo to all black Branches in Febru-ary, encouraging wider participation in the national conference, and urging them to raise money now to send their best delegation. "Have you ever stopped to think how much your Branch is worth to your city?" she asked. "What difference would it make if it dropped out of existence tomorrow? Who would care?"41 Denver's Central YWCA was open to the idea, but skittish about how to handle an integrated conference. In May, 1925, national headquarters requested an "expression" from the Denver Association "as to whether Colored Girls will be eligible to [go to] the Estes Park Conference."42 The Denver Board discussed the issue at length, expressing general agreement to cooperate toward this end. They wrote a letter expressing "hearty sympathy" 40 Annual Report, Girl Reserves, Phyllis Wheatley Branch, September, 1924 September, 1925, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 8, Folder 142. 41 Eva Bowles to local YWCA Branches, I;'ebruary 14, 1925, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 11, Folder 234. 42 Minutes, Executive Committee, YWCA Board, May 18, 1925, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 5. 62

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for Colored girls to attend the Estes Park Community Conference, but 11Such delegates should not be sent until the Conference has the opportunity to study and discuss the question ...... 43 The Board further recommended that 11a care-fully selected colored leader [should] present the point of view of our colored membership .. to the Conference.44 Hard feelings about the Estes Park issue had apparently arisen from the Phyllis Wheatley Branch leadership, although there is no written record of the specific local complaints. However, a series of letters between white leaders at the Central Denver YWCA and National Colored Secretary Eva Bowles over the conference issue reveals in more detail than usual the strained nature of internal discussions over race relations. Bowles' letters give some clues as to her own sense of strategy and tactics on the race question as well. In her letter of May 19, 1925 to Denver's Central Executive Secretary, Bowles politely stated her position that attendance by blacks at national conferences should be a natural process, and should not require a forced discussion as a separate issue: 5. Our experience through the years has been an aim to develop natural interracial contacts and to build such a basis of understanding through these contacts that issues, when they arise, can be dealt with through principles involved instead of the issue itself. ... if normal contacts 43Board Minutes, May 19, 1925, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 5. 44 Board Minutes, May 19, 1925, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 63

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between white and Colored women and girls in any community are established, conference attendance will then take care of itself in a natural way. As thinking Colored people we resent making color a plea for recognition as much as we do making it a plea for segregation or non recognition. Our only sane approach is by going as far as the white and colored group are agreed together to go. [em ph. added] I think we must keep in mind that we are an interracial movement and it is for us to manifest it and make it real. In this course there is a time element and we make progress only through getting a basis upon which to build.45 Executive Secretary Norma Stauffer's defended the well meaning Denver Board, who had suggested a pre-conference discussion in order to defend the idea that black delegates should be "allowed" to attend the conference: From your letter I hardly know what your own attitude is on the matter. So far as the business girls' group is concerned they had no intention of "making color a plea for recognition." They felt very deCidedly that as business girls within the Association we had common needs and prob lems and that the conference should serve us all alike.46 Stauffer wrote again to Bowles in July, to report that Miss Taylor, Phyllis Wheatley Branch Executive Secretary, would hopefully be attending the Estes Park Conference: "I think her attendance will quietly pave the way for the attendance of other delegations from the Branch for another year."47 In 45 Eva Bowles to Mrs. Wilson (Denver Central YWCA), May 19, 1925, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 11, Folder 234. 46 Norma Stauffer to Eva Bowles, May 26, 1925, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 11, Folder 234. 47 Norma Stauffer to Eva Bowles, July 14, 1925, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 11, Folder 234. 64

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her reply Bowles reiterated her position that attendance by blacks at the conference should be viewed as a natural process: "I hope that Miss Taylor does go to the conference this year. There is no special urge for Colored people to go because they are colored. As Branch Secretary, she is eligible." Others will go as they are eligible, Bowles went on, and "will naturally become a part of each group. This is the only logical basis for representation in such a movement as ours."48 The next year (1926), the Central Board discussed the fact that "the policy of sending colored delegates [to the Estes Park Conference] was to be much more generally adopted this year," and voted to support this concept.49 The Central Board was forced to recognize that black women and girls were becoming a real force in the Denver organization. The growing community presence of the Phyllis Wheatley Branch through its popular recreational programs, social life, and services was becoming a national model. ... the girlhood of the city was in the right hands for proper guidance," asserted Nelsine Howard Campbell about the Phyllis Wheatley Branch's place in the community during the 1920s.50 "The association grew to be a real 48 Eva Bowles to Norma Stauffer, July 23, 1925, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 11, Folder 234. 49 Board Minutes, May 11, 1926, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 5. 5 Campbell, p. 19. 65

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social necessity for these years. No one can state the spread of its service," she concluded.51 Annual Reports to the national YWCA office touted the Phyllis Wheatley branch as "the Community Center for the colored women of the city." [emphasis added].5 2 When Phyllis Wheatley became an official Branch, it was required to submit regular national reports of its work. The national report form for 1921 asked "Just what work do you do among colored girls?" The Denver YWCA ariswer was short and sweet, filling the two lines provided: "We have a Phyllis Wheatley Center ... with boarding home, employment department, room registry, girls work, gymnasium, club."53 The details behind this brief listing of activities reveal that the Branch served a unique and vital function for women in Denver's black community. As with all other cities where black branches existed, the Phyllis Wheat-ley Branch provided safe, clean, inexpensive rooms to young single women. This was perhaps its most valuable service. Few hotels, including the Central YWCA Residence, would accept black guests, and most would have been too 51 Campbell, p. 21. 52 Annual Report, Phyllis Wheatley Branch, 1922, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 8, Folder 141. 53 National Board Report, Phyllis Wheatley Branch, 1921, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 8, Folder 141. 66

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expensive anyway.54 In the Welton Street house there were 12 rooms, with sleeping space for up to 19 women. 5 5 A room registry of neighborhood homes willing to take in temporary boarders supplemented the boarding house. Boarders were often referred by YWCA Branches in other cities, or by Denver's YWCA Traveler's Aid Service, located at the train station. Daily meals were served in the handsomely furnished formal dining room. Although small fees were charged for room and board, revenues rarely kept up with expenses. Hardship cases were rarely turned away. For example, 103 free beds went to "girls ill, stranded or out of work" during 1923.56 The hardship stories about transient women who were assisted by the Branch were often repeated in reports to show the necessity and effectiveness of the new facilities. For example, during 1922, Branch Secretary Fairfax Richey told of a twenty year old mother with six months old babe ran away from her home in a small Colorado town and came to the Y.W.C.A. Her plan was to give her baby away and find work, 54 Denver's YWCA Residence barred non-whites until the late 1940s, when segregated facilities were officially ended. Occasionally, an exception was made, as in the case of a young Japanese woman who in 1923 was granted special permission to stay in the residence while in town to study Denver's Juvenile Court. Board Minutes, September 25, 1923, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 4. 55 Annual Report, Phyllis Wheatley Branch, 1922, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 8, Folder 141. Emergency beds were added when necessary. 56 Campbell, p. 15. 67

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but after a few days of rest from routine of her home and coun sel from the Secretary and older girls in the house she decided to return to the two children and husband whom she had deserted."57 Richey related other stories about "friendless, homeless" women, aged 18 to 70, who found a refuge at the Branch. A sampling of boarding statistics reveals how busy the Branch had become. In October, 1921, nine girls lived in the house. A new house secretary had just been hired and was "starting in with good spirits."58 Revenues for the month totaled $441, receipts $253. In another month, March 1922, sixteen girls lived in the house, and 692 meals were served (including inexpensive lunches for women who worked or lived in the neighborhood nearby. )59 In November, 1922, the number of boarders had grown to 19. The 1922 Annual Report listed a total of 309 women housed during the year. A total of 310 were housed in 1923, with total meals reaching 13,404. The dining room was closed temporarily in November of 1924, "after a losing fight 57 Phyllis Wheatley Branch Annual Report, Fairfax Richey, 1922, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 8, Folder 141. 58 Miss Jamesie Pope held the position until her marriage in September, 1921. Mrs. Clara Banks of Colorado Springs took over. Campbell, p. 10. Board Minutes, October 11, 1921, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3. 59 Board Minutes, March 14, 1922, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3. 68

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to keep this part of our work going as a service to the community."60 Month-ly receipts averaged $450 $700 per month, with monthly expenses approach ing $1000. The Branch found the resources to reopen in May, 1925.61 Black migration in the United States was continually in evidence in Denver. Branch Secretary Dorothy Guinn reported in the fall of 1926 that "A number of transients going East to Chicago or West to Los Angeles have continued to stop at the Branch."62 She later reported that the house was full of travelers and tourists in the summer of 1927. Few Denver hotels allowed blacks, and traveling single women had learned that the local Phyllis Wheatley YWCA was a safe haven. The Branch Employment Department found jobs for women when jobs were available. In 1922, the Branch placed 114 women in jobs ranging from laundries, to maid and cook positions, to secretarial. The next year the placements rose to over 300. Dorothy Guinn reported in late 1926 that the Employment Service is in the process of becoming a real factor. Girls and Women of various ages call for work. The girl who comes to Denver for her health, yet who is to do some work, the girl who is trained to do stenography yet finds no opening, the young mother with children who needs to supple6 Campbell, p. 17. 61 Campbell, p. 17. 62 Branch Monthly Report, Dorothy Guinn, September 15-November 11, 1926, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 11, Folder 234. 69

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' ment her income, these indeed and many others make our service a real factor in the lives of girls and women .... we are to lead them to more abundant living. 63 The ugly effects of job discrimination were difficult to avoid. In 1927, Phyllis Wheatley job counselors complained that they could not place enough applicants, stating that "We have a number of experienced women who command a fair wage over against employers who can pay a very inadequate wage."64 The job referral service was a fruitful recruiting ground for the Business and Employed Girls Clubs. Club meetings, Banquets, and musical productions kept the young working women busy and entertained. The Branch Business Girls League was one of the first groups to attend regular joint meetings with their counterparts at the Central "Y."65 The Industrial Girls sang spirituals at the citywide Industrial Banquet at Central in 1926. The clubs were later divided into "Business" (secretarial, retail, and accounting) and "Industrial" (domestic service, factory, and laundry) groups in 1927. Differences in class and educational background led to many "heated although not especially profitable discussion[ s] on the relative value of Experi-63 Branch Monthly Report, Dorothy Guinn, September 15 November 11, 1926, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 11, Folder 234. 64 Monthly Branch Report, Dorothy Guinn, September, 1927, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 11, Folder 234. 65 Branch Monthly Report, Dorothy Guinn, November, 1926, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 11, Folder 234. 70

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ence and Education in various undertakings."66 In frustration, Dorothy Guinn finally implemented the separation. "It took tact, leadership, love and prayer to give to each of these girls the proper attitude ... Nelsine Campbell recalled. Branch staff engaged in "intensive work in developing a program to meet the changing needs of the girls and women of our race."67 The Industrial Girls were perhaps the largest and most active group. Nelsine Campbell reported that in the late 1920s, progress in this group was "probably the most outstanding of any program ... "68 Twenty-two members joined the first year in 1927. Fifty four members belonged in 1928, and eighty five by 1930. The active working class women socialized at weekly club suppers, waffle suppers, carnivals, and sponsored dances to show off their boyfriends. They published their own newsletter, "The Peacock Gazette," and ran a cooperative gift shop. A lending library composed contemporary Negro authors was available to all members. Large Industrial Girls delegations attended national conferences.69 66 Branch Monthly Report, Dorothy Guinn, January, 1927, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 11, Folder 234. 67 Campbell, p. 20. 68 Campbell, p. 28. 69 The 1928 National Conference at Okobogee drew a Denver delegation of 50 Industrial Girls. Campbell, p. 21. 71

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Crowds of little girls in the yard and tennis court during the early years of the Branch attracted much attention and admiration. Black mothers were anxious to expose their daughters to the healthy moral influence and comraderie of the YWCA. "The YWCA molded my life!" claims early member Sarah Sims. 70 Sims was an active member of the "Yakawanna Club" of the Girl Reserves beginning in 1919 at age 11. Work with younger black girls in Denver, including camp, school, and after-school programs were modelled after successful work nationwide. The largest program was the Girl Reserves, which provided clubs and activities for elementary to high school girls. In 1923, five school-aged girls clubs welcomed youngsters to the Branch for games, arts and crafts classes, and social activities. Miss Lucy Charlotte Stevens reported to work in May, 1926 as the new Girl Reserve Secretary. Under her leadership, the girls clubs enjoyed ever more popularity and improved activities. Enrollment soared to 10771 As was the hope, girls frequently dropped by the Branch after school. In 1927 Dorothy Guinn reported to the Central Board that "it is indeed gratifying to realize that there is a definite place in their young lives for their Girl Reserve 70 Sarah Sims, interview with author, Denver, Colorado, April 15, 1991. 71 Campbell, p. 20. 72

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Club."72 Stevens resigned in October, 1928 and was replaced by Mary Elizabeth Wood of Des Moines a year later?3 The Branch girls showed off for National Girl Reserve Secretary, Miss Bella Knight, when she visited the Branch in 1929?4 A principal attraction for girls to the YWCA was the prospect of summer camp in the mountains -a chance to get away from overprotective parents and wearing dirty, grubby clothes to their hearts' content. While the girls just wanted to have fun, adults had a more purposeful motive for organizing camp, as Nelsine Howard articulated so well: Camp life brings out of the camper either the finest or the worst elements of her being. Most girls develop in living with one another, a tolerance and comradeship, an understanding of their leaders .... which lasts as the years go by?5 The first black YWCA Camp in the country was Camp Gicharbu at Harrod's Creek, Kentucky, established by the Louisville branch around WWI.76 In Denver, YWCA camp programs for black girls began in the early 1920s at various sites. In 1926, the Phyllis Wheatley Branch founded Camp 72 Branch Monthly Report, Dorothy Guinn, September, 1927, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 11, Folder 234. 73 Campbell, p. 28. 74 Campbell, p. 28. 75 Campbell, p. 23. 76 Salem, p. 218. 73

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Nhizoni, Colorado's first all-black camp, located at Lincoln Hills near Pinecliffe. Camp Lookout, the Central YWCA's large, well-equipped girls camp established in 1923 near Idaho Springs, was available only to white girls. Until the Phyllis Wheatley Branch took the initiative to start them, there were no "camp life" opportunities for black girls anywhere in the Rocky Mountain region. According to Nelsine Campbell, the first Phyllis Wheatley camp session was a weekend outing held at a cabin in Sunset near Boulder in the summer of 1921, organized by Lillian Bondurant and Zipporah Parks.17 Sarah Sims's fond memories of travelling as a young girl to camp near Boulder in Lieuten ant Earl Mann's car are as vivid as yesterday.78 Sims recalled, "The girls learned to get along, to play fair. Nobody was a loser."79 Three adult women and twelve girls braved the elements, feeling like pioneers. The group was a bit apprehensive, for according to Campbell, "it was probably too far from Denver, or at least too far from the beaten path."80 Dr. P. E. Spratlin, 77 Campbell, p. 10. 78 Sims interview. Lt. Earl Mann was a highly regarded community leader for several decades before he was elected to the Colorado State Legislature in 1943. Atkins, p. 121. 79 Sims interview. 8 Campbell, p. 22. 74

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a noted black physician and founder of early black charities in Denver, and businessman Luther Walton arranged the financing for the trip.81 Blatant racism interrupted enthusiastic Phyllis Wheatley Branch efforts to expand the newly discovered camping experience for their young members. In 1923, Girl Reserve chairwoman Lillian Bondurant and Fairfax Richey selected a beautiful site near Dumont, near Georgetown and the famous "Loop" railroad, offering to rent it for $30.00 per month. Just as the deal was to go through, local controversy set in. Hearing rumors of a "Colored girls camp" in their town, Dumont residents Estelle Philleo, M. E. Gibbs, C. W. Lerchan, and L. M. Hunt fired off an angry letter to the YWCA Central Board vehemently opposing the plan. 82 "Certainly we did not wish any trouble or that our girls or our secretaries should be menaced in camp," recalled Nelsine Campbell. ... Without any ado whatever, we gave up the idea of Dumont."83 Disappointment and anger were dissipated when a generous YWCA friend, Mrs. Morris, offered to let the girls pitch their tents on the site of her 4-room cottage in Chicago Creek near Idaho Springs. This "glorious 81 Earlier that year, the Central Board accepted a donation of two lots at Dome Rock in North Canyon to be set aside as a camp site for Phyllis Wheatley girls. There is no record of this site being used. Board Minutes, January 11, 1921, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3. 82 Campbell, p. 15. 83 Campbell, p. 22-23. A copy of this letter is not contained in Central Board records, nor is the incident mentioned in Board Minutes at the time. 75

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adventure" lasted 5 weeks, with a total of 101 girls and 94 visitors attending.84 The girls returned in large numbers to the Idaho Springs site for several more summers. Discriminatory attitudes and whites-only rental and admission policies had long prevented black residents of Colorado from enjoying the outdoor recreational experiences enjoyed by the state's white citizens.85 For example, Colorado's internationally famous Glenwood Hot Springs Pool had an official whites only admission policy until well into the 1950s. As a result, a pair of ambitious black entrepreneurs from Denver set their sites on developing an all-Black mountain resort. Promoters Mr. Renier and Mr. Euwalt launched their dream project in 1925 at Lincoln Hills, a site on Pine Creek near Pinecliffe. The pine forested area was easily accessible from Denver by the Moffat railroad. One observer, Dr. J. H. P. Westbrook, expressed his enchantment with the Lincoln Hills concept: This is the last opportunity for colored people to get such a location. In a few years it will be impossible for our group to get anything half as desirable ... There is no segregation about it, only a chance to get a large acreage where we can go in peace and contentment ... 86 84 Campbell, p. 23. 85 Hansen, pp. 47-48. 86 Dr. J. H. P. Westbrook to Lincoln Hills developers, 1925, quoted in Hansen, p. 69. 76

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Renier and Euwalt, at the suggestion of their friend Mr. Luther Walton, invited fifty two Phyllis Wheatley girls to camp at Lincoln Hills in the summer of 1925. Walton's influence bore more fruit early the next year when Lincoln Hills developers announced their plan to offer several sites and a large cabin to the Phyllis Wheatley Branch, for use as a permanent camp site. The original agreement proposed was that the YWCA would rent the site for $65, and would be responsible for repairs. Estimated .costs for repairs came in higher than expected, so Walton negotiated a better arrangement. It the site was used as a camp for three years, the owners would transfer the property deed to the Phyllis Wheatley Branch. 87 Branch leaders were ecstatic. Gertie Ross quickly recommended acceptance of the offer by the Central YWCA Board. She reported that the property was free of encumbrances, and that the owners had agreed to "rid the place of rats, build a bridge, and make the place habitable."88 The location would provide a welcome and accepting atmosphere to Phyllis Wheatley gitls, Ross believed, since one thousand lots at the Lincoln Hills resort had already been sold to blacks. Ross further reported that the Branch had $600 in its budget for camp expenses, and with careful planning, needed repairs could be made. On the motion of Board member Dr. Fraser and President Anna 87 Campbell, p. 24-25. 88 Board Minutes, May 4, 1926, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 5. 77

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McClintock, the YWCA Executive Committee unanimously accepted the Lincoln Hills offer on May 4, 1926.89 Camp Nizhoni was born. A delegation of Phyllis Wheatley and Central Board members rode the train to Lincoln Hills soon after to inspect the property. According to Nelsine Campbell, what they found was in many ways awe-inspiring: ... a large old structure, falling to pieces, was occupied by pack rats and cattle. It was without windows, but obviously there were possibili ties. Its size and location recommended it instantly. Up in our glorious mountains, [it was] easily reached by train: canopied by blue sky by day, and by starry sky by night.90 The Board quickly approved $1640 for immediate repairs to the property, allowing the money to come from the "contingency fund" if necessary. 91 Thus began the creation of two decades of happy memories for Phyllis Wheatley youngsters and adults alike at Camp Nizhoni. Groups of campers arrived each summer continuously until it was closed in 1945, when black girls were finally allowed to participate in integrated camps at YWCA Camp Lookout. Despite constant financial problems and deteriorating facilities, the Phyllis Wheatley Branch always found a way to keep Camp Nizhoni open. Often its survival depended upon extra funding from the Central Board, or 89 Minutes, Executive Committee, YWCA Board, May 4, 1926, YWCA Collection, CHS, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 5. Board approval followed. 9 Campbell, p. 24. 91 Board Minutes, June 4, 1926, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 5. 78

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occasional donations from generous individuals in community. Like the rest of the Branch programs, Camp Nizhoni was never financially self-sufficient. During the 1920s, the Central YWCA had provided about one half to 2/3 of the revenues needed to keep the doors open at the Phyllis Wheatley Branch. 92 These funds were minimal compared to the overall budget of the Denver YWCA as a whole. There had never been any official formula established for Branch financial support. Nevertheless, Branch supporters on Central's Board differed with the Finance Committee over how self-sufficient the Branch should be. Central's Executive Director Norma Stauffer wrote to Eva Bowles in July, 1925: One point ... which greatly concerns us at this time, is the Standard Percentage of self-support for a Phyllis Wheatley Branch. Some of us feel that our Finance Committee expects too large a per cent of self support from the Branch . . please advise. 93 Bowles quickly replied, emphasizing the need to continue financial support while encouraging Branch self-sufficiency and control: Of course, if you consider, there could be no standard percentage for a Phyllis Wheatley Branch. The standards for our Branches among Colored women and girls are no different from any other part of the work. We do feel, however, that the colored people should become 92 According to Nelsine Campbell, the Branch was 53%-55% self-sufficient in 1923, 47% in 1924, and 37% in 1925. Even during the worst years of the Great Depression of the 1930s, Branch was able to remain 28% self-sufficient. Campbell, p. 17, 35. 93 Norma Stauffer to Eva Bowles, July 14, 1925, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 11, Folder 234. 79

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more and more responsible for the budget and the administration of 't 94 I Bowles went on to stress the necessity of allowing Branch members to learn from Central finance committees how to manage a YWCA budget and raise necessary funds. In Denver, wealthy and well connected YWCA Board members easily enlisted the financial support from the entire community during annual pledge drives or "campaigns." While memberships and activity fees provided some revenues, the overall budget of both the Central and Phyllis Wheatley YWCAs was largely dependent on charitable and philanthropic giving. Additionally, the Denver Community Chest offered annual funds for many YWCA programs, inc1uding those offered by the Phy11is Wheatley Branch. For example, in 1923 the Denver Community Chest allotted $6233.24 to the Phyllis Wheatley Branch, and in 1928 they gave $6;830.94.95 In turn, Branch activists always helped with both the annual citywide YWCA and Community Chest fundraising drives. 96 94 Eva Bowles to Norma Stauffer, July 23, 1925, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 11, Folder 234. 95Campbell, p. 16; Federal WPA Writer's Program, Life in Denver Series, 1936-1942, "Negroes," Colorado Historical Society, p. 153. 96 Branch Monthly Report, Dorothy Guinn, November, 1926, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 11, Folder 234. 80

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Managing a budget and financial self-sufficiency were two different matters. Black women did not have access to the city's well-established funding network. Phyllis Wheatley leaders and members were not wealthy, and yet they were called upon to provide aid to hardship cases at a much higher proportional rate than Central. If Central's Finance Committee expected financial self-sufficiency, they offered little guidance on how to overcome these obstacles. Lillian Bondurant became the first member of the Branch Committee of Management allowed to sit on Central's Finance Committee. She hoped thereby to communicate the Branch's financialneeds and concerns in a forceful and consistent manner. During the 1920s, obtaining money for small expenditures like bed sheets, lamp shades, or bicycle racks was generally a matter of Mrs. Ross getting the request approved at the monthly Central Board meeting.97 Approval of major projects like a new gymnasium proved more troublesome. The gym was sorely needed because both racism and sexism combined to severely limit recreational options for black girls and women. Blacks were barred from virtually all city swimming pools and gymnasiums, including the 97 $304 purchased four pairs of pillows, 6 beds, one ice box, and a 4 1/2 foot claw footbath tub for the Branch in 1921. Approval for purchase of battleship linoleum for the hall and bathrooms, rugs, washing machine, plumbing and a $150 piano were approved the next year. Board Minutes, April 26, 1921, and August 1, 1922, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3. 81

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YWCA downtown facility. In 1922, Mrs. Richey reported that the Branch had finally secured a day each week for colored women and girls at the Municipal Bath House, the city's public pool and gymnasium.98 Hours of female access to black male facilities like the Glenarm YMCA was severely limited as well, and many girls felt self-conscious around so many young men. As early as 1921, the newly organized Phyllis Wheatley Branch began requesting their own gym facilities, finding that their other options inadequate. The Central Board rejected the suggestion that Phyllis Wheatley girls obtain the use of the East High School gym (located at 19th and Stout Street in downtown Denver), deeming it "unwise." The only suggestion offered was that the "colored girls will start a fund for the purpose of enlarging the Recreation Room," (a badly maintained horse garage in the yard at the Branch).99 A month later, the Board approved the following resolution: "That the outstanding campaign pledges made through the Phyllis Wheatley Center be allowed for their gymnasium, provided they are collected by that Branch."100 98 Board Minutes, November 14, 1922, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3. 99 Board Minutes, October 11, 1921, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3. 100 Board Minutes, December 13, 1921, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 3. 82

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By 1925, the problem of a black women's gymnasium had still not been resolved. Phyllis Wheatley members had helped in the campaign to build a new Glenarm YMCA facility, which opened its swimming pool and gymnasium to the black community in 1925.101 Black women and girls could use these facilities at certain limited times, but were uncomfortable with the predominantly male constituency. Black girls were not allowed to use the Central YWCA gymnasium facilities except during very few hours when no whites were present. When Central Executive Secretary suggested that a new gymnasium for Phyllis Wheatley be included in the 1925 YWCA Campaign, the motion was defeated by the Board on the grounds that details about what the funds were to be used for had already been publicized, and "it seemed unwise to change the amount."102 It should be noted that Phyllis Wheatley members worked long hours in Denver's black community on that fundraising campaign on behalf of the YWCA. The next year, women's and girls gymnasium and swimming classes were organized at the Glenarm YMCA. Alarmed at girls being in such close proximity to young boys and men, Branch Secretary Dorothy Guinn was pessimistic about the success of the program: 101 Hansen, p. 59. 102 Minutes, Executive Committee, YWCA Board, October 6, 1926, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 5. 83

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... our girls gymnasium class at the YMCA with an enrollment of 14 girls ... has not been especially successful. We doubt seriously ... whether there has been any real constructive educational work. It may perhaps even be with these teen age youngsters the moral effect of fostering their appreciation of a Man's building and of scheming to shirk respon sibility for paying legitimate fees even if small will be a lessening of their sense of values and thereby outweigh the slight value on the health side.103 Guinn frequently complained about the difficulty of collecting fees from youngsters in recreational programs, feeling that it showed a lack of responsibility and should not be allowed. The financial effects of the lack of payment were secondary, since the fees were so low. In January, 1927, she reported the increasing popularity of gym classes, especially basketball, but lamented that 11We still have to devise some method whereby the girls will come to realize the need of paying fees ... 1 04 As the decade of the 1920s came to a close, the Phyllis Wheatley Branch faced more pressing financial problems than the nonpayment of gym fees. A decade of tremendous growth of both activities and spirit among the women and girls in Five Points would give way to financial challenges which would threaten the very survival of the Branch. Black women were not new to hardship, however. Skilled at making much out of a little, the Phyllis Wheatley 103 Branch Monthly Report, Dorothy Guinn, November, 1926, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 11, Folder 234. 104 Branch Monthly Report, Dorothy Guinn, January, 1927, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 11, Folder 234. 84

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female fellowship pulled together during the Depression years, enabling them to provide vital services during their community's greatest hour of need. 85

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CHAPTER 5 FELLOWSHIP AND SURVIVAL IN THE 1930S These last few years when our economic standing has been so very insecure; when unemployment has been our great problem; when relief has played a part that we shall never forget; Phyllis Wheatley Branch has remembered that it was a part of a fellowship. We have shared even the little that we have had. At one time 53% self-supporting, and then only 28%, but trusting in His grace we go forward. Our heads are up. Nelsine Howard Campbell, 19351 Denver's YWCA worked during the 1930s to ameliorate conditions of unemployment and hardship in Five Points. Government relief and jobs programs which put an explicit priority on hiring young white males, mostly bypassed women, and minorities of both genders.2 The Civilian Conservation Corps established in 1933 accepted only males 18-25, and in Colorado sent black male recruits to segregated camps in New Mexico, Texas, and Arizona. 1 Campbell, p. 35 2 11Although willing to buck conventional attitudes that decreed that women would stay at home, FERA (Federal Emergency Relief Administration) still gave the bulk of its work to men, concentrating on tasks demanding heavy labor.11 Leonard, Trials, p. 50-51. 86

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Hispanics, who later formed 40% of Colorado CCC recruits by 1938, were likewise isolated in segregated projects.3 Black population in Denver in 1930 was 11,828, 60% living in Five Points neighborhood.4 A YWCA local study reported 1930 census figures as follows: 84% white, 10.9% foreign born white, 2.5% negro, and 2.7% "other races'' (2.4% of these defined as Mexican).5 The same report listed women's primary employment in four fields: the largest number in household (domestic) employment, clerical and steno, telephone operation, and retail clerking. While 45% of all women between the ages of 16 and 24 were household employees in 1930, factory employment for women in Denver was "scarce and seasonal. "6 Findings of an employment study by the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA and other black women's organizations in the early 1930s revealed that both black men and women were losing ground due to the Depression. For example, white women were being hired to replace black elevator operators at a lower wage at the Denver Dry Goods. TheEl Jebel Temple had similarly replaced 3 Leonard, Trials, p. 61. 4 Leonard, Trials, p. 42. 5 Program Study, 1938, Mildred Esgar, p. 15, YWCA Collection; CHS, Box 16, Folder 388. 6 Program Study, 1938, Mildred Esgar, p. 52, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 16, Folder 388. 87

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black waiters with less expensive white waitresses. The report claimed that housework worth $15.00 a year before, now brought $10.00. A maid's hours were routinely increased with no raise in pay, under threat of losing the position altogether. The report recommended a series of steps to ameliorate the situation, all of which encouraged members of the black community to assist each other in time of need. 11ln this time when jobs are scarce any defect is doubly noticeable. Because labor is plentiful, Negro labor has to stand a very severe test ... the question of efficiency cannot be overlooked, .. the report concluded, admonishing black women workers to avoid slovenly appearance, walking off with food from the larder, or noisy, quarrelsome, discourteous behavior on the bus to and from work. 7 The Federal Works Progress Administration in Denver was one of the largest operations in the western states. Blacks complained that few of the jobs were available to them, however. Black women were hired for a sewing project at Whittier School. The project was clearly segregated, and many complaints were registered. Administrator Mary F. Adams excused the policy of segregation by .. indicates merely an attempt at making convenient transportation arrangements for the colored people who live in the near 7 .. Findings of Representatives of Negro Women's Organizations in Recent discussions of Employment Conditions as they Affect Negro Women,11 (undated), c. 1930s, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 381. 88

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vicinity of the school. Paul Shriver, state head of the Works Progress Administration (WP A), claimed that "colored women were segregated as a result of their own desire." He claimed that Colorado's WP A had made special efforts to avoid racial discrimination. Yet, the National Youth Administration channelled black youths into "acceptable occupational fields" like auto-repair school and the black choir program.8 Many organizations mobilized to assist Denver's unemployed citizens. The Unemployed Citizens League, organized in 1932 claimed over 30,000 members in 22 district offices in Denver. 9 On October 29, 1934, unemployed Denverites of all races assembled at the State Capitol Building to protest lack of relief programs, and discrimination against blacks and Hispanics.1 0 Grace Methodist Church, headed by Reverend Edgar M. Wahlberg, was a 1930s action center for relief and community support programs. He organized the Grace Self-Help Cooperative, a food dispensary, clinic, and free barbershop. Partially funded by banker John Evans. Black dentist and Interracial 8 Leonard, Trials, p. 95. 9 Leonard, Trials, p. 40. 10 Leonard, Trials, p. 57. 89

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Commission member, Dr. Clarence Holmes, provided free dental care at Grace throughout the period.11 Relief for Spanish-speaking migrant workers was particularly acute during winter months, when over 5,000 were laid off and moved to Denver for help or temporary jobs. The YWCA's Industrial Department began organizing a female Agricultural Workers' Club around 1938, and lobbying with the Congress of Industrial Organizations (C.I.O.) Agricultural Workers' Union for fair labor laws as well as relief for farm workers.12 Work with Japanese household employees was carried out by the YWCA Industrial Program as well. Discrimination against minorities was frequent and public. For example August 17, 1932, brought the Washington-Park "race riot," when whites attacked blacks who wanted to swim in the lake. The Denver chapter of the NAACP was denied help from its national office in 1932 for a legal case against segregated swimming pools.13 These discriminatory practices did not go unchallenged, however. For example, Phyllis Wheatley and Central YWCA leaders were the mainstay of Denver's Interracial Commission during the 11 Leonard, Trials, p. 36. See also Edgar M. Wahlberg, Voices in the Darkness: A Memoir (Boulder: Roberts Rinehart, 1983). 12 "Narrative Report for the Industrial Department," YWCA Denver, September 1938 to September, 1939, p. 2-3, Box 15, Folder 378. 13 Leonard, Trials, p. 211. 90

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1930s. This multiracial group of male and female community leaders met monthly throughout the decade to plan and carry out anti-racism activities (see Chapter 6). The Depression years were times of hardship for Denver's YWCA in general. However, at no time did any program or service at the Phyllis Wheatley Branch have to be discontinued. In fact, the decade saw unprece dented growth of working women's clubs, specifically the Business and Professional Girls' Club and the Industrial Girls' Club. Programs for youth were as popular as ever, and each summer Camp Nizhoni received a new delegation of little girls into its "Camp family." As the decade of economic Depression began, the Phyllis Wheatley Committee of Management took stock of a decade of amazing accomplishments since the Branch was established. After many years of wise and dedicated leadership by Gertie Ross, the Branch welcomed Lillian Bondurant as their a new Chairwoman in 1930. Serving for over 12 years on the Committee of Management, and heading up many youth and camp programs, Bondurant had, according to Nelsine Campbell, "won the friendship and admiration of this body."14 A "faithful and ardent worker," Bondurant served for five years as Chair until 1935. She was also the first black woman 14 c ampbell, p. 33. 91

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to serve on Central's Finance Committee, where "many progressive and lasting accomplishments of the organization were realized under her leadership."15 In 1937, Mrs. Fairfax Richey Holmes, now the wife Dr. Clarence Holmes took the reins as Branch Committee of Management Chair. Nelsine Howard Campbell wrote affectionately of the first generation that had wisely invested their energies in the future of the Branch: That first group has thinned out. The remaining members have ripened into the fullness of experience, rich with ther mellowing which added years bring into the lives of open minded, humanity loving souls. The little girls are now the mothers of girls and boys, some of them are still active in the branch.16 Celebrating their 20th Anniversary of affiliation with the YWCA in 1936, Branch leadership also acknowledged their cordial relationship with the Central YWCA: "The co-operation with Central Association has been of the type that to us as we look along the line, there comes a realization of growth on both sides."17 National Secretary Cordelia Winn, in town for the 15 Historical Sketch, c. 1940, p. 1. 16 c ampbell, p. 5. 17 Campbell, p. 30. The Committee of Management reported a large celebration of the Phyllis Wheatley Branch's 30th birthday at Central's Annual Meeting. Gertie Ross gave her reminiscences of the Branch, while the Bon Amici girls provided music. Cordelia Winn gave the keynote address. The Central Board included two new members from the Branch, Mrs. Fairfax Holmes and Mrs. Geraldine Lightner. Minutes, Phyllis Wheatley Branch Committee of Management, January 9, 1936, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 383. 92

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Anniversary banquet, reported that the national office was pushing for additiona] black representation on central boards across the nation, and that one additional Branch representative would be serving on Denver's Board. Winn made clear to Phyllis Wheatley leadership that this responsibility was not to be taken lightly, recommending that Branch representatives "should make every effort to participate, to not only receive ... but to make a contribution to the thinking of the whole."1 8 The 1930s would bring new challenges and opportunities, as the YWCA organization inched its way toward a more interracial approach to leadership. Many lessons of experience had resulted from decades of organizing among black women in the YWCA. Of these lessons, perhaps the most important to the survival of the black branches was to pass on the skills of being an "interracial interpreter." Leaders who were adept at diplomacy, listening, and presenting what both blacks and whites wanted to hear, were prized by local and national YWCA associations. In keeping with the new interracial challenges predicted, Cordelia Winn and Frances Williams offered frank words of wisdom to the growing ranks of black Branch Executive Secretaries in their 1934 national handbook entitled "Current Administrative 18 Cardella Winn to Phyllis Wheatley Branch, March 31, 1936, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 383. 93

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Practices in the YWCA: Outgrowths of Our Interracial Structure." According to the handbook, the Negro Secretary lives in an atmosphere in which she is considered first as a Negro and next as a person ... She is faced continually with the fact that she can hope to go only just so far ... Negroes of the com munity expect her to make the white people of the YWCA perfect. They expect her to see that all their conduct is what Negroes call Christian -which is, of course far in excess of their demands on themselves ... White people ... expect the colored secretary to keep the colored people in a cooperative mood. She is supposed by instinct to understand all Negroes ... consis tently in a position of having her work judged ... as a piece of work done by a colored person; judgements are therefore warped.19 Dorothy Guinn, Branch Executive Secretary from 1926 to 1932, exhibited a notable ability to cheerfully accomplish these aims. "Her courage in facing issues, her fairness, her loyalty to her committee, her love for her race, all these. things mingled with dignity and pose, were points recognized by us and also by her Central friends."20 As an indication of her overall competence, Guinn generated dozens of articulate, detailed, and candid monthly reports which revealed much about the life of the Branch during her tenure during the late 1920s and early 1930s. Guinn and her assistant, Girls Work 1 9 Cordelia Winn and Frances Williams, "Current Administrative Practices in the YWCA: Outgrowths of Our Interracial Structure." c. 1930s, not dated, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 381. 20 c ampbell, p. 32. 94

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Secretary Elizabeth Wood generated unprecedented enthusiasm for the YWCA among both working women and adolescent girls. Miss Escobedo Sarreals, an ambitious young graduate of Fisk University, replaced Guinn in 1932. Like so many before her, she served the Branch until she was married. In 1936, she became Mrs. Cardoza Posey. For reasons that are unclear, Sarreals did not have the wholehearted support of national staff, who advised in 1936 that she not be rehired: 11Miss Sarreals' usefulness to the YWCA in Denver and to the community is over, and that she has not grown in her job."21 Sarreals seemed better able to communicate with people in her own community, however. A strong letter of support for Sarreals from four prominent black community and church leaders offered a different perspective on Sarreals' contribution: 11She has worked ardently to serve the women and girls of the Race ... her work in Denver has surely not ended."22 Perhaps Sarreals did not quite fit the YWCA model of interracial interpreter, but she worked hard against racist practices in the community at large. In addition to her heavy duties at the Branch, Sarreals was active on the city's Interracial Commission, where she often volunteered to head up projects 21 Cardella Winn to Phyllis Wheatley Branch, March 31, 1936, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 383. 22 Reverend Rahming, Holy Redeemer Church, Reverend Calhoun, Cleaves Church, Reverend Russell Brown, Shorter A.M.E., and J. S. Patten, New Hope Baptist to Denver YWCA Board of Directors, March 10, 1936, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 383. 95

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and committees. Branch histories described Sarreals as "fearless and competent."23 After Sarreals' tenure ended, morale seemed to have improved, for the work grew "by leaps and bounds" d1,1ring the administration of Lillian EuDailey, Branch Executive Secretary starting in 1936.24 Another individual who contributed greatly to the life of the Branch was Hattie Starr, the beloved and legendary Branch housekeeper and matron. Starr came to Branch upon her arrival in Denver in 1929, and remained a fixture for at least two decades. After a decade of problems with "splendid" and "not so splendid" housekeepers, Starr's arrival was deemed a watershed in the history of the Branch. ... It seemed the machine had gotten the right operator," recalled Nelsine Campbel1.25 Credited with creating the homey, cozy atmosphere of the Branch house, Starr served .... as a mother and big sister to the staff, to the guests in the Residence arid to all the constituency of the Association. What would Phyllis Wheatley do without her?"26 Eight girls relied upon Branch assistance to remain in the Residence during 1930. $62.50 in past due rent was on the books that year. Unemployed boarders were offered the use of kitchen facilities when they couldn't pay for 23 Campbell, p. 33. 24 Historical Sketch, c. 1940, p. 3. 25 Campbell, p. 29. 26 Historical Sketch, c. 1940, p. 3. 96

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meals, as well as reduced fees for recreational activities. Few other records exist of the number of paying women housed during the 1930s, but the house remained full of boarders nonetheless. No one was as aware of the effects of the Depression as were members of the Branch staff. "How the Phyllis Wheatley Branch is affected by the Present Economic Depression and What is Being Done About It?" read the title of a 1930 Report of the Branch Employment Department written by Branch Secretary, Dorothy Guinn.27 This report provides a snapshot of the economic crisis in Denver's black community, of increased unemployment, wage reductions, deterioration of working conditions, and dependency on charity. Job inquiries had soared from 38 per month in 1929 to 98 per month in 1930. "We have to try to preserve wage levels, for with the large number of women out of work there is a tendency to offer a lower wage ... We try to make girls who are inclined to give up jobs hold to them as long as possible .. Many who had been earning $6.00 to $7.00 per week, were now offered $5.00 at best.28 Unemployment stalled the education and career plans of some women served by the Branch. Part time jobs for students were becoming difficult to 27 Phyllis Wheatley Employment Department Report, Fiscal Year 1930, Box 14, Folder 352.* 28 Phyllis Wheatley Employment Department Report, Fiscal Year 1930, p. 1, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 14, Folder 352. 97

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obtain. "The college type of girl is perhaps more depressed than the laborer whose work is even in normal times more or less irregular." Guinn's 1930 Report further indicated that members of the "Industrial" economic group to which the majority of Branch membership belonged, had been severely curtailed in their ability to maintain membership fees. For example, wives of Pullman Porters reported that unless their husbands had been employed by the railroad for more than five years, the likelihood of layoffs was imminent. Many would have to postpone payment of non-essential expenses like YWCA dues.29 Guinn went on to emphasize the impact of racial discrimination during times of economic crisis: ... our added burden is evident when, as is so often the case, the racial element is injected into the employment situation. In several instances white persons hunting for work has [sic] re quested that they be placed where Negroes are working ... If ever there was a time to strengthen bonds of interracial under standing and friendship, it is now when people are in a state of emotional tension.30 The Employment Bureau at the Branch reported in 1938 that still over 75% of those registered for employment were not placed. Some Branch 29 Phyllis Wheatley Employment Department Report, Fiscal Year 1930, p. 1, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 14, Folder 352.* 30 Phyllis Wheatley Employment Department Report, Fiscal Year 1930, p. 1, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 14, Folder 352.* 98

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workers who felt overwhelmed with the burden of finding solutions to the myriad of social problems they encountered, blamed the unemployed women themselves. Perhaps this was a reflection of class differences between the relatively well-educated YWCA staffers and their working class charges. For example, one job counselor attributed unemployment problems to 11lack of training, appearance problems, and transiency... Frustrated workers felt unequipped to help, and demanded more support from city agencies and the Central YWCA.31 Despite a lull in membership when economic hard times first hit, one club which became quite active in the i930s was the Business and Professional Girls Club, spearheaded in 1931 by Chairwoman Addye Lightner and 29 other members.32 The group promoted programs for professional secretaries and office personnel, and was a center of activity by more educated constituency of Denver's working black women. Well organized, self sufficient, and assertive, the B&P Girls Club also nurtured a closer relationship with its white counterpart at Central than any other Branch group. The group sponsored educational conferences and fundraising events. A Branch B & P Girls .;; 31 "Personal Counseling Annual Report, .. Denver YWCA, September, 1938 -September, 1939, p. 2-3, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 378. 32 Campbell, p. 30. 99

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representative always attended national conventions, ensuring an infusion of ideas and enthusiasm. No matter how idealistic about the prospect of an inclusive and racially integrated YWCA, these young working women were constantly reminded of the pervasive racism in the society at large. One incident in Denver drew national attention in 1939. The Denver B & P Girls Club (Branch and Central) had been asked to plan a banquet for the group's national meeting. According to the organizers, "Clearance had been made as to Negro girls attending the banquet. Later ... .it was found that the Olin Hotel on Grant Street would not allow Negroes the use of the rooms." The B & P Club immediately withdrew its reservation on the grounds that "one department in the Association could not honestly patronize hotels which discriminated against any of its constituency." The manager agreed to house the black women "as an experiment," but then refused to allow them in the dining room. The Club voted to go ahead with the Olin event, feeling that some progress had been made, and that "on the next occasion it would be possible to go the whole way." The incident provoked anger, but effectively brought black and white women together in "a definite strengthening of a spirit of oneness on the part of the club girls with[in] ... Association life."33 33 National Board Report, 1939, Central YWCA Business and Professional Girls Department, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 378. 100

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Employed women formed another active and growing group in 1931, the Young Employed Girls. Organized by Associate Executive Secretary Miss Mary Elizabeth Wood, the club was for girls just out of high school who were inexperienced in the job market and searching for career options. Nelsine Campbell enthusiastically described the group as a ... splendid club of girls, alive, alert, inquiring ... They are altogether lovely."34 Wood was the mainstay of motivational work with these young women, whose prospects must have seemed dim during economic hard times. Praised for her ability to build better interracial relationships, Wood was recruited in 1937 for the Executive Secretary position at the Newark, New Jersey Colored Branch. The YWCA Industrial Girls Club, which had gotten a great start during the 1920s, continued its active program for factory, domestic, and laundry workers throughout the depression decade. The club's official purpose was To help girls in industry to live a fuller and more active life, through developing stronger bodies and keener minds; to help break down social and personal barriers; to obtain spiritual development through every day living; and through developing a higher ideal to raise industrial standards. 35 A 1938-40 scrapbook listed four officers and 23 members actively engaged in home economics classes, dance parties, "Hobby Nights," and fundraisers. 34 Campbell, p. 31. 35 Phyllis Wheatley Branch Industrial Club Scrapbook, 1938-40, Scrapbook #38, YWCA Collection, CHS. 101

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The Industrial Girls also maintained a lending library with a wide variety of such works as W.E.B. Dubois' The Negro, James Weldon Johnson's Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, novels The Secret Garden and Babbitt, and even Buffalo Bill Cody's Life and Daring Deeds of Buffalo Bi11.36 One interesting project of the Industrial Girls was a "Cost of Living Study for Household Employees." The project's purpose was to gather information on expenses and spending habits of domestic workers, so as to give better advice on personal budgeting to women on low incomes. 37 "We are particularly eager to get a real cross section of workers," organizers stated in 1939, "since one of the criticisms of last year's attempt was that we had a majority of better paid workers."38 The statistics gathered in the household employee surveys helped bolster the YWCA's lobbying efforts for a state minimum wage for women workers. Testimony of YWCA representatives and laundry workers before the Colorado Industrial Commission on April 21, 1938, revealed that laundry employees averaged necessary expenses of over $16.00 per week, while they 36 Wheatley Branch Industrial Girls Scrapbook, 1938-40, Scrapbook 38, YWCA Collection, CHS. 37 National Board Report, Phyllis Wheatley Branch, 1939, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 378. 38 Phyllis Wheatley Branch Industrial Girls Scrapbook, 1938-40, Scrapbook 38, YWCA Collection, CHS. Instruction survey forms, and project descriptions are included in the records, but unfortunately not the results. 102

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were receiving as low as $12.40 per week. A coalition of four Denver women's groups argued for a $17.30 per week minimum wage, which should be forced upon employers who had chosen to exploit female labor.39 The Bon Amici Club (Good Friends) for "Not Yet Employed Out of School Youth" aged 16-25 got its start at the Branch in the 1930s as well. Three National Youth Administration workers assisted in activities and classes for this group as part time workers paid by Uncle Sam.4 Classes were offered in drama, crafts, home-making, and Negro history. "Informal periods for self expression," and marriage preparation lectures attracted larger audiences. The club also offered job counseling for those who still believed a job was to be had.41 YWCA workers felt an obligation to "tame" the spunky young 39 "Minimum Wage Hearing" Testimony, April 21, 1938, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 364. The organizations in the coalition included the League of Women Shoppers, the YWCA, the League of Women Voters, and the Colorado Council of Federated Church Women. 40 The National Youth Administration was headed by Mary McCloud Bethune, the first black woman to serve in a high ranking position in a presidential administration. The NY A workers put in two hours each per week. Another section of the report indicates that two WP A recreational leaders assisted with the "playground group." Report of Henrietta Ridley, Activities Secretary, National Board Report, Phyllis Wheatley Branch, 1939, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 378. Mrs. Bethune visited Denver on April 15, 1938. A mass meeting featuring Bethune was held at Shorter Church, as well as an informal multi-organizational tea at the Central YWCA. Minutes, Phyllis Wheatley Branch Committee of Management, March 14, 1938 and April 11, 1938, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 383. 41 National Board Report, Phyllis Wheatley Branch, September, 1938September, 1939, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 378. 103

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women of this age group, who tended to have a lot of time on their hands and a lot of energy. A 1939 Drama class teacher reported: "Yes, there were some changes in the social behavior of some of the girls ... [they have] learned not to be so boisterous and loud. They had more poise."42 The Young Married Women's Club at the Branch was an effort to reach newly married women who felt isolated from female companionship. It may also have served as a recruiting ground for new members. As early as 1926, Branch Secretary Dorothy Guinn had commented on the problems caused by "personnel of our family consisting more of old women than girls."43 Sex education, gardening, and sewing classes, together with fashion shows, current affairs discussions, and child psychology lectures attracted young wives to the Branch and to YWCA membership. By 1939, the Branch boasted an extremely active youth program. Youngsters in the Girl Reserves remained enthusiastic in the 1930s under the guidance of Elizabeth Wood and others. They formed junior and high school clubs with names like the "Be-hoppers," "We, Us & Company," and "The Flames," along side the "Poinsettias," "Bluebirds," and "Frihola" clubs for grade 42 National Board Report, Phyllis Wheatley Bon Amici Club, 1939, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 378. 43 Branch Monthly Report, Dorothy Guinn, September 15 -November 1, 1926, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 11, Folder 234. 104

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school girls.44 Gertie Ross and 23 committee members headed up the Branch Committee for Work With Young Girls. They divided into six project areas: Leadership, Camp, Health and Recreation, Vocational Guidance, Program, and a Parent Council. The ever popular sex education lectures by Dr. Searle and others rounded out the ambitious youth program. During the late 1930s, Branch and Central leaders were creating more opportunities for young girls of different races to socialize and work on. projects together. Activities Secretary Henrietta Ridley reported that "[Girl Reserves] advisors have sensed the need to help girls in becoming articulate, to encourage cooperation in club programs, to break down cliques, and to create a spirit of friendliness ... "45 In keeping with this spirit, the head of Girl Reserves at Central, Mary Boyd wrote to the Branch reporting that" ... the Girl Reserve Department of Central Branch ... has had a very happy working relationship with the Girls' Work Department at the Phyllis Wheatley Branch and would like to enjoy that relationship in all activities."46 Both Girl Re-44 Girl Reserve Program, c. 1935 (not dated), YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 385; National Board Report, Phyllis Wheatley Branch, 1939, Report of Henrietta Ridley, Activities Secretary, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 378. 45 National Board Report, Phyllis Wheatley Branch, Report of Activities Secretary Henrietta Ridley, 1939, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 378. 46 Mary Boyd (Chair of Central Girl Reserves) to Mrs. Westbrook (Phyllis Wheatley Branch), January 8, 1940, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 383. The recommendation was adopted by the Committee of Management. 105

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serve departments agreed to work as interracial teams for the upcoming citywide Financial Campaign (although the Branch as a whole planned to form separate black teams). With little fanfare, the celebrated Phyllis Wheatley youth basketball team was the first to break the racial barrier at the Central swimming pool in 1939. After practice at the Central gymnasium (which had only recently been allowed), the basketball coach Vera Duncan organized an informal interracial swimming party, which was reported to be "acceptable to all groups."47 One interesting interracial experiment was the establishment in 1938 of a YWCA Girl Reserves Club at Denver's Manual High School. The Club was explicitly interracial, and "any girl joining would have to believe in this principle if she wished to be a Girl Reserve."48 The club took off, and soon it had elected a Japanese girl as president, with a membership of Chinese, Mexican, and white girls of "different nationality background." Perhaps because they preferred the all-black Girl Reserve Clubs at Phyllis Wheatley, three black girls joined initially, but soon only one remained active.49 47 National Board Report, Ridley Report, 1939, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 378. 48 Annual Report, Girl Reserve Department, YWCA Denver, 1938-39, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 378. 49 Annual Report, Girl Reserve Department, YWCA Denver, 1938-39, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 378. 106

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During the early 1930s, resources for camp activities and building maintenance at Camp Nizhoni were at an all time low. Nevertheless, 20-30 girls eagerly made the trip to Lincoln Hills each summer. Two Denver businessmen donated $350 to Camp Nizhoni in 1933, allowing for "the best camp year we ever had," according to Nelsine Campbell. A similar donation followed for the next two years, making it possible for girls in plaid shirts and blue jeans to enjoy the wilderness experience during the depths of the Depres sion. 50 That same year, the YWCA Central Board adopted the following resolution accepting the Lincoln Hills property as the Phyllis Wheatley Branch camp site, in compliance with the desires of the property donors: ... Whereas, the said real estate has been conveyed to the Young Women's Christian Association of Denver, Colorado with the intention and for the purpose of making a gift to the colored people through the Phyllis Wheatley Branch ... and that the said property should be hereafter used and controlled by the said Phyllis Wheatley Branch ... that said property shall not be sold, mortgaged, conveyed, or any action affecting the title thereof be taken by this Association without the request in writing by the said Committee of Management of the said Phyllis Wheatley Branch ... 51 5 Campbell, p. 26-27. The benefactors were Mr. Gregory and Mr. McClain, executors for the Schlier estate. The pair also donated $1500 for the remodelling of the Phyllis Wheatley Branch club room at 2460 Welton Street. 51 Board Minutes, January, 1933, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 6. When the camp was sold in the 1940s, controversy erupted over the provisions of this resolution, whereby the former owner insisted on compliance such that the Phyllis Wheatley Branch would get the proceeds from the sale. YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 43, Folder 1058. 107

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Baked beans, cider, wieners, and gingerbread were served amid the sounds of camp songs and games which marked the great Camp Nizhoni Reunion in November, 1937. Gertie Ross and her committee on Work Among Young Girls were bound and determined to maintain interest in summer camp at Lincoln Hills. Enrollment for the 1939 summer session was "very favorable," especially since the Community Chest was to pay the expenses of 25 girls. Success was measured in lesser degrees of debt. Ross reported 1939 camp revenues of over $1000 and only a $216 deficit.52 The Branch held another Indian Pow Wow Camp Reunion to celebrate the survival of Colorado's only Negro camp, attracting over 131 attendees.53 While new interracial experimentation was taking place among youth in the 1930s, sentiment was growing in the YWCA as a whole that progress in race relations was moving along too slowly. Even Eva Bowles, who had advocated the patient, gradualist approach for her entire YWCA career, resigned in protest to the National Board's decision to phase out the Colored Department in 1931. When Bowles resigned in 1932, she lamented that her objective "to have Negro women share fully and equally in all activities" was 52 Minutes, Committee of Management, April 10, 1939, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 383. National Board Report, 1939, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 378. 53 National Board Report, 1939, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 378. 108

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not fulfilled. She felt the reorganization drastically "diminished participation of Negroes in the policy-making of the Association."54 In 1936, the National Convention of the YWCA gathered. Unprecedented debate took place on the urgent need to eliminate prejudice and racism in the organization. A National Resolution resulted: Associations should continue to work for the building of a society nearer to the Kingdom of God by attempting to create within the Association a fellowship in which barriers of race, nationality, education and social status are broken down in the pursuit of the common objective of a better life for aii.55 The National YWCA Office was directed to conduct investigations around the country on the status of black women in the life of the organization. Denver's Phyllis Wheatley Branch obediently answered a national questionnaire about the local organization, dated January 30, 1937 as follows: "What is the stated purpose of the Denver Phyllis Wheatley Branch? To provide an opportunity for colored Women and Girls in Denver to share in the fellowship of the Christian women of Denver, of the United States, and of the World." The questionnaire went on to ask for more specifics: "Are any phases of program carried out by the Board of Directors restricted in regard to 54 Bowles quoted in Adrienne Lash Jones, in Hine, Encyclopedia, p. 152. 55 Resolution adopted at 1936 YWCA National Convention, included in 1946 YWCA Interracial Charter. 109

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participation in them by Branch constituency? Yes. By what action? We do not know. When? Prior to 1931. Upon the basis of race? Yes."56 The feed back from these questionnaires prompted a directive for each local association to conduct a "Program Study" to determine how YWCA resources could best be utilized by the community at large. "Our first big task," lectured National Regional Secretary Helen Flack during her Denver visit in late 1937, "[is the] problem of pulling together ... the necessity of finding likenesses instead of differences ... [there are many] problems affecting people ... out of work, war between countries, ... you cannot work in the YWCA and have prejudices against each other."57 Both black and white women sat on Denver's Program Study Committee, which was overseen by Mildred Esgar of the National staff. Esgar compiled the results in a 1938 Program Study Report. Denver's 1938 Program Study Report began with an historical overview of how the association had viewed internal race relations in the past. It cited a 56 The questions refer to the unwritten policy of allowing only white YWCA members to vote in Annual Board of Directors Elections. This policy had been common -practice around the country ever since black branches began. 1936-37 National Study of all Branches, Denver Phyllis Wheatley Branch Report, January 30, 1937, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 384. 57 Minutes, Committee of Management, December 13, 1937, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 383. 110

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1927 Denver Association Report which defined the need for separate black and white "centers": We have come to believe that ... diversity must be recognized and plans must be made for developing groups separately so that the leadership in each group may emerge, and that, having developed this leadership ... we associate them together in the work of the YWCA. 5 8 In contrast to this earlier commitment to separation, the 1938 Program Study committed itself to the "growing conception of membership as fellowship, united by common purpose and striving to live out its ideals of social justice and interracial and international good wili.59 The Study sought to identify differences of opinion about the "actual objectives" toward which they were working and "confusions about the relationship of various units of work to each other," i.e. the Branch and Central organizations. The report estimated that the constituency of the Denver YWCA was approximately 93% white and 7% negro.60 The white constituency was "primarily from the highest economic status ... The Association attracts a rather privileged group." In contrast, "because of the situation in which 58 Program Study, 1938, Mildred Esgar, p. 11, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 16, Folder 388. 59 Program Study, 1938, Mildred Esgar, p. 11, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 16, Folder 388. 60 Program Study, 1938, Mildred Esgar, p. 15, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 16, Folder 388. 111

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segregation on the basis of race is a pattern of community life," the Branch constituency came mostly from low economic status (with some participation from "medium" economic neighborhoods).61 Noting that while the Phyllis Wheatley Branch had done a good job of mobilizing black women, the report found that "only incidental consideration has been given to the ... problems of women of foreign background." This critique was one of the first of many to. surface about lack of work by the Phyllis Wheatley Branch among foreigners or other people of color, especially Mexican-Americans. Apparently national's assumption was that blacks rather than whites bore the burden of working among non-whites of all varieties, without taking into account lack of resources or cultural barriers. In this report, no similar critique was made of the Central organization, in part because their resources allowed for some limited programs for Spanish-speaking and Japanese youth. Another explanation might have been that Central wasn't expected to carry out this work. 62 On organizational matters, the report recommended the immediate discontinuation of the unwritten practice of Phyllis Wheatley members not 61 Program Study, 1938, Mildred Esgar, p. 19, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 16, Folder 388. 62 Program Study, 1938, Mildred Esgar, p. 16, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 16, Folder 388. 112

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being eligible to vote for Board of Directors.63 Further, the report hinted at the need for integrating the recreational facilities at the Tremont building: .. there is one Association with headquarters on Tremont Place, to be available to all members."64 Association Board and committees should endeavor to include Branch representatives "in sufficient numbers to assure effective functioning on the part of these representatives," the report advised. Last but most importantly, Esgar praised and confirmed the important role that the Phyllis Wheatley Branch played in a still segregated community.65 Esgar's report reflects the beginnings of more open debate over the extent to which the Central Board should have authority over decisions of the Branch Committee of Management. During the investigation phase, many questions had arisen which were "all too familiar throughout the country. They are related to autonomy," reported Esgar. The questions focused especially on Finance and Personnel, electoral status of members, and "greater participation of Negroes in activities and in the use of equipment." Other questions came 63 Program Study, 1938, Mildred Esgar, p. 38, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 16, Folder 388. 64 Program Study, 1938, Mildred Esgar, p. 100, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 16, Folder 388. 65 Program Study, 1938, Mildred Esgar, p. 100-101, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 16, Folder 388. 113

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up regarding the organization of Branch and the "complicated structure which had been developed there."66 Esgar concluded from her study of Denver that It is perfectly clear that, on the one hand, the Branch is regarded as an autonomous unit, but ... in actual practice this is not true. The Branch does determine its own program. It also draws up its own Budget, ... but, ... it is the Board of Directors which has the 'authority' for determining the budget of the whole Association ... it has seemed sometimes that the 'Central' Finance and Personnel Committees were in position to reverse the recommendations ... of the Branch.67 Committee of Management Minutes during the period of Esgar's study corroborate her reports of controversial matters surrounding finance and autonomy. For example, on March 8, 1937, Gertie Ross, Addye Lightner and others expressed dismay over a $7000 across the board cut in citywide YWCA budget. ... Our Budget could not be cut any more," Ross insisted. Instead she called for an immediate Branch membership drive to increase the rolls to 500. Another cost-saving suggestion was offered: instead of paying rent to the black YMCA gym, perhaps the Branch should use the Central YWCA gym at no charge. This suggestion, while it revealed the ironies of the Branch/Central 66 Program Study, Mildred Esgar, 1938, p. 108; "Why do we not vote throughout the whole association?" asked the Committee of Management. They also raised the question of whether employment opportunities for black women were being made available at Central. Minutes, Committee of Management, May 23, 1938, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 383. 67 Program Study, 1938, Mildred Esgar, p. 108-110. 114

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racial divide, was immediately quashed by Ross, for "all girls might not feel free to go to the Central YWCA ... [W]ithdrawal from the YMCA might create a new division in the Glenarm YMCA and we should keep the comradery [sic] ... "68 By the end of the year, the Branch reported almost $500 in new memberships. There were "so many new members that there is a need to 'interpret' the YWCA at an upcoming orientation."69 In an effort to democratize Branch and Central financial decisions, the Interracial Committee told the Committee of Management in June, 1938 that it would be "putting emphasis on the point of budget making, [and] doing away with budget and finance committees at the Branch."70 A "new setup" was announced in October, combining various committees and allowing for three representatives from the Committee of Management on the All Association Finance Committee?1 Branch leaders warned their constituency that "[W]e must be on the alert to think through the problems which arise and the needs 68 Minutes, Committee of Management, March 8; 1937, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 383. It should be noted that if black girls and women could ever use the Central gym, it was only during very limited separate "colored" hours. 69 Minutes, Committee of Management, November 8, 1937, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 383. 70 Minutes, Committee of Management, June 13, 1938, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 383. 71 Minutes, Committee of Management, October 10, 1938, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 383. 115

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of the Branch in order that we may properly interpret them when the occasion arises to ... the All Association Committees."72 The Branch's new input into Central's budget committee seemed to have had little effect. By mid 1939, the Phyllis Wheatley Branch learned that there would be no budget increases for two years. Despite economic hard times, Phyllis Wheatley Branch remained a vital center offering a myriad of activities for women and girls in the Five Points community during the 1930s. Paid memberships soared to 400 after a 1939 "Know Your YWCA Day" attracted over 125 people?3 With the exception of a $100 cut in the coal budget, the Branch politely rebuffed Central's end of year request to further cut the Branch budget.74 They voted instead to organize their own fundraising teams for the upcoming $100,000 citywide Stabilization Finance Campaign. As the New Year ushered in a decade of new challenges, two hundred women gathered at Shorter A.M.E. Church for the first Annual Meeting of the 1940s. They bragged about the $3000 they had raised themselves in the 72 Minutes, Committee of Management, November 14, 1938, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 383. This meeting refers to Esgar's Program Study. 73 National Board Report, Phyllis Wheatley Branch, 1939, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 378. 74 Minutes, Committee of Management, December 11, 1939, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 383. 116

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fundraising campaign.75 The stage had been set for an escalation in the struggle over YWCA priorities and the autonomy of the Phyllis Wheatley Branch. Mildred Esgar had given the Branch a tall order: Because of the social factors affecting the life of Negroes in American society, the Phyllis Wheatley Branch has the two-fold function of devising ways of making the YWCA indigenous to the community and at the same time sharing more and more in the life of the whole Association.76 75 National Board Report, Phyllis Wheatley Branch, 1939, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 378. 76 Program Study, 1938, Mildred Esgar, p. 110. 117

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CHAPTER 6 THE YWCA AND DENVER'S INTERRACIAL COMMISSION: 1924-1935 Denver has become an outstanding city for international interest and understanding and may become so in interracial matters. We should go ahead aggressively and perhaps the city is ready for just such leadership. Experiments can be made in Denver that can't be attempted in other communities, and we may serve as a laboratory in racial education. --Denver Interracial Commission, 19331 Historian Dorothy Salem states that black women's role in the NAACP, Urban League, and other male-dominated interracial civil rights groups has long been neglected by historians. But Salem, Evelyn Higginbotham, and other scholars have recently begun to close that gap by revealing that black women were often the main agents building grass roots support for civil rights efforts in many communities. The women were well armed with organizational experience gained in church and club activities.2 According to Higginbotham's study of women in the black Baptist Church for example, religious black women of many denominations joined together in clubs and 1 Denver Interracial Commission Minutes, March 16, 1933, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 369. 2 Salem, p. 145; Higginbotham, p. 15-17. 118

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community groups which 11transformed unknown and unconfident women into leaders and agents of social change and racial self-help.113 In Denver, churchwomen speerheaded some of the first organized efforts for black political and civil rights. As early as 1885, the Colored Ladies' Legal Rights Association was formed, followed in 1894 by the Colored Women's Republican Club.4 Women actively participated in the NAACP's Denver founding in 1915.5 Higginbotham further concludes from her study of 19th and 20th century African-American history, that women were particularly cognizant of the importance of gaining white support for their efforts, since 11Self help was not singularly capable, as it is not today capable, of combating tremendous inequality.116 Similar to earlier efforts among black and white Baptist women 3 Higginbotham, p. 17. 4 Dickson, Lynda, 11Toward a Broader Angle Vision in Uncovering Women's History: Black Women's Clubs Revisited,11 in Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black Women's History: Theory and Practice, vol 1, p. 104, from the series Black Women in United States History. vol. 9. 5 Denver East High graduates Beatrice Thompson and Gertie Ross helped organize NAACP branch in Denver, which was headed by George Gross, attorney George Ross, and Dr. Clarence Holmes. Salem, p. 170. Atkins, p. 114-115. 6 Higginbotham, p. 89. 119

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who were the subjects of Higginbotham's study, black and white women in the YWCA were leading advocates of building an interracial movement, both in their own organization and in the community at large. The close relationship between YWCA women and Denver's Interracial Commission in the late 1920s and 1930s bears out this observation. Largely through the influence of the YWCA and other national interracial groups like the NAACP, Denver's first Interracial Commission was founded in 1924 by Phyllis Wheatley Committee of Management Chairwoman, Gertie Ross, attorney W. W. Grant, Jr., Leslie and Addye Lightner and many others. According to historian James Atkins, 11The organizing of the Interracial Commission ... is evidence of progress in human relations especially since the Ku Klux Klan was a the peak of power locally and nationally.117 Gertie Ross claimed that the idea for the commission began when a group of YWCA women (both black and white) interested in the problems of blacks met to plan an organized campaign to tackle race prejudice in Denver's press, police 7 Atkins, p. 116. Denver Interracial Commission Minutes, December, 1931, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 369. Mr. Atkins fails to mention any of the founding women, however the above Commission minutes confirm Mrs. Ross' claim that women started it. See also Board Minutes, March 20, 1923, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 1, Folder 4, for further evidence of the early YWCA origins of the Commission. 120

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department, real estate practices, and recreational facilities.8 Hoping for a diversified effort, the women recruited black YMCA leaders, as well local white community leaders. The goal was a membership of 60, with equal numbers of blacks, whites, men, anq women community leaders.9 The work of the Denver Interracial Commission was particularly especially visible during the 1930s. It was an important community ally for the work of the Phyllis Wheatley Branch, and many YWCA activists participated in Commission projects. The Commission chose white attorney William West Grant, Jr., the wealthy nephew of former governor James Grant, as the first chairman. Members praised Grant as a man "who had well defined connections and who was courageous and not afraid of personal stigma and business risk."10 Grant served as Chair until February, 1932 when attorney Morrison Shafroth, 8 Dr. Ira De A. Reid's 1929 study of the black population in Denver was a major project of the Interracial Commission. Atkins, p. 116. See Reid, op.cit. 9 Denver Interracial Comm1ssion Minutes, Spring, 1935, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 369. 1 0 Denver Interracial Commission, Secretarial Committee (Steering Committee) Minutes, December, 1931, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 369. Grant, a prominent reformer in Denver's political scene, ran Mayor Quigg Newton's mayoral campaign in 1947 and unsuccessfully ran for mayor himself in 1962. Leonard/Noel, Denver, p. 243, 401. 121

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agreed to take charge. Shafroth, a reform Democrat and son of former Governor John Shafroth, had suffered political defeat at the hands of a Republican backed by the Ku Klux Klan eight years earlier. Mrs. Shafroth had long been an active member of the Central YWCA Board.11 By 1935, attorney John Gorsuch was at the helm. There seems to have been a consensus that a wealthy prominent white male lawyer made the best spokesperson for Denver's movement for racial equality. The record of the Commission's work, however, reflects that the group's successes were due to the hard work of activist foot soldiers who were usually the women and minority Commissioners. Virtually all of the women commissioners during the early 1930s were names from YWCA rolls, including Gertie Ross, Central YWCA board member Mrs. Harry Runnette (elected Vice President and Program Chair), former Central YWCA President Anna McClintock, Phyllis Wheatley Executive Dorothy Guinn, Committee of Management members Mrs. Escobedo Sarreals, Fairfax Holmes, and many others. Male commissioners included religious activist Reverend Edgar M. 11 Morrison Shafroth ( 1888-1978) was also the father-in-law of Denver Mayor Quigg Newton, elected in 1947. Leonard/Noel, Denver, p. 199, 498 (fn #5). Mrs. Morrison Shafroth's name appears as a member of the Board of Directors on YWCA letterhead as early as 1921. YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 6, Folder 107. 122

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Wahlberg of the "red and leftist" Grace Methodist Church, black physician Dr. Westbrook, black dentist Dr. Clarence Holmes, NAACP attorney George Ross, Glenarm YMCA Executive Director Fritz Cansler, Shorter A.M.E. Pastor Dr. Russell Brown, and others. The Commission met regularly during the 1920s and 1930s, providing a bold countercurrent during the intolerant heyday of the racist Ku Klux Klan in Denver. Among other things, Commissioners were responsible for organizing a Denver tradition, "Interracial Sunday," a series of ecumenical gatherings each year on the Sunday closest to Lincoln's birthday in February. These events brought Denverites of all races and religions together for prayer and to hear prominent national and local speakers. Services were held in large downtown churches like Trinity Methodist or Central Presbyterian.12 By the 1930s, participation went beyond black and white, and events expanded to fill an annual Race Relations Week. For example, on February 14, 1932, Japanese minister Dr. Waymura, and Reverend Candelaria of the SpanishSpeaking Presbyterian Church were invited to give sermons. Dr. George Washington Carver, James Weldon Johnson, Langston Hughes, and other 12 Denver Interracial Commission, Secretarial Committee (Steering Committee) Minutes, December, 1931, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 369. 123

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national figures were brought in each year.13 The annual event became almost "mainstream" when even Governor Ed Johnson issued a Race Relations Week Proclamation in February 12, 1932.14 Nationally acclaimed exhibits of Mrican-American art were sponsored by the Commission, as well as theater, music, and other programs celebrating black culture.15 13 Denver Interracial Commission Minutes, February 4, 1932, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 369. 14 Federal Council Bulletin, Deriver Interracial Commission Minutes, March, 1933, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 369. The popular "Big Ed" Johnson's proclamation was ironic since many of his actions epitomized intolerance. New Deal supporters severely criticized him for his callous attitude toward the unemployed and for blockading the Colorado border to keep "indigent and alien Mexicans" out of Colorado in 1936. Leonard, Trials, p. 69, 75-80. Additionally, ex-Governor Johnson made statements wholeheartedly supporting the internment of Japanese-Americans in the early 1940s. Leonard/Noel, Denver, p. 232. 15 Denver Art Museum founder and philanthropist Anne Evans agreed to organize "exhibit of Negroid art" for Race Relations Week in 1933. Denver Interracial Commission Minutes, January 26, 1933, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 369. Emperor Jones was performed at Denver University in 1932. Denver Interracial Commission Minutes, February 25, 1932, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 369. Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes was invited to Denver in June, 1932, although there is no confirmation that he actually came. Denver Interracial Commission Minutes, May 20, 1932, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 369. Mrs. Gertie Ross and Anne Evans worked on bringing the "Harmon Exhibit" to Chappell House in Denver in 1935, but no details about the exhibit content or its apparent significance appear in the minutes. Denver Interracial Commission Minutes, October 9, 1934, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 369. 124

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During the 1930s, the Interracial Commission discussed and acted on many issues which reveal the heavy burden faced by Denver blacks during the Depression. At the prodding of a group of fifteen women founders chaired by YWCA leader Mrs. Harry Runette, the Commission sought to re-energize itself in 1931 by combining study, education, and action in areas which had become priorities. Overall, the group agreed to be more action oriented, and to discuss tactics as well as problems. The evidence suggests that they achieved some small successes. The first urgent priority the Commission identified was the need to agitate for more inclusion of blacks in New Deal jobs programs and relief efforts. Minutes claimed that only 2 blacks out of 150 were employed daily in Denver "make-work" programs. Black female applications for jobs had increased 58% in one year since 1930, since whites increasingly competed for low-paying housework positions.16 Letter after letter was sent to employers and to Mr. Jesse F. Welborn, head of the Citizens Relief Committee requesting more jobs for unemployed blacks. Two black women were added 16 Denver Interracial Commission Minutes, January 13, 1932 and January 14, 1932, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 369. 125

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as relief workers as a result of the pressure.17 A minuscule increase amounted to a fifty percent rise in the rate of black WP A job assignments, as reported in February, 1932: from 2 per 150 to 4 per 150.18 Another project was to promote city sponsorship of "unemployed gardens," an idea which was met with little enthusiasm by the city's water department.19 Progress seemed to come at a snail's pace. Finally in 1935, Federal Emergency Relief Administrator (F.E.R.A.) Robert Beasely admitted that there was a problem of black under-representation in relief and jobs programs. At the urging of the Interracial Commission, Beasely agreed to hire 20 people to conduct a YMCA supervised survey of Denver's black work force, with a goal of an employment program for blacks by November.20 17 Denver Interracial Commission Minutes, January 13, 1932, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 369. 18 Denver Interracial Commission Minutes, February 4, 1932, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 369. 19 Denver Interracial Commission Minutes, May 20, 1932, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 369. 20 Robert Beasely to Reverend V. V. Loper, May 24, 1935, and unidentified clipping, August 22, 1935, in Denver Interracial Commission Minutes, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 369. No reference has yet been found as to the outcome of the study, or whether it still exists in some printed form. 126

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Commissioners suggested other action items, ranging from picketing to desegregate movie theaters and housing, to promoting black history, art, and literature. Aided by a threatened NAACP lawsuit, the Commission successfully challenged the City of Denver to discontinue restricted hours for minorities and to remove signs designating 11Negro Day, .. 11Mexican Day .. and 11Mixed Day .. at the Municipal Bath House.21 They resisted efforts by the city to provide more 11Colored11 facilities (playgrounds, swimming beaches, etc.) as a way to resolve the conflict, arguing instead that blacks should have full access to all publicfacilities.22 The all-white hiring practices of the Denver Public School system was challenged by the Commission, who demanded black teachers and staff in predominantly black schools. A small victory was declared when a black assistant janitor was hired at the all-black Whittier Elementary School in 1932.23 Finally, in October, 1934, the Commission 21 Denver Interracial Commission Minutes, May 23, 1934, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 369. 22 Denver Interracial Commission Minutes, May 20, 1932, and October 19, 1932, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 369. 23 Denver Interracial Commission Minutes, February 4, 1932 and April 25, 1932, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 369. 127

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reported that Miss Burdine, who they claimed was the first black school teacher in Denver Public Schools, had been hired at Whittier.24 The Protestant oriented Commission sometimes grappled with difficult issues such as the extent to which its membership and activities should incorporate Jews, "Mexicans", and Catholics. In general, the group justified its focus on negro/white relations by claiming that "we must do some one thing well," and that other groups had not taken the initiative to participate.25 Another controversial issue which faced the Commission involved whether to work with local Communists on support work for the Scottsboro Boys case, desegregation of theaters and swimming pools, and the radical Unemployment Councils.26 24 Denver Interracial Commission Minutes, October 22, 1934, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 369. 25 Denver Interracial Commission, Secretarial Committee (Steering Committee) Minutes, January 20, 1932, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 369. 26 Denver Interracial Commission Minutes, May 5, 1933, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 369. The Scottsboro case, a 1931 Alabama criminal case in which nine black youths were convicted of rape and sentenced to death by an all-white jury, became a national rallying point for the movement against racism in the American legal system in the 1930s. Communist Party members were active in the legal defense and national support efforts. Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States (New York: HarperCollins, 1980), p. 389, 438. The Unemployed Councils were groups of unemployed citizens across the nation, who banded together to 128

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Other debates took place over whether to encourage and support NAACP lawsuits to enforce the state's anti-discrimination laws, which were deemed overly confrontational by Mr. Shafroth and some other white Commission members.27 Some white and black commissioners, including YWCA President Anna McClintock, argued for legal and other direct action, including theater sit-ins, to push for strict enforcement of the laws.28 demand relief, jobs, and organize self-help projects on a local level. In Denver, local Communists were found among the leadership of the popular Unemployed Citizen League. See Leonard, Trials, p. 40. Some Commissioners believed that rather than criticize Communists for "bringing the weak spots of out economic social order to light," the Commission should take action on some of those weaknesses. Commissioners like Dr. Holmes were willing to work with anyone who shared the goals of the Commission. Denver Interracial Commission Minutes, May 5, 1933, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 369. Others, including black minister Dr. Russell Brown were exceedingly skeptical of Communist motives. Denver Interracial Commission Minutes, October 22, 1934 and December 4, 1934, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 369. 27 Responding to reports that the NAACP planned two lawsuits against Denver theaters, Shafroth strongly urged that the "Commission should try to prevent conflict, ... [it is] unfortunate to have a legal suit." Fritz Cansler of the Glenarm YMCA suggested that Mr. Shafroth call a conference of white theater owners in an effort to forestall legal action. Denver Interracial Commission Minutes, October 19, 1932 and December 15, 1932, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 369. 28 McClintock believed that a breakdown in home morale in black families was linked to lack of recreational opportunities for black youth. She bemoaned the fact that Colorado State Law was very strict against segregation, "but cases have not been pushed and discrimination goes on." Denver Interracial Commission Minutes, May 20, 1932 and December 15, 1932, 129

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During the 1930s, there was generally a preference on the Commission for non-confrontational and conservative approaches to discrimination issues, which undoubtedly prevented dramatic breakthroughs. On the other hand, by not alienating prominent white Commissioners, the group's efforts to educate the community about racism and the needs of the black community gained unprecedented exposure and credibility. The Denver Post even published a photograph of the Commission in May, 1934, the first time (according to Commission members) that a picture including blacks was featured in the major Denver newspapers.29 This visibility laid the groundwork for the organized, visible, and more militant protest actions which were to come in the tumultuous World War II decade, a period of unprecedented change in race relations in Denver and across the country. Through their work on the Interracial Commission and other community-wide reform organizations, black and white YWCA members had become veterans in the long struggle for civil rights in their city by 1940. YWCA women, especially blacks, would continue to play a leading role in building Denver's interracial movement for black rights throughout the 1940s. YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 369. 29 Denver Interracial Commission Minutes, May 2, 1934, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 369. 130

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CHAPTER 7 BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS: THE WORLD WAR II YEARS The examination of the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA Branch during the tumultuous World War II years of the 1940s provides a closer view of Denver's African-American women and their relationship to whites. The Branch thrived in the 1940s, with a membership of over 500 enjoying popular community programs developed by a strong, autonomous leadership core. Pressures to end segregation in the national and local YWCA, as well as in the Denver community at large increased dramatically during and after World War II. During this time, many Denver YWCA members idealistically believed that the struggle against segregation, for racial equality, and integration were synonymous. Branch leadership whole-heartedly favored de-segregation of YWCA programs. They began to worry, however, whether the effectiveness of the Phyllis Wheatley Branch's program in the black community would be curtailed by a strictly integrated approach. They repeatedly resisted proposals which might diffuse black YWCA leadership and programs, and shunned efforts to incorporate their Branch into the dominant white controlled Central YWCA. The Phyllis Wheatley Branch was pressured to decide what was more important the need to break through racial barriers, or the need to serve 131

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African-American women and girls in their own community. During the 1940s, Denver's Phyllis Wheatley women searched for and found an intermediate position which allowed them to work on both goals simultaneously. This approach served to keep the doors of the Branch in Five Points open to the black community until 1964, when by mutual agreement, the YWCA organization in Denver sold the building and integrated all programs through its Central headquarters at 1545 Tremont Street. By 1940, the Colorado WPA Writer's Program (a New Deal program for gathering community histories) credited the YWCA with reducing juvenile delinquency among Denver's black children. The same report described the Branch as "the only organization working with girls and women specifically and in a constructive manner."1 The conditions of the 1940s for Denver's minority women made the work of the. Phyllis Wheatley Branch particularly vital. A flurry of war-related activity and popuhition influx taxed the Branch's finances, facilities, and organizational structure. Membership was large and active at Phyllis Wheatley, and recruitment activities took place regularly. For example, a "YWCA Sunday" at Zion Baptist Church in 1940 brought out over 300 interested young women. "Intimate speeches," dramatic readings, and pep 1 Federal WPA Writer's Program, Colorado, "Negroes," p. 154, 167. 132

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songs "stirred the women" into joining.2 "Adult work" of the Branch in 1940 consisted of Business and Professional Girls Club, the Industrial Club, the Young Married Women's Club, the Health Education Department, the Public Affairs Committee, and the Residence. Youth programs consisted of the Girl Reserves (grade school and high school), Young Employed Girls (post-high school), Bon Amici Club (high school graduates who were "intermittently employed"), and most importantly, Camp Nizhoni.3 Added to this crowded agenda was recruitment of female hostesses to work with the United Servicemen's Organization (USO), which had established a soldier's recreational center for racial minorities at the Glenarm YMCA. The USO's, like the military, were segregated. The largest center, which was reserved for white servicemen, was located at 1417 California Street in downtown Denver. Black servicemen were served by separate clubs of the United Servicemen's Organization (USO) in the Five Points district. Women from Phyllis Wheatley Branch and other women's groups were active as hostesses at the Glenarm USO, serving over 67,000 soldiers in 1944 alone. Indicative of white preoccupation with racial differences in the city, some USO 2 Report from Lula Lowe Weeden, Executive Secretary, Membership, November 1940, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 462. 3 Phyllis Wheatley Branch, "Historical Sketch," c. 1940, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 461. 133

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officials recommended yet another separate "Spanish-speaking" USO patterned after the "colored" center.4 "Businesses notorious for their discrimination against minority groups are now discreet enough to make exceptions in the case of men in uniform, at least in Denver," claimed sociologist Henry Hough in a Works Progress Administration report in 1942.5 Yet racial prejudice and segregated policies held sway in the city, against a backdrop of war-time buildup of population, industry, and racial tensions. An estimated four million servicemen and women came through Denver during World War 11.6 Black population doubled during the 1940s, swelling from 7,836 to 15,059 by 1950.7 Hispanics increased at a similar rate. Yet, by 1947 only two blacks and one MexicanAmerican were employed as policemen, with complaints of white police brutality against minorities on the increase. Blacks were at first barred from defense jobs and agitated like their counterparts nationally to be included in 4 Leonard/Noel, Denver, p. 222. 5 Henry Hough, Americans with Spanish Surnames (Denver: WP A Service Program, 1942), p. 17, quoted in Leonard/Noel, Denver, p. 222. 6 Denver's war industry, consisting of the Army Depot at 38th and York Street (10 buildings), Lowry Air Force Base, Rocky Mountain Arsenal, Remington Arms Denver Ordnance Plant, Cabusco Steel, Continental Airlines, and others swelled the ranks of working citizens, both male and female. See Leonard/Noel, Denver, p. 223-224. 7 Leonard/Noel, Denver, p. 368. 134

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the construction of the Remington factory. The Colorado Statesman, a black newspaper, reported that despite federal efforts, blacks and MexicanAmericans have "one chance out of a thousand" to get these jobs."8 Denver was not alone as it faced unprecedented social and racial upheaval during the 1940s. The national climate forced President Harry S. Truman to establish a number of weak but path-breaking measures to force the nation to look more closely at issues of civil rights.9 Women were key to the defense industry in Denver. By 1944, Denver University sociology professor Fitzhugh Charmichael estimated that women held one half of the estimated 206,000 defense related jobs in the metro area.10 D. U. had held special classes in laboratory training for women, and the Emily Griffith Opportunity School had crowded classes in welding, machine shop, machine maintenance, and sheet metal working for women. The local 8 Paul Shriver, director, Federal Works Progress Administration, quoted in Leonard/Noel, Denver, p. 367. 9 Truman's Executive Order #9808 was signed on December 5, 1946 and established the President's Committee on Civil Rights. Executive Order #9981, signed on July 26, 1948, established a national commission to examine racial practices in the Armed Services. Atkins, p. 124. 10 Leonard/Noel, Denver, p. 228. 135

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YWCA, including the Phyllis Wheatley Branch, had programs to support the influx of women into Denver and into the work force.11 Predictably, black women were hired for the most menial and dangerous jobs, at lower pay. Local Phyllis Wheatley resident and member, Oleta Crain, reported to YWCA officials in 1942 about her employment at the Remington Arms Denver Ordnance Plant: There are only two jobs open to Negro girlsbeing a service operator, which is a maid's job, or working in the lead shop. The foreman told me there was no chance for advancement but two weeks afterwards offered me a job in the lead plant because I had a college education and have been working on my master's degree. The [white] girls whose job I took had just finished Gove Junior High School. They guard against lead poisoning by giving an examination every three weeks, and in event we do get lead poisoning we can go back to sanitation. They like to have college girls because they feel all colored girls who have gone to college are honest. They want all girls to be good looking ... The colored girls work only with men and not with any white girls. We have to walk two blocks to the cafeteria and a rest room. We did not have a couch or chair or table and if we got tired had to walk two blocks to another building. Two or three times the forewoman found girls lying on the floor to rest, so after closing a rest room in another building they gave us one couch from there. In the cafeteria colored girls did the serving but they have been fired because white girls 11 At the war's close in 1945, massive layoffs affected women severely nationwide. With over 14,000 Denver layoffs in 1945 alone, local government advisors warned that women "who have learned for the first time in their lives that they can do something real," would suffer from the dislocation. Vera Packard of the Denver Defense Council Advisory Board recommended that the city hire them to supervise delinquent children. Vera Packard quoted in Leonard/Noel, Denver, p. 234. 136

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did not want to be served by them. There is quite a bit of discrimination.12 Denver's Japanese population, a mere 324 in 1940, swelled to almost 2500 by 1944. The War Relocation Authority forced hundreds of west coast Japanese families into relocation camps in Colorado, in particular, the Amache Camp near Granada, Colorado. The YWCA established a special outreach program for Japanese women and youth during the internment period. As these citizens were released, many migrated to Denver at the close of the war, where restrictive covenants and legal harassment threatened Japanese property ownership like as they had for blacks. Black leaders were instrumental in beating back racist, anti-Japanese measures, including a constitutional amendment which would have barred Japanese land ownership in Colorado. Black legislator Earl Mann led the fight which defeated the proposal, yet a local referendum in Denver passed by 10,000 votes.13 12 Transcript of YWCA Leadership Meeting, testimony of Oleta Crain: June 9, 1942, Employed Girls Group, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 17, Folder 416. Oleta Crain was the first black enlistee from the Rocky Mountain region in the Women's Army Corps in 1943. She earned the rank of Major before retiring from the Army in 1963. As of 1995 Crain was the Regional Director of the United States Department of Labor, Federal Women's Bureau, in Denver, Colorado. Kathy Ediger, "Capitol Hill WACs Bring Back 50 Years of Fond Memories," Greater Capitol Hill Neighborhood News, vol. 1, no. 7, July, 1992, Denver, Colorado, p. 1. 13 Leonard/Noel, Denver, p. 369. 137

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Against the backdrop of wartime social upheaval, there was an unprecedented push for more equitable racial policies in the National YWCA. "The tensions of the present highlight the interracial life of the Association as never before ... now is the time to chart a clear course ... and to quicken the tempo of change in order to take up the lag between purpose and practices of the YWCA."14 Thus began Interracial Practices in Community YWCAs, the first of two studies on race relations published by the YWCA National Board in the 1940s. The 1944 investigation was mandated by the YWCA national convention, which had resolved to achieve "the ultimate elimination of all segregation and discrimination. "There was sharp debate, especially in the southern branches, after the study commission travelled to every region. Denver was the only western location visited, and the book was read and discussed at length by the Phyllis Wheatley Committee of Management.15 14 YWCA National-Board, Interracial Practices in Community YWCAs: A Study Under the Auspices of the Commission to Gather Interracial Experience as Requested by the 16th National Convention of the yWCAs of the United States, (New York: The Woman's Press, 1944), foreword. 15 An announcement was made about the release of Interracial Practices at the March 13, 1944 meeting of the Committee of Management, and the book was reviewed at two subsequent meetings, at which time discussion "brought out the strengths and weaknesses of the Denver Branch in relation to the Study." No details of the discussion were recorded. Minutes, Phyllis Wheatley Branch Committee of Management, March 13, 1944, April 10, 1944, and May 15, 1944, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 467. 138

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A second national study, Toward Better Race Relations, was published in 1949. It analyzed progress in racial integration, and was designed as a "handbook" on promoting positive interracial relations.16 This report described "unexpected difficulties" in the YWCA integration process. First, some blacks didn't want to integrate. Second, there had been a significant loss of black membership in cities where black program had been eliminated.17 The report discussed the urgency of developing more and stronger black leadership in the organization. At the peak of the country's involvement in World War II, the National Board proclaimed that the YWCA "is urgently needed in working for the elimination of the heavy injustices experienced by the Negro people. A worldwide struggle for freedom is meaningless, the sacrifice of life in the war will be of little avail, unless democracy is made real for all people."18 Local YWCAs, both white and black, were urged to "stick their neck out" in support of community-wide efforts to combat racist policies and practices. Fighting 16 The Denver Association was not included in the on-site visits of this study commission (only two western Associations were visited Oakland and Portland out of a total of 17), however data from all locations was supposedly used to formulate the study's findings. Sabiston, Toward Better Race Relations, p. 191. 17 Sabiston, Toward Better Race Relations, p. 21-22. 18 Statement of YWCA National Board, 1943, quoted in Interracial Practices, p. 10. 139

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school segregation, challenging "whites-only" policies in public accommodations like restaurants, hotels, and theaters, and working with organized labor to eliminate barriers to black employment in the defense industry were all recommended as ways that the YWCAs could "set an interracial example" in their cities.19Denver's Phyllis Wheatley YWCA and a group of white YWCA members did not need to be prodded into action. They were already in the thick of it. Mrs. Cora Peters, speaking to the Branch Young Married Women's Club on "Women in Industry," declared that "this is the moment for Negroes to act in facing any barrier, economic or "She urged club members to "awaken and snatch each moment."20 Taking Ms. Peters' advice to heart, YWCA Secretary Margaret "Peg" Stewart, and Phyllis Wheatley members Sarah Sims, and Kathryn Cohron indeed "snatched" many moments. They formed a joint committee with the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) to "break discrimination in Denver restaurants, theaters and housing," according 19 Sabiston, Toward Better Race Relations, p. 98, 102-103. 20 Report, Young Married Women's Club, Phyllis Wheatley Branch, February 1942, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 463. This club had been organized by Lillian EuDailey on January 24, 1937, in order to ''bring together young married women interested in developing their physical, mental, and -spiritual lives." Constitution and By Laws, Phyllis Wheatley Young Married Women's Club, undated, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 463. 140

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to Cohron.21 Historian James Atkins claims the group had over forty members, both black and white, at its peak. The tactic in restaurants was to "sit and wait" for service. Picketing and arrests were common.22 Sarah Sims remembers targeting the movie theaters, which had for years required blacks to sit in their own section in the far balcony. A group of five or more would meet every Wednesday at the YWCA to await last minute instructions of which theater to target that evening. A white soldier sometimes came along for extra clout. "We were determined but not rude. We looked nice and acted nice," Sims emphasized. After the group entered the theater, a special "colored" bell rang to alert an usher to escort them upstairs to the balcony. But the group would quietly take seats on the first floor. When an usher would ask them to move, they would politely refuse. "We'd stay as long as we could," Sims recalled. Most theaters began to comply with requests to eliminate discriminatory seating arrangements as a result of these bold actions. A few had to be sued in order to comply. For many years, Sarah told all her 21 Addye Lightner was a good friend of Cohron and obtained this information from her. She recalled that Cohron worked for the WP A at the YWCA Recreation Department as a pianist in the 1930s. She played 3 days per week, once for a group of Spanish-speaking women, another day for Japanese, and a third day for whites. Lightner interview. 22 Atkins, p. 120. 141

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friends they better sit on the first floor at the movies no matter what, "after all we went through to get them allowed there!"23 Other examples of blatant racism were acted upon by the YWCA as well. In March, 1944, Mrs. Estelle Massey Riddle of the Cadet Nurse Corps visited the Committee of Management meeting to report that Denver hospitals would not accept Negro nurses. She reported that while Colorado General Hospital had hired some and wanted more, Denver General's "reception was not so cordial. "A committee was formed to pressure Denver General, Denver's public hospital, to comply with fair employment standards.24 Facing housing shortages and discriminatory rental policies, Branch "Objectives for the Year -1945" listed "Housing" as its top priority, with a pledge to "get together with other groups ... to answer what will become to [sic] those whom the fence has been placed around and what becomes of those fenced in. "Hattie Bush of the Branch was appointed as the Branch representative on Denver's Unity Council, an interracial anti-discrimination group.25 23 Sims interview. 24 Minutes, Phyllis Wheatley Committee of Management, March 13, 1944, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 467. 25 The "Unity Council" was a citywide coalition of white and minority organizations and churches which lobbied tirelessly against discriminatory policies both public and private. Its letterhead reads, "Americanism is a matter of the mind and the heart, and not a matter of race, ancestry, or religion." 142

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An incident in 1943 brought the issue of black access to public facilities home to the Denver's YWCA. Scheduled to sponsor a national YWCA Conference, the Central YWCA tried to arrange rooms for national officers who would be attending. The local hotel refused to allow black guests to stay there, and so the conference was called off. It was a national embarrassment, especially to the women of Phyllis Wheatley, who were angered that their access to national meetings would be hampered by the racist policies of Denver hotels.26 The Committee of Management suggested that the 1945 Phyllis Wheatley Annual Meeting should be held at a local hotel, instead of the traditional location at Shorter or Zion Church. The move, it was argued, "might be an opening wedge for Negro groups who had never taken a banquet to a hotel. .. Enthusiastic women insisted, ... we must learn to step Correspondence with the Unity Council on several occasions reflects monetary donations from the Branch on a regular basis. Minutes, Phyllis Wheatley Committee of Management, October 8, 1945, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 467. 26 A Conference entitled, "A New Society on a Christian Basis" was held at YWCA facilities instead of the canceled convention, with attendance of 50 total, 7 or 8 blacks, and 7 or 8 Japanese women. Minutes, Phyllis Wheatley Committee of Management, January 11, 1943, and February 8, 1943, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 467. 143

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forward for ourselves and not always leave new paths to be broken for us as a race by others."27 Equally challenging was the process of integrating the YWCA's own public accommodations, including residences, cafeterias, recreational facilities, and meeting rooms. Discriminatory practices in YWCA facilities were commonly accepted nationwide in the 1940s. These facilities served the general public, and were a great source of revenue through room rentals, club memberships, and recreation fees. "White only" policies at swimming pools and dining rooms were increasingly bothersome and embarrassing, for the YWCA was already famous in many communities for its advanced or liberal views on racial issues. National policy encouraged local efforts to desegregate as important steps which would prove exemplary to the community at large. But by 1949, the national studies reported only "gradual" progress with regard to pools and recreation centers.28 Three "excuses" were given by local YWCA associations, including Denver, for failing to desegregate residences, pools, and camps: 1) fear of financial Joss, 2) racial prejudice among nonYWCA users of the facilities, and 27 Apparently, no local hotel arrangements could be secured, for the meeting was held at Shorter Church after all. Minutes, Phyllis Wheatley Committee of Management, November 12, 1945, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 467. 28 Sabiston, Toward Better Race Relations, p. 54. 144

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3) community health standards and policies which tended to exclude racial minorities in public facilities.29 Denver had two YWCA Residences in the 1940s: the large all-white facility at 18th and Sherman Street, and the smaller Phyllis Wheatley Residence for Negro Women (as it was listed in the City Directory). By 1950, both had adopted integrated policies, but the Phyllis Wheatley Residence led the way. The Branch had rented rooms since 1920, to provide young black working women with safe, comfortable housing at a time when most public accommodations barred blacks in Denver. By 1940, the place had become a veritable institution, under the direction of the beloved Hattie Starr. Starr claimed in 1941 that there was "no other agency where Negro girls can find a horne ... Taxi drivers regularly dropped off girls without funds at the branch, where they knew the welcome mat would be extended.30 In the early 1940s, Starr recorded the story of a white girl from a small town in Colorado who came to Phyllis Wheatley "because she had felt that her appearance was such that she should be snubbed by the girls in her own group. "Tension over the incident was politely described by Starr: "My problem ... began with influencing the girls in the house to accept her in a friendly way. 29 Interracial Practices, p. 69. 30 Hattie Starr, Matron's Report, Phyllis Wheatley Branch, undated, c. 1941, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 464. 145

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"Hattie took her in and even found her a job in a laundry for $12/week. Later she admitted she had to "influence" the white girl to leave "without any hint of prejudice."31 Phyllis Wheatley desk workers in 1944 reported several instances of white women calling for rooms, fully aware that the residence was for "Negro girls." In an effort to encourage residence staff to extend a welcoming hand to non-Negro women, the Branch House Committee (charged with making policies and maintenance of the residence), vowed that" ... we must first remove the bean from our own eye before we see the mote in our brother's eye." The Branch established an official open-door policy, but not before recommending to the Central Board that the downtown residence should follow their example: "[We] are looking forward to that day in the near future when all [em ph. added] facilities will be open in like manner to women and girls of all races.''32 By November that same year, Executive Director Frances Gordon reported that the Wheatley Residence no longer listed itself for "Negro girls," and the Central YWCA had assured the House Committee that "race girls" were indeed permitted to stay at Sherman Street. By May, 1945, the Branch was so overwhelmed with housing requests from women of all races 31 Hattie Starr, Matron's Report, Phyllis Wheatley Branch, undated, c. 1941, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 464. 32 Minutes, House Committee, Phyllis Wheatley Branch, April 7, 1944, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 465. 146

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that a suggestion was made that "white persons living in our communities be asked to list their home for ... persons of other races not wishing to live here or in Negro homes."33 By November, 1945, the Central and Branch Residence Committees were having joint meetings. Black women and girls had long been barred from the Central YWCA swimming pool down town. Instead they swam at the smaller pool at the black Glenarm YMCA. The first known "colored girls" to swim at the downtown YWCA pool were members of the Phyllis Wheatley basketball team who were allowed to practice at the central gym in 1939. According to staff member Henrietta Ridley, "the basketball team set a precedent when the group enjoyed being a part of an interracial swimming party in the pool at central YWCA . the occasion was acceptable to all groups."34 It was another five years before both whites and blacks declared officially that "it's time for an interracial swimming program."35 But Central administrators complained that their hands were tied, since the city's health code required demeaning health exams before blacks could swim in white 33 Minutes, House Committee Minutes, May 4, 1945, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 465. 34 National Board Report, 1939, Report of Henrietta Ridley, Phyllis Wheatley Activities Secretary, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 15, Folder 378. 35 Minutes, Phyllis Wheatley Committee of Management, November 13, 1944, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 467. 147

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pools. The issue was referred to the local Interracial Practices Committee, which eventually led a successful effort to eliminate the discriminatory exams by 1946. The Interracial Practices report also complained that, "the dining room hostess refused to have a Negro, (1) Because the 'state law demands separate rest rooms for White and Negro.' (2) All the other waitresses would quit." They pushed through a new policy allowing Blacks to be hired in Central's dining facilities.36 The National Interracial Practices Commission, which monitored racial practices at the "grass-roots" program level, observed that despite restrictive racial policies, YWCA camps, recreational programs, and clubs were especially popular among black youth. The commission called these programs a bridge to inclusive participation. By 1944, national statistics revealed that 42% of all cities reported having held integrated camps.37 Camp programs were reported in 1949 to be most frequently the first to experiment with integration, albeit with mostly symbolic results. All too often, ... the number of Negro 36 A local Branch report on October 26, 1946 listed certain improvements, including, "The Health Education Department has ceased exacting a discriminatory health examination for Negro girls desiring to swim," and changes in the central dining room. Report on Interracial Practices, October 26, 1946, Addye Lightner, personal papers. 37 Interracial Practices, p. 72. 148

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girls attending camp was so few that during some periods all persons present in an 'interracial camp' were white ... "38 The integration process at Denver's YWCA summer camps illustrates the double-edged sword of integration for integration's sake. Proximity to the Rocky Mountains helped inspire one of the first black YWCA camps in the country, Camp Nizhoni. The popular retreat had operated on a shoestring budget at Lincoln Hills since 1926. Camp Nizhoni was described in the 1941 Annual Report as "the only Negro Camp in Colorado," drawing girls from around the country, including city sponsored "underprivileged" campers.39 At the same time, the Central YWCA had operated the well equipped Camp Lookout, located near Golden, Colorado, since 1923. In 1942, the Central Board decided to venture into the unknown, and organize an interracial session with reduced fees at Camp Lookout. In the summer of 1943, young Catherine Elliston, Henrietta Coleman, and Clarita Holmes became the first black girls to attend Camp Lookout. "The three Negro youngsters ... were well adjusted and rather easily fit into the camp program," reported the Phyllis Wheatley Committee of Management in September, 1943.40 38 Sabiston, Toward Better Race Relations, p. 115-116. 39 Annual Report, Phyllis Wheatley Branch, undated, c. 1941, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 464. 40 Minutes, Phyllis Wheatley Branch Committee of Management, September 1, 1943, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 467. 149

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Since Camp Nizhoni was deteriorating for lack of maintenance, and the integrated sessions were proving successful, the Committee of Management decided after much thought in February, 1945 "that Camp Nizhoni be closed .. and the Denver YWCA conduct an interracial camp with an interracial staff."41 The recommendation was accepted by the Central Board and the beloved Camp Nizhoni was sold. The next fall, the Phyllis Wheatley Committee of Management heard reports that the Interracial Camp was a great success. A total of girls attended, including 29 Negro, 5 Japanese, and 3 "Spanish." The closure of Camp Nizhoni and the camp integration plan failed to take into account whether the needs of black girls would continue to be met. It was not long before enthusiasm for the new arrangement had plummeted. By 1947, black recruitment for camp was at an all-time low, and only one black camp counselor worked that summer.42 One explanation for this tum of events was that black girls wanted to go to camp with girls they knew. They simply felt unwelcome or out of place in still predominantly all-white camps. Evidence of their frustration was apparent in April, 1948, when an AllAssociation Uoint Central and Branch) Y-Teen Committee emphatically 41 Minutes, Phyllis Wheatley Branch Committee of Management, February 12, 1945, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 467. 42Minutes, Phyllis Wheatley Branch Committee of Management, June 9, 1947, and October 14, 1947, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 469. 150

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asserted that there was a "need for constant awareness that despite our desire and willingness to forward racial integration, opportunity must be provided for Negro girls to have a program which is primarily theirs." The same report called for increased recruitment of girls of all races, and the appointment of a black youth director.43 The 1949 national study corroborated Denver's experience, reporting that many local black activists were alarmed at the dwindling participation of their constituency as integrated youth programs were implemented. Many blacks argued that all program, including camps and recreation activities, should still emanate from the black branches, in order to keep the numbers of black memberships up. This would also ensure that the activities addressed the needs of their own constituencies. Desegregation of recreational programs thus became a catalyst which brought out deeper issues of race relations within the YWCA organization. No area of integration strategy was more controversial than that of breaking down barriers in the YWCA's internal decision-making structure. The question of what was to be the role of black leadership under a new integrated approach was important to Phyllis Wheatley women. The issue not 43 Minutes, Phyllis Wheatley Branch Committee of Management, April 6, 1948, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 469. 151

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only reflected upon their own self-worth as leaders, but also effected the YWCA's ability to relate to and serve the black community. The 1944 national study hoped to reveal "how barriers are broken down, how mutual understanding is built ... and how racial differences become elements of strength."44 The study used several internal measures of progress toward interracial decision-making: 1) the percentage of black members on the Central Board of Directors, 2) the extent of white involvement with black community issues, and 3) Central Board recognition of the contributions of black leadership and expertise to the whole association, as opposed to merely being experts on their own people's needs and program.45 Denver measured up favorably on the first criteria (numbers of blacks on the Central Board). The Chairwoman of the Phyllis Wheatley Committee of Management had been a member of the central Board since Gertie Ross held that position in 1923. The YWCA Board of Directors had required three representatives from the Phyllis Wheatley Branch as full Board members ever since an "Interracial Standards Study" in 1938 had recommended such an arrangement. In addition, one Phyllis Wheatley member was encouraged to sit 44 Interracial Practices, p. 11. 45 Interracial Practices, p. 33. 152

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on every major All-Association Committee.46 Frances Elliot, a leading Branch activist, had even been elected second Vice President of the Board in 1939. On the second national criteria (white involvement in black community issues), the evidence regarding Denver is more difficult to measure. One way to break down black/white mistrust suggested by the 1949 study was to "bring whites to the black branch."47 Additionally, locals were urged to break down "sorority" attitudes which had tended to exclude newcomers to long-standing committees or clubs. There is evidence that in Denver, numerous invitations were made by Branch leadership for whites to get more involved in the Wheatley Branch.48 There is little evidence that whites worked directly on Branch activities, however a core of white YWCA leaders had long been outspoken and active in anti-discrimination organizations like the Denver Interracial Commission and the Congress of Racial Equality. 46 "Interracial Standards Study," 1938, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 461. 47 Sabiston, Toward Better Race Relations, p. 112. 48 Report of Interracial Practices Committee, October 26, 1946. The report lists future goals, including "Devise projects to draw more Caucasians to Branch--Find common interests for activity or discussion groups" and "Develop ways for making it easy for interested but reluctant persons to come to Branch." Addye Lightner, personal papers. 153

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Another indicator investigated by the 1944 commission was the existence and effectiveness of local "Integration Committees,' advisory groups which were to "stimulate study and action by the [local] Board ... that affect the relationships between those of different races."49 Denver measured up on this criterion too. The city's YWCA .. Interracial-Integration Committee .. met regularly during the late 1930s and throughout the 1940s, to review and recommend actions to further organizational inclusiveness. One of this committee's leading members was Addye Lightner. Where separate black branches existed, like Denver, the 1944 commission asked the question, 11do colored branches tend toward inclusiveness or divisiveness? The fact that cities with black branches had decisively more black members was also considered: 11in order to integrate, you have to have people to be integrated:5 Fear of losing membership, black or white, was a common theme nationwide when integration experiments were contemplated. But local associations were advised not to be "dissuaded by possible resignations .. due to interracial policies, for others more supportive of YWCA goals would eventually replace them.51 49 Interracial Practices, p. 42. 50 Interracial Practices, p. 46-47. 51 Interracial Practices, p. 74. 154

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On the other hand, the 1944 national commission took notice of the fact that cities with bi-racial organizations, as had been the case for over 25 years in Denver, had developed a significantly stronger black leadership core than localities where no separate black branch had existed. The study asked whether black women from the Phyllis Wheatley Branches were being brought into the mainstream of the Association? Had leadership opportunities been lost in that process? Was there an effort to identify and counter tokenism (black appointments based on appearances rather than on the true desire for input from people of all races)?52 By the time of the 1949 national study, the complaint of "Integration is all one side," was heard across the country. National investigators were told over and over that "Central is integrated but the Branch isn't."53 Black women in local leadership feared that the YWCA's work they had worked so long and hard to establish in the black. community was actually becoming a sacrificial lamb on the white YWCA leadership's altar of "interracial integration." A covert form of racism was rearing its ugly head in the name of racial harmony. The 1949 Study recognized that the pressure for black leaders to be representatives on the All-Association Board or committees was draining 52 Interracial Practices, p. 47-50. 53 Sabiston, Toward Better Race Relations, p. 26, 35. 155

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Branch programs of their leaders. On the other hand, Central Boards often put the blame for lack of progress in organizational integration on blacks who would not participate when asked. The problem of 11not enough black leaders .. was raised many times in the 1949 study. In fact, the report recommended more black leadership in central decision-making in cities where the black branch had been dissolved, as if whites bore little responsibility for alienating black membership.54 Did these disturbing trends fit with Denver's integration process? The evidence suggests that all the national problems could be found in Denver. Denver's Central Board drew blunt criticism from the Branch on many aspects of the association's handling of integrating black leadership into Central organization well before either the 1944 or 1949 race relations studies were published. Before 1944, the Phyllis Wheatley Committee of Management complained that appointments of Negro me.mbers of All-Association committees were being made without consultation from the Branch Committee of Management. Branch leadership made an official recommendation to the Board that all appointments be made by the Chairman of the Committee of Management. 54 Sabiston, Toward Better Race Relations, p. 62. 156

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In June, 1947, Branch Executive Director Frances Gordon openly complained that Branch program "has been sacrificed because of AllAssociation claims on Branch staff."55 Alice Papes, a well-liked "two-way interpreter" concurred, saying that Central staff should spend more time at the Branch: "the process of integration should work both ways."56 Respected leaders like Addye Lightner were too busy with city-wide committees to help much with Branch activities or problem-solving. The leadership model was impossible to fulfill. Branch representatives on All-Association Committees felt left out of important decision-making. In February, 1947, the Committee of Management registered complaints that Central committee and Board meetings were held at difficult hours, and representatives were not given sufficient information to intelligently answer questions. Denver's complaints were not new to black National YWCA Board member Mamie Davis when she visited the city in early 1948. Davis admitted that on a national scale, some joint committees had faltered as truly integrated decision-making bodies. She mentioned for 55 Minutes, Phyllis Wheatley Branch Committee of Management, June 9, 1947, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 469. 56 Minutes, Phyllis Wheatley Branch Committee of Management, June 9, 1947, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 469. 157

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example, that work on "Finance [Committees] seems more difficult because of the 'power' aspects of dealing with money."57 Davis delivered a more important message during her visit to the Branch in February, 1948: "While it is good to make things interracial, projects do not necessarily have to be organized with that as the primary purpose." Unless this principle co_uld be understood, Davis "questioned whether we can start to make the Denver Branch interracial."58 The national race relations studies reported more successful results when specially planned inter-racial meetings, conferences, or convention sessions were held. It seemed that blacks and whites were most comfortable with each other if they were brought together naturally out of common interest.59 This was true in Denver, where according to Addye Lightner, "it started with joint committees." Lightner was on the All-Association Business Girls Committee for years, serving as its president in the 1930s and 1940s. Asked if the black women felt comfortable at joint meetings and affairs, Addye 57 Minutes, Phyllis Wheatley Branch Committee of Management, February 9, 1948, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 469. 58 Minutes, Phyllis Wheatley Branch Committee of Management, February 9, 1948, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 469. 59 Interracial Practices, p. 65-68. 158

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was quick to point out, "It doesn't matter if you feel welcome or not. If you decide you're going to do something you do it!"60 Black women sometimes took the initiative in suggesting joint meetings. For example, in September, 1946, the Phyllis Wheatley Committee of Management asked, "Is there a need for two Annual Meetings?" As with many issues of this nature, a committee was set up to study the question.61 This "Committee on Aspects of Integration" met once and voted to disband, stating that an all-association committee be activated, "since Integration is a problem which can best be considered by the Association as a whole."62 It was not until three years later that the first All-Association Annual Dinner Meeting took place, celebrating the theme, "Progress Through Integration." Simple activities like "eating together," even in the YWCA's own facilities, were seen as significant racial breakthroughs in Denver, as late as 1949.63 60 Lightner interview. 61 Minutes, Phyllis Wheatley Committee of Management, September 23, 1946, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 469. 62 Minutes, Phyllis Wheatley Branch Committee of Management, November 11, 1946, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 467. 63 Social resistance to integrated dining was most acute in southern YWCA's according to the authors of Toward Better Race Relations, Sabiston, p. 69-70. Similar racist social norms were alive and well in more "progressive" cities like Denver as well. Minutes, Phyllis Wheatley Branch Committee of Management, December 7, 1948, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 469. 159

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The integration of camps, residences, recreational programs, and organizational bodies was slowly progressing in Denver's YWCA throughout the 1940s. Such a process would inevitably lead to internal Branch discussions about the future of the Phyllis Wheatley Branch itself. Committee of Management minutes reveal the full extent to which Phyllis Wheatley leaders were searching for safe ground from which to protect their future, while maintaining their ties to the black community. As early as 1943, Branch debates centered on the question of the impact of integration on the YWCA's community work. One meeting asked the question, "What about voluntary segregation? Minority leadership development? Have we outgrown the Branch? We must think!! We're working toward an interracial organization."64 Lengthy discussion in the Committee of Management took place in October, 1944. The question, "what this transitional period means to us?" was posed. Committee of Management member Fannie Gaskin was the first to chime in: "We need to take it little by little to be sure that we make the right step. We need to know what we are going to do now before we can know what we can do in the Post Worid War world."65 Gaskin and many others 64 Minutes, Phyllis Wheatley Branch Committee of Management, March 8, 1943, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 467. 65 Minutes, Phyllis Wheatley Branch Committee of Management, October 19, 1944, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 467. 160

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saw that the question of the future of the Phyllis Wheatley Branch was directly tied to the future of blacks in the United States. Working toward full integration in a community that was not ready to recognize full economic, social, and political equality for blacks, was a risky business. By 1945, the Branch leaders sensed a need to combat complacency about its future. "IT IS YOURS TO DECIDE! THE FUTURE OF THE PHYLLIS WHEATLEY BRANCH" read a flyer distributed for the Annual Meeting and election. Committed Branch leaders were needed, the flyer went on, who were willing to face "many grave problems: employment, housing, race, taxation ... increasingly you will be called on to exercise your discretion in considering questions affecting the life of the Association."66 Although everyone agreed that changes were necessary, no one on the Committee of Management advocated the elimination of Phyllis Wheatley. Several options were posed in hopes of warding off any suggestion of Branch closure by a committee assigned to study the fundamental question: "Do we want a Branch setup or Central setup?"67 Many members felt the building and neighborhood were deteriorating into a slum, and so the committee posed the idea of moving the Branch in late 1948. Some argued for a new location 66 Election flyer and roster, Phyllis Wheatley Branch, 1945, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 468. 67 Minutes, Phyllis Wheatley Branch Committee of Management, June 1, 1948, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 469. 161

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farther east, around 22nd and Gilpin, which "would not only be fairly accessible to many of the present Branch constituents ... but could very well have a positive effect on the housing situation which has reached a stalemate in that area."68 The suggestion of changing the name of the Branch to one less associated with blacks was first made during this year as wen.69 No action was taken on either suggestion at that time. Nervous members of the Committee of Management then asked the Interracial Practices Committee whether the Branch leadership body itself would be required to become interracial. The hope was that a forced process of this nature was unlikely, since the Committee was elected, and was 11likely to be representative of its constituency."70 Integrating the constituency itself was the key, advised the Interracial Practices Committee. 11We must try to be more 68 At the time, Denver blacks were steadily pushing for breakthroughs in restrictive housing patterns. The neighborhood just east of Five Points was a major area of contention in the late 1940s. Minutes, Phyllis Wheatley Branch Committee of Management, May 4, 1948, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 469. 69 Minutes, Phyllis Wheatley Branch Committee of Management, March 2, 1948, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 469. The name was not changed immediately, but gradually from 1950 to 1952, to "Welton Street Branch." This was in order to accommodate growing opinion that the Branch should not just be associated with blacks. Populations of other minority groups, including Japanese-Americans and Mexican-Americans were moving into the neighborhood in increasing numbers, and at least symbolically, the YWCA wanted all races to feel welcome there. 70 Minutes, Phyllis Wheatley Branch Committee of Management, April 6, 1948, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 469. 162

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successful in developing an interracial constituency and to secure non-Negro volunteers."71 More discussion about ways to bring in whites, Japanese and Spanish-speaking volunteers followed. In an apparent move to protect its constituency, while still allowing for Board members of other races to join, the Committee of Management voted to enlarge its membership to 23 members by the end of 1948.72 Consolidation of Branch resolve to remain autonomous was displayed in December, 1948, when the Community Chest, the major funding agency for the Branch, recommended selling the Phyllis Wheatley facility. The plan called for a merger with the predominantly black Glenarm YMCA, a joint expansion program, and turning the revenues from the sale to funding for a joint YM YW recreation building and residence.73 The proposal was greeted with open hostility from all sides. "One thing is assured the branch will not be absorbed by anyone, nor lose its identity," declared Phyllis Wheatley 71 Minutes, Phyllis Wheatley Branch Committee of Management, April 6, 1948, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 469. 72 Minutes, Phyllis Wheatley Branch Committee of Management, November 24, 1948, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 469. The internal Phyllis Wheatley debate around integrating with other non-white constituencies is a complex topic which deserves further exploration. There are many historical examples iri western communities of white racist laws and social practices forcing blacks, Indians, Chicanos, Asians, and other people of color together. Both racial conflict and cooperation resulted. 73 Minutes, Phyllis Wheatley Branch Committee of Management, December 7, 1948, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 469. 163

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spokeswoman Lorna Tuttle in a press statement.74 The YM-YW merger idea was dropped immediately. "Let's take a look at ourselves and see what the future holds," a Special Meeting of the Committee of Management called out in February, 1949. "If Program cannot be expanded, are we ready for absorption by Central?" The discussion heated up when Fannie Gaskin asserted that the Branch's community ties were threatened: "Leadership development for young people .. will not be possible if [we are] absorbed by Central." Frances Elliot suggested, "We must prove that the Branch is needed in this vicinity." A litany of complaints about the effects of the integration process followed. Sara Johnson, a hard working volunteer reported that it was "increasingly difficult to get Negroes to join interracial clubs." The first interracial meeting of Y-Teens at the Branch "was not too successful as there were no Negroes in attendance." Former Branch Executive Mrs. Ellen Moose reported that her responsibilities 74 "YMCA Denies Planning To Absorb Wheatley Branch," The Denver Post, December 22, 1948, clipping. The black community had long resented Central YMCA's insensitivity to their concerns in their dealings with the Glenarm YMCA, as evidenced by a letter dated December 20, 1948, from Reverend J. Russell Brown, Minister at Shorter Community A.M. E. Church. Russell states, 'The present attitudes, policies and practices of the Central Y.M.C.A.'s extreme separatism and lack of democratic practices and activities disqualify it for [sic] domination and supervision of the Phyllis Wheatley Y.W.C.A. by the latter's absorption in the Glenarm 'Y."' YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 469. Minutes, Phyllis Wheatley Branch Committee of Management, January 4, 1949, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 469. 164

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to "Membership Chapter" (a purposely integrated group of women over 35), had left her no time to work on other Branch program75 The consensus of the 1949 discussion was that, "we must continue to have program at the Branch. The more people we have ... the more we will have to send into integrated groups at Central." But, "we need to work at Central in order to bring them into contact with educated Negroes. "We also need this education ... to get ready for interracial experience."76 Frances Elliot warned in October, 1949 that "many of the changes were causing the Branch to lose its identity. We should determine just where we are ultimately going!" Ellen Moose suggested that the Committee of Management's job was "to produce program and integrate in the area in which we are located and that becoming integrated was not to move Branch and activities to Central." [emphasis added] Fannie Gaskin warned that in accordance with the National Board's Integration Charter, "we are moving toward final elimination of the Branch."77 At the meeting of November 1, 1949, the Committee of Management opened with the song, "Be Strong," and 75 Minutes, Phyllis Wheatley Branch Committee of Management, February 15, 1949, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 469. 76 Minutes, Phyllis Wheatley Branch Committee of Management, February 15, 1949, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 469. 77 Minutes, Phyllis Wheatley Branch Committee of Management, October 4, 1949, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 469. 165

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voted to re-institute a Branch Annual Meeting. The Annual Meeting program was a round-table discussion, "To be or not to be a Branch."78 The Phyllis Wheatley Branch and its Committee of Management indeed decided "to be a branch." Operating as the "Welton Street YWCA Branch" to accommodate the integrationist trend, it remained intact throughout the next decade. Youth programs, standing committees, and working women's services continued to operate well into the early 1960s. 78 Minutes, Phyllis Wheatley Branch Committee of Management, December 6, 1949, YWCA Collection, CHS, Box 19, Folder 469. 166

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CHAPTER 8 "OUR HEADS ARE UP!" CONCLUSION In 1969, the YWCA of Denver celebrated the election of its first black local All-Association president, Addye Lightner. During over fifty years of YWCA activism, Lightner had distinguished herself as a leader whose dedication to the YWCA's purpose of serving all of Denver's women and girls had never faltered.1 The historic Phyllis Wheatley Branch on Welton Street that Addye had joined as a young girl in 1918 was now a cold, stark, abandoned gas station. Sadly, changing neighborhood conditions and shifts in priorities in the mid-1960s led to growing doubts even among blacks about the viability of what was now known as the Welton Street YWCA Branch in the Five Points neighborhood. Thus, the handsome, three-story former home of the YWCA Phyllis Wheatley Branch was sold, closedand razed in 1964.2 1 Arlynn Nelhaus, "Helmswoman of the YWCA," The Denver Post, Contemporary Magazine, August 3, 1969, p. 18. 2 The reasons for the ultimate closure of the Phyllis Wheatley Branch in 1964 are numerous and complex, and warrant further research. After two decades of debate, the YWCA as a whole, both black and white, reached a consensus on the need to close it and expand the citywide work for women's and racial equality. See Aimee Blagg, "Strains and Stresses: Race, Class, and Integration in the Denver YWCA, 1955-1964," unpublished paper, University 167

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Thousands of Denver's black working women, mothers, and girls had found warmth, support, and a home at the Branch for decades. If the building still stood, it would undoubtedly be designated a Denver Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It might have served as a black women's museum, or be reopened as a meeting house or community center serving the Five Points neighborhood, which is itself enjoying revitalization.3 In many ways Lightner faced a changed organization and a changed city in 1969. That same year, black Denver School Board member Rachel Noel introduced a daring resolution to end segregation and inequality in the city's schools. Keyes v. Board of Education, a major lawsuit challenging de facto segregation in the Denver Public Schools took over the headlines of the city's newspapers in 1969. In the wake of the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968, the YWCA and the civil rights movement nationally and locally had grown more impatient and militant. YWCA activists challenged the National Board and Convention to put into practice the most sweeping declaration against racism in YWCA history: "One Imperative: To Thrust Our Collective of Colorado at Boulder, 1991. 3 Robert Jackson, 11Five Points, Making a Comeback: Neighborhood reaches for renewal," The Rocky Mountain News, April 17, 1991, p. 1, 8, 3031, 37. 168

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Power to Eliminate Racism Wherever it Exists and by Any Means Necessary." This 1970 declaration signaled "a dramatic climax to the organization's centurylong struggle to fulfill its social mission," according to historian Adrienne Lash Jones.4 The YWCA of Metropolitan Denver under Addye Lightner's leadership reached out as never before across the city to all neighborhoods and racial minorities. The rise of more militant feminist consciousness permeated the YWCA as well, reflected in a new priority on programs like "Better Jobs for Women" launched in 1972.5 "It frequently takes some time to arrive at common understanding and agreement," states the YWCA's 1949 national report on Race Relations.6 This statement was directed especially at YWCAs in the South who were losing patience with the recalcitrance of white racists in the organization whose mean-spiritedness had deliberately thwarted efforts to desegregate. But others might read more into the statement: that the process of racial integration in America has many twists and turns. The movement toward social, economic 4 YWCA declaration approved by the National Convention in 1970, quoted by Adrienne Lash Jones in Hine, Encyclopedia, p. 1299. 5 This ambitious job training and referral project sought to place women in non-traditional and more high paying positions as mechanics, construction workers, and engineering. 6 Sabiston, Toward Better Race Relations, p. 78. 169

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and political equality of all Americans in the United States, with its fundamental legacy of black slavery and white male supremacy, is both torturous and tortuous. No one understood this slow, complex, and ongoing process better than the women of Phyllis Wheatley Branches across the country. Despite national and local pressure to integrate at any cost, Denver's Phyllis Wheatley Branch leadership clung politely, yet tightly, to its identity and existence throughout the 1940s. Although the name was changed in 1950 to the "Welton Street Branch," the operation continued actively until well into the 1960s. Those cities which had chosen to dissolve their black branches early had reported severe drops in black participation that Denver had so far avoided. This period of transition, questioning, and reservation was an important one for Denver's YWCA and the city's black women it bought time for important programs for young black women which might have been lost in a more hasty process. It allowed black leadership to flourish. Perhaps it paved the way for Denver's election of the nation's first black president of a local association twenty years later-Addye Lightner in 1969. During the decades previous to its closure in 1964, the leadership and constituency of the Phyllis Wheatley Branch searched for and found an intermediate position which allowed them to work on two goals simultaneously: breaking through racial barriers in the YWCA and the community, and 170

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maintaining effective programs to serve the needs of black women and girls. This approach bought them time, preserved their black Branch longer than any other YWCA city, and laid the groundwork for a strong black core of leadership which would serve the entire YWCA organization in the city. In the process of working to break down the barriers of prejudice in their own organization, they did not lose sight of the need to maintain their own identity and serve their own community. Racial barriers and the complexities of integration that the YWCA faced during its history still face our community at large today. The ongoing debates over school bussing and affirmative action programs signify that deep racial divisions still exist in America, despitl.! decades of integrated schools, civil rights laws, and the growth of the black middle class. American history reveals that while forced segregation has primarily served to preserve white superiority, racial integration without guarantees of political, economic, and social equality can also lead to the deterioration of conditions for African Americans. Black leaders have long worried and warned about the complexities of surviving today while working to overcome racism today and tomorrow. Historian Evelyn Higginbotham has called on scholars to 171

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"rescue women from invisibility as historical actors in the drama of black empowerment."7 As with her study of race relations in the Baptist Church, much can be learned about the pitfalls of idealism with respect to race relations from the experiences of women in interracial organizations like the YWCA. Black YWCA women in Denver devised strategies which championed equality and mutual understanding between the races, but still held the line against both overt and covert white racism. Through their work in interracial committees and community civil rights organizations, Phyllis Wheatley women patiently educated many whites to become ardent supporters of black civil rights. Most importantly, they deepened and expanded the grass-roots movement for racial and gender equality by working to fulfill the actual needs of minority women and girls in the Denver community. The lives of Denver's working women and youth were measurably improved through the efforts of the Phyllis Wheatley Branch .. For a fifty year period spanning two World Wars, a group of dedicated Denver women tirelessly built, operated, and preserved the YWCA's Phyllis Wheatley Branch, a thriving center for black women and girls whose accomplishments have remained unmatched in the city or the Rocky Mountain region. Leaders and members of the former black Branch remained active in 7 Higginbotham, p. 2. 172

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the YWCA until when bankruptcy forced an end to the 107 year old YWCA of Metropolitan Denver. Their efforts on behalf of minority and women's equality comprise a significant chapter in the history of 20th century women's history, black history, and urban social development in the American West. Denver's Phyllis Wheatley women have earned the right to proclaim, in the proud words of Branch founder Nelsine Howard Campbell, "Our heads are up!"a 8 Campbell, p. 35. 173

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BIBLIOGRAPHY Books Atkins, James T. Human Relations in Colorado: A Historical Record. Denver: Publisher's Press, Inc, 1968. Colorado Historical Society. An Inventory of the Papers of the YWCA of Metropolitan Denver, finding aid written and compiled by Marcia T. Goldstein. Denver: Colorado Historical Society, 1991. Giddings, Paula. When and Where I Enter: the Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America. New York: Bantam Books, 1984. Higginbotham, Evelyn Brooks. Righteous Discontent: The Women's Movement in the Black Baptist Church, 1880-1920. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993. Hine, Darlene Clark, ed. Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia. New York: Carlson Publishing, Inc., 1993. Jones, Adrienne Lash. Jane Edna Hunter: A Case Study of Black Leadership, 1910-1950. From the series, Black Women in United States History. New York: Carlson Publishers, Inc., 1990. Vol. 12. Jones, Jacqueline. Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work, and the Family from Slavery to the Present. New York: Basic Books, 1985. 174

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Leonard, Stephen J. Trials and Triumphs: A Colorado Portrait of the Great Depression. Niwot: University Press of Colorado, 1993. Leonard, Stephen J. and Thomas J. Noel. Denver: From Mining Camp to Metropolis. Niwot: University Press of Colorado, 1990. Reid, Ira De A. The Negro Population in Denver, Colorado: A Survey of Its Economic and Social Status. Denver: Lincoln Press, 1929. Sabiston, Dorothy and the YWCA National Board. Toward Better Race Relations. New York: The Woman's Press, 1949. Salem, Dorothy. To Better Our World: Black Women in Organized Reform, 1890-1920. From the series, Black Women in United States History. New York: Carlson Publishers, Inc., 1990. Vol. 14. Wahlberg, Edgar Voices in the Darkness: A Memoir. Boulder: Roberts Rinehart, 1983. Weinberg, Meyer, ed. W.E.B. DuBois: A Reader. New York: Harper and Row, 1970. YWCA National Board. Interracial Practices in Community YWCAs: A Study Under the Auspices of the Commission to Gather Interracial Experience as Requested by the 16th National Convention of the YWCAs of the United States. New York: The Woman's Press, 1944. Zinn, Howard, A People's History of the United States. New York: HarperCollins, 1980. 175

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Theses and Dissertations Dickson, Lynda. The Early Club Movement Among Black Women in Denver: 1890-1925. Ph. D. dissertation. University of Colorado, 1982. Articles Armitage, Susan, Theresa Banfield, and Sarah Jacobus. "Black Women and their Communities in Colorado." Darlene Clark Hine, ed. Black Women's History, Theory and Practice, vol. 1, pp. 103-119. From the series, Black Women in United States History. New York: Carlson Publishing Inc., 1990. Vol. 10. Originally published in Frontiers, Vol. II, No. 2 (Summer, 1977), pp. 45-51. Cochrane, Sharlene Voogd. "'And the Pressure Never Let Up,': Black Women, White Women, and the Boston YWCA, 1918-1948." Vicki L. Crawford, ed., Women in the Civil Rights Movement: Trailblazers and Torchbearers, 1941-1965, pp. 259-269. From the Black Women in United States History. New York: Carlson Publishing Inc., 1990. vol. 16. Deutsch, Sarah. "Landscape of Enclaves: Race Relations in the West, 18651990." In William Cronon, George Miles, and Jay Gitlin, eds. Under an Open Sky, Rethinking America's Western Past. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1992. Dickson, Lynda F. "Toward a Broader Angle Vision in Uncovering Women's History: Black Women's Clubs Revisited." Darlene Clark Hine, ed. Black Women's History, Theory and Practice, vol. 1, pp. 103-119. From the series, Black Women in United States History. New York: Carlson Publishing Inc., 1990. Vol. 10. Originally published in Frontiers, Vol. IX, No. 2 (1987), pp. 62-68. 176

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Ediger, Kathy. "Capitol Hill WACs Bring Back 50 Years of Fond Memories." Greater Capitol Hill Neighborhood News, val. 1, no. 7, July, 1992. Denver, Colorado. Hansen, Maya. "Entitled to Full and Equal Enjoyment: Leisure and Entertainment in the Denver Black Community, 1900-1930." University of Colorado Historical Studies Journal. Denver, Colorado. val 10, No. 1. Spring, 1993. Jackson, Robert. "Five Points, Making a Comeback: Neighborhood reaches for renewal." The Rocky Mountain News, April 17, 1991. Nelhaus, Arlynn. "Helmswoman ofthe YWCA." The Denver Post. Contemporary Magazine, August 3, 1969. Pascoe, Peggy. "Western Women at the Cultural Crossroads." In Patricia Nelson Limerick, Clyde A. Milner II, and Charles E. Rankin, eds .. Trails: Toward a New Western History. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1991. Traub, James, "Segregation by Choice: Where integration has failed, can all black schools succeed?" The Rocky Mountain News, April 28, 1991, p .. 93. Manuscript Collections Colorado Association of Co1ored Women's Clubs. Manuscript Collection. Denver Public Library. Western History Department. 177

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Federal WP A Writers' Program, Colorado. "Negro Pioneers." Box 1, File 2. c. 1940. Colorado Historical Society. -----------Life in Denver Series. 1936-1942. "Negroes." Colorado Historical Society. YWCA of Metropolitan Denver. Manuscript Collection No. 1254. Colorado Historical Society. Denver, Colorado. Unpublished Papers Anthes, Mary. "Lifting as We Climb." Unpublished paper. University of Colorado, Boulder, 1991. Blagg, Aimee. "Strains and Stresses: Race, Class, and Integration in the Denver YWCA, 1955-1964." Unpublished paper. University of Colorado at Boulder, 1991. Campbell, Nelsine Howard. "History of the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA." 1935. Unpublished typescript. Box 43, Folder 1056. YWCA Collection No. 1254. Colorado Historical Denver, Colorado. Denver Area Welfare Council. "Study of the Place of the Welton Street Branch." 1955. File Folder No. 577, YWCA Collection No. 1254, Colorado Historical Society. Denver, Colorado. Lynn, Susan. "The Quest for Racial Equality in the YWCA, 1945 to the 1960s." Unpublished paper delivered to Organization of American Historians. Louisville, Kentucky, April, 1991. 178

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Jones, Adrienne Lash. "Struggle Among Saints: Black Women and the YWCA, 1946-1960." Unpublished paper delivered to Organization of American Historians, Kentucky, April, 1991. Interviews Lightner, Addye. Interview with author. Denver, Colorado. March 26, 1991, and April 15, 1991. Sims, Sarah. Interview with author. Denver, Colorado. April 15, 1991. 179