Emily Reth is a graduate student in the Wright State University Public History program completing her capstone project with SC&A.
Originally a part of the Young Women’s Christian Association, the founding members of the Young Women’s League broke away to start their own organization in order to focus on programming to help local working ladies. The Young Women’s League of Dayton was incorporated February 3, 1898, to promote the spiritual, moral, mental, and physical welfare of women in Dayton. The membership was open to women of all religions and the League’s activities supported, in particular, young working women. The Young Women’s League Clubhouse, located at 24 West Fourth Street, contained a tea room, lunch room, library and reading room, and offered classes to its members. The Clubhouse was known for being a place where the public could go out to a nice lunch or take a shopping break to have tea. The League’s moral reputation allowed young women a place to meet before dates, a place to stay if their housing was inadequate, and an educational center for etiquette, language, dance, and how to keep a household.
In 1918, the League purchased a nearby property; the Stillwell home on First Street, in order to provide lodging for working women. The League saw that young women were commuting long distances to their jobs in factories. As a safer, more affordable option, the Stillwell house was clean, secure, and provided young women with a more reputable community. Among some of the other outreach programs, members delivered hot lunches to factory workers, sponsored a scholarship for women to complete their schooling, and offered athletic classes.
Over the decades, the Young Women’s League lost members and on February 16, 1972, the League held its last official meeting. All assets were liquidated and the property on 24 West Fourth Street was donated to the Barney Children’s Medical Center to fund a wing of their hospital.