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Publications, 1907-1998, and undated

Identifier: VI

Scope and Contents

The records in this series include Publications Department minutes, correspondence, reports, catalogs, and advertising. They document the work of those making decisions about the general interest publications, coordinating and scheduling all of the publications, and overseeing production. There are significant gaps in the minutes and only a few years of records of the production side of the operation, yet what survives provides significant insight into this aspect of the National program.

The series also includes some of the voluminous output of publications. Those that are filed with this series are the main Association-wide serials, the general interest books, and gift and keepsake items, such as engagement calendars. Other publications are filed with related records in other Series and Record Groups throughout the Records. For example, play scripts are in Pageantry and Drama, and the serial Foreign Born is in Immigration and Foreign Communities.

The National Board Library at YWCA headquarters in New York kept copies of many of the publications. That collection was transferred to the Sophia Smith Collection with the rest of the records. It is difficult to say for certain whether the collection, which consists of approximately 1700 books, pamphlets, scripts, serials, and other types of publications is complete. There are some projects mentioned in the minutes, for instance, that may not ultimately have been published, or may have been published under a different title.

For general information about the National Association and Community Associations, the Association Monthly/Womans Press/YWCA Magazine is an unparalleled source. In addition to the articles and columns, details of Association history can be traced through such things as staff and committee rosters, "secretarial changes," conference schedules, news from Community Associations, and conference and convention reports.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1907-1998, and undated

Conditions Governing Access

From the Record Group:

This collection is open for use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections.

Biographical / Historical

Early in its history, the YWCA of the U.S.A. established a Publication Department to publish its monthly magazine, then known as the Association Monthly; to produce study materials, programs, and other publications for the National Convention and for conferences; and to facilitate and oversee publication, promotion, and distribution of "technical" publications written by and for the Association's departments and divisions.

In the spring of 1916 the Publication Department and Committee started discussing a plan for enlarging the publishing venture. The idea was to finance the Association's "technical" publications through sales of more general interest material which could "Christianize the Woman's Movement." In the spring of 1917 they consulted with National Association staff, librarians, teachers, and social workers "to discover what sort of books they looked for…but did not find." These groups cited a real need for "books on vocations, written for girls; books on personal efficiency; biographies; collections of poetry; stories which will help the modern-day woman to adjust herself to the world in which she lives; and reprints in attractive form of books or parts of books which every girl ought to read." (Association Monthly, June 1917) The Department settled on a new name, The Womans Press, to reflect the more general character of the venture. (For its first 28 years, 1917-45, the name was usually printed without an apostrophe.) The first two titles under the new imprint, Mobilizing Woman-Power by Harriot Stanton Blatch and The Young Woman Citizen by Mary Austin went on sale in 1918.

In addition to their work on production and distribution of technical publications (which were generally written by staff most closely involved with the subject), the Publications Department selected authors and editors for the new general interest books, oversaw their design, publication, publicity, and distribution; produced the monthly magazine (re-christened The Womans Press) and Convention publications; and administered the Woman's Bookshop in the National headquarters.

The hard-cover general interest titles included religious books, such as collections of prayers and meditations, books on How to Use the Bible, and Christianity's relation to communism, peace, work, citizenship, and social morality. The Association also published poetry collections, women's memoirs and biographies, and books on women in history. Many titles reflected the staff's areas of expertise, presenting topics such as group work, adolescent girls' development, race relations, international understanding, health, jobs, citizenship, leadership, and sex education. Recreation and creative expression were promoted through volumes about nature study, flower arranging, parties, festivals, and Decorating the Small Apartment.

The impressive catalog of "technical" publications on a myriad of topics made up one of the most important contributions of the National Association to Community and Student Associations. The publications were clear, comprehensive, attractive, and eminently useful.

In the face of the financial challenges of the Depression, the Publications Department adjusted such things as the quality of the paper and formality of presentation, and managed to continue to put out a substantial catalog of titles.

Paper and other shortages curtailed publication during World War II. After the war, the National Association attempted a revival on advice of a "business analyst." A three-year plan concentrated in three major subject areas appropriate to YWCA: social group work, religion, and self-help books for women. The records are vague about why the Association ultimately abandoned this plan, but it eventually decided to sell its rights in the "general interest" hardcover books to Whiteside, Inc., in 1952. As part of the agreement, the National Association promised to limit its future publications to items for use within the Association and not to enter the publishing business in any form.

The National Association continued to put out technical and publicity materials, but on a much smaller scale. In 1961, the efforts became the responsibility of the Communications Bureau.

Administrative History of Publications functions in the YWCA of the U.S.A.

Publication Department
Editorial Department in Editorial and Publicity Division
program staff decentralized in Field Division and Education and Research Division
Education and Research Division
Publications in Laboratory Division
Publication Department
Publications Services in Membership Resources and Woman's Press in General Administration
Publications Services in Membership Resources
Publications Services in General Administration
beginning 1961
part of Communications Bureau in Executive Office


20 linear feet

Language of Materials


Existence and Location of Copies

Digitized copies of the most significant serial publications from all of the YWCA record groups, including the ones described in this series, are available through our digital repository, and are linked to from the publication titles in the finding aids.

Relationship to Microfilmed YWCA of the USA records

In addition to Committee records listed below (which were retained after microfilming and are included in this series), many YWCA publications were microfilmed with other records related to their subject or department. They are usually located in the "Miscellaneous" section at the end of each Subject in the Subject Files. Note that the microfilm only contains records from before 1970.

The publications that were microfilmed were mainly the "technical" items and only rarely the hard-cover books. The main serials were not microfilmed.

Records relating to YWCA publishing efforts can be found on the Microfilmed YWCA of the USA records which have been digitized and are available online through our repository under the following headings:

Minutes and Reports

  1. Communications Committee
  2. Publications Services Committee
  3. Publication Department and Woman's Press Committee
  4. Publications, Committee on Correlation of
  5. Woman's Press Committee

Subject Files

  1. Copyrights
  2. Publications Services
  3. Reprint Privilege
  4. Woman's Press [reel lost]

Related Materials

"Technical" publications can be found throughout the records, usually in the Publications section within a series or subseries.

In other Series in this Record Group

The Publications Department was sometimes under the administrative supervision of other departments or divisions, usually the "program"-related departments. Additional information can be found in the department/division minutes in SERIES I. DEPARTMENT, STAFF, AND COMMITTEES.

In other Record Groups

In later years, the Publications were the responsibility of the Publicity staff, Additional information can be found in SERIES VI. PUBLICITY of RECORD GROUP 3. NATIONAL ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE.

Records about the sale of the Woman's Press general interest titles in 1952 are in SERIES III. FINANCE AND DEVELOPMENT under Comptroller's Office in RECORD GROUP 3. NATIONAL ADMINSTRATIVE OFFICE.

Legal files with information about publications copyrights are in SERIES I. GENERAL ADMINISTRATION of RECORD GROUP 3. NATIONAL ADMINSTRATIVE OFFICE.

A major part of the mission of the Publications Department was responsibility for Convention and Conference publications filed in RECORD GROUP 4. NATIONAL CONVENTIONS AND CONFERENCES.

Processing Information

When the YWCA Records were transferred to the Sophia Smith Collection, they included multiple copies of many publications. The processing staff took advantage of this bounty, to file duplicates in multiple places where applicable-for instance, booklets about training Girl Reserve workers could be filed both in Training and Teenage Program.

Repository Details

Part of the Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063