The History of the YWCA Saskatoon

The YWCA Saskatoon was established in 1910 by Miss Millicent Simcox, a deaconess with the Church of England, who had established Traveler’s Aid as support for women unfamiliar with the city. The Christ Church Women’s Association and The Golden West Chapter of the I.O.D. E. recognized the work Miss Simcox had undertaken and began the process to establish the YWCA Saskatoon. As of today, it is a proud fixture of the city – a resilient sign of hope for its people for more than a century.

1910: The YWCA was officially established. It began in a cottage with four cots, then moved to rented rooms on 22nd Street. Young women paid $20.00 per month for a room.

1912: The first YWCA Saskatoon facility was built at a cost of $47,000, which included the lot, building, and furnishings.

1913: Negotiations began with the YMCA for use of their pool and gymnasium. Initially, such progressive steps were not well received.

1914: Groups of well chaperoned young women were granted use of the YMCA pool and gym on special nights.

1918: The YWCA residence was used as a hospice during the flu epidemic. This lasted until 1919.

1920: Clubs were established at the YWCA, including the Homemaker’s Club, Cooperative Club, Club for New Canadians, and the Blue Triangle Club. The residence became the official host for the Women’s British Immigration league in Northern Saskatchewan.

1930s: During the Depression, clubs flourished with 12 different clubs meeting at the YWCA and 1,600 girls and women involved in various YWCA activities. Programs were developed to assist young women and girls to develop skills necessary for entering the workforce.

1939: YWCA joined the Saskatoon Community Chest, now known as the United Way of Saskatoon and Area.

1941: YWCA established a hostess house at the Dundurn army camp. A hostess house was a home in which women could meet their sons and husbands who were in the services. The War Brides Club was established and is still in existence today.

1957: A major addition was made to the YWCA building including a swimming pool, a gymnasium, and additional residence rooms.

1970 & 1972: Renovations were made to the original facility.

1974: YWCA played a major role in development of the Big Sisters Organization in Saskatoon.

1985: With the financial assistance of three levels of government and the community, a new home was built for YWCA. The new location (where we still reside) included space for a Child Development Centre – new programming focused on providing families with accessible and affordable child care.

1992: Funded by the three levels of government, Westridge housing complex was built for women and their families. YWCA Saskatoon became the legal owner of 30 of these units which were built in partnership with the Saskatoon Housing Authority and Mennonite Care Services. The Bridge City Cosmopolitan Club supported a community kitchen.

1993: YWCA opened an additional 26 affordable housing units in the Pleasant Hill Community called the Berryridge complex. It was developed in partnership with the Pleasant Hill Community Association and funded by the three levels of government. The Bridge City Cosmopolitan Club and labour from the New Careers Corporation of Saskatchewan provided a community kitchen.

1996 – 1997: The YWCA engaged in a community study that was called the “Saskatoon Community Service Village Project,” which lead to the construction of the Saskatoon Community Services Village in 2000 – 2001.

2000: $341,000 from the Centenary Fund of the provincial government enabled the YWCA to renovate its Crisis Shelter.

2000-2001: The Saskatoon Community Services Village was constructed

2001: The YWCA celebrated 90 years of serving the Saskatoon community. During this year the original stone archway from the old YWCA was rebuilt. The project was made possible thanks to the hard work of Earl McGinnis (former YWCA Building Operations Director). The arch was dedicated by His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales, in April 2001. Also during 2001, the YWCA underwent extensive renovations to modernize its 16 year old building.

2002: Deloitte & Touche conducted research and prepared a business plan for the YWCA Shelter and Residence that resulted in the Government of Saskatchewan committing to core funding. A major finding of the study was that YWCA Saskatoon operated the largest women’s shelter in the province, a fact that is still true to this day.

2005: The YWCA completed extensive renovations to the second and third floors of its shelter and residence through funding received through both the provincial and federal governments.

2008: Pursuing a desire to adjust its shelter focus to emerging and transitional housing, the YWCA divested itself of all off-site affordable housing units.

2009: YWCA divests itself of off-site housing complexes Berryridge and Westridge Village which are turned over to the Saskatoon Housing Authority. Cindy’s Garden, created in memory of Cindy Copeland, is created for the children in the Child Development Centre.

2011: 100 years of service is celebrated with a number of events, including a Family Fun Day in Kinsmen Park and Tim Broadhead speaking at the AGM.

2014: YWCA Trade Journey, a pre-apprenticeship program aimed to increase women’s participation in the construction industry, is initiated.

2020: The Women Shifting Gears program, a training and work-placement partnership with the Saskatchewan Trucking Association, launches with an inaugural group.

2021: YWCA Saskatoon is awarded the SABEX Community Impact Award, for our contributions and ongoing efforts toward improving quality of life in the city.