When you’re a 107-year-old organization, you’ve been around the block a time or two and there isn’t much that really shocks you. At least that was what we thought until yesterday when our history collided with our present-day evolution.
Many of you may know that YWCA existed and work on behalf of and with women for more than a century. It all began in 1909 when the first group of YWCA women leaders began fundraising in the Calgary community to buy their own property to support young women coming to the city – at a time when women were not legally allowed to own property or operate a business.
We have three cornerstones at the front of our building signifying our history in Calgary and the previous building we operated.
To ensure we honour the legacies of the women who came before us and helped shape our current path, we will incorporate the cornerstones into our new YW Hub in Inglewood.
As a worker began the delicate process of chipping away at the bricks, he discovered that behind each of the cornerstones was a time capsule.
One of the unearthed time capsules held a copy of one of YWCA’s earliest and most visible fundraising campaigns in the form of a newspaper. The Women’s Edition of the Daily Herald (The Calgary Daily Herald) came to fruition after the bold women of the early YWCA spent much time to convince the owner of the Herald to let them take charge of the paper for just one day. On June 3, 1909, the women of YWCA took over the newspaper designing the pages and writing all the articles that were hand delivered to all subscribing Calgarians. Talk about footwork!
The other time capsules seem to follow the same trend as being placed whenever a significant change happened at YW, like moving from one building to the next and the addition of a wing. The Coca-Cola bottle contains a letter and a business card from the mason who built the current pedestal to house the artifacts. The others have yet to be uncovered as we ensure that we can open them in a safe way so they are preserved and shared.
What is most significant to us about the time capsules is the forethought that the women had every time a significant change occurred at YW. The women wanted to share their legacies with future generations of warriors and advocates. They knew the work they were doing was critical and necessary and that the legacy of YWCA in Calgary would be so enduring.
So now comes the challenging tasks for the current team members, board and leadership of YW, how do we honour and preserve the materials women tucked away more than 100 years ago and what do we include for the next generation to discover?