Holly Johnson: Membership cards give up their history

Published 6:30 am Saturday, August 22, 2020

One project that I have been walking by daily for nearly eight years now is organizing the contents of the wooden file cabinet that sits in “George’s Office.”  The top two drawers are full of index cards while the bottom drawers contain hanging file folders of documents.  I have glanced through the contents, but have never taken the time to really study the information.  Thanks to our summer intern Kaitlyn Ronning, who you heard from last week, I now know what I have been missing by neglecting the cabinet.

Kaitlyn quietly entered the data from the membership cards over a period of a couple weeks, but I didn’t look at the spreadsheet until recently. I was shocked to find that there were a total of 959 membership cards that spanned the years 1922 – 1971.  The cards contain information such as address, membership dues, and years of membership.  Of those who joined from 1922-1935, the average years of membership was 20.  Two women, Margaret Rockne and Mabel Olson, actually had 42 years of membership recorded and Mrs. Richard Dougherty followed closely with 38 years.

A look back at the membership of the YWCA. Photo provided

I examined the addresses of the members to see if I could determine in which neighborhoods the ladies came from.  Street names like Kenwood, Winona, Greenwich, College, Mill and Oakland were prevalent and over 50 members had rural route numbers listed.  There were a few from Blooming Prairie, Rose Creek and Waltham and one from Owatonna.  It seems the YWCA attracted women from all quadrants of the city and beyond.

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Many of the records indicate what clubs the women participated in during their membership years.  The Hoe & Gro Club, Austin Garden Club and Seek and Find Club were very popular in the 1960s.  It appears that most of the members of the Y in the 1970-71 timeframe took advantage of the many classes that were offered at that time.  Y members also participated in the Collectors Club as far back as 1935.

Here’s a tidbit that I wish we could resurrect.  The light bill for the year 1930 was $19.20 … for the entire year.

I haven’t had time to review all of the data records, and I know this is just a snapshot of the women who benefited from membership in the Young Women’s Christian Association, but the information is interesting and offers us more stories to tell.  And maybe your name or the name of your family members are in these files.  Feel free to reach out if you want to know who we found in the cabinet.

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