Former Lowell YWCA – YWCA and the NAACP

Former Lowell YWCA: YWCA and the NAACP

The Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) hosted events with Merrimack Valley NAACP organizers. The Merrimack Valley NAACP chapter was initiated by Samuel S. Clayton Sr., a Black man who organized the Lowell Community Social club for Black folk to socialize together. Soul Black Sixteen, a Black community organization, hosted the Miss Black Teenager beauty contest at the YWCA gymnasium. In 1976, Petrina Edwards, a Black junior at Lowell High School, won and was crowned the Miss Black Teenager beauty contest winner. 

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For nearly 70 years, YWCA Lowell had a home at 50 John St. The YWCA’s spacious building depicted on the postcard below was dedicated 115 years ago this week on June 7, 1905.

Situated between the “mile of mills” along the Merrimack River and some of the densest commercial streets of downtown Lowell, the YWCA was a place for learners and leaders. Over the decades, thousands of Lowellians walked along John St. and into the doors of the YWCA to connect with one another.

In the late 1940s and 1950s, this YWCA hosted events with Merrimack Valley NAACP organizers. This space was also a hub for feminists. Into the early 1970s, staff at this YWCA hosted workshops and book clubs on important texts such as Our Bodies, Ourselves. After moving out of John St. in 1973, this YWCA community continued to host feminist events, including the Miss Black Teenager beauty contest organized by Soul Black Sixteen and the Black Genesis Foundation.

(Thanks Lowell National Historical Park, for more information visit https://archive.org/details/CLHOH-CraytonSr/page/n3/mode/2up)

A postcard of the former YWCA Lowell at 50 John St.
A postcard of the former YWCA Lowell at 50 John St.