YWCA O‘ahu was founded on the steps of Mrs. B. F. Dillingham's small cottage on the corner of Arcadia and Punahou. It was a place for Honolulu’s working women to build friendships, develop shared values, and learn skills that promote community engagement. Earliest classes included English, Bible study and lacemaking.
Mrs. E. W. Jordan was the first president with 128 charter members. Its headquarters was a small room in the Elite Building on Hotel Street. As membership increased, YWCA moved to two rooms in the Boston Building on Fort Street.
YWCA O‘ahu joined YWCA USA as an official charter and offers recreational and athletic programs including tennis and swimming classes.
“The Homestead,” the first YWCA residence for young working women, opened to address community concerns on safe and affordable housing accommodations in Hawai‘i.
A group of women at YWCA O‘ahu became one of the first in the state to participate in organized swim lessons. During these times, women were normally restricted to wading pools.
Queen Lili‘uokalani became a member of YWCA O‘ahu until her death in 1917. The first Business Women's Club was established.
YWCA moved to the old YMCA building on the corner of Alakea and Hotel Streets. Membership grew from 800 to 1,386 with a new gymnasium and cafeteria.
The Red Cross moved into YWCA and a secretary is hired to aid Japanese picture brides. YWCA O‘ahu raised $45,000 to establish a Patriotic League, which offered wholesome entertainment for soldiers, aid to travelers, and instruction in food conservation.
The Girl Reserves are established. Here is a photo of the Girl Reserves Reporters in 1928.
The Atherton Family donated the Fernhurst Building, located on the corner of King and Alapai streets to YWCA O‘ahu as a tribute to their daughter Kate and her deep interest in the welfare of girls. Julia Morgan designed the Fernhurst facility, which was named after all of the ferns that decorated the residence. YWCA Hilo and YWCA Kauai were established. Hostess houses were manned and equipped by the YWCA at Schofield and Fort Shafter for women and families to meet their off-duty military husbands and fathers. The International Institute was formed to aid immigrant women and families in their transition from the plantations into the city. They were taught to read signs, make clothes, and given instructions in how to obtain services from lawyers, banks, doctors, and hospitals.
Fernhurst opened its doors and was dedicated to transitional housing for women.
Julia Morgan was hired to design the current Richards Street building. She was the first woman accepted to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and is still considered one of the most prestigious female architects from America today.
The Hawaiian Girls Club donated $1,000 to the new building fund for the YWCA and was offered the choice to name any room in the new headquarters. They chose the large downstairs hall and named it Elizabeth Fuller after their first president. Elizabeth died on a trip around the world with the Hawaiian Girls Club, which regularly played against the YWCA volleyball and basketball team. Elizabeth Fuller is pictured second from the right in this photo from 1919. YWCA established the “Little House on Wheels,” a mobile classroom for physical and spiritual health outreach across O‘ahu.
Construction is underway at the Laniākea headquarters. The Damon property at Waikiki was purchased and later became the Beach Club.
The Richards Street building was completed and aptly named Laniākea, meaning “open skies.” YWCA O‘ahu offered classes in typing and home nursing, summer camps, and expanded their services to schools.
A stained glass window was gifted for the YWCA chapel and given by F.J. Lowrey in memory of his wife Cherilla Lowrey. It was designed by Nicols D’Asengo, the same artist that made the beautiful windows at the Church at Valley Forge.
YWCA O‘ahu acquired ten acres of waterfront property with funds largely provided by the Juliette M. Atherton Trust and established Camp Halekipa. The construction of Atherton Hall was completed one year later.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, YWCA fed breakfasts to the new Hawaiian Guard. Sixty men were served on December 8 and grew to 2,500 men on peak days. The basement of the Laniākea YWCA also served as a shelter, while the third floor had a surgical dressing unit from the Red Cross.
Camp Halekipa was taken over by the Navy for $400/month and was used as a rest camp by the military, offering soldiers a peaceful oasis during World War II.
Toshiko Takaezu opened the ceramics studio at the Laniākea YWCA. The ceramics studio was later closed in 2008.