DECEMBER 4, 2015 LAST UPDATED: FRIDAY, DECEMBER 4, 2015, 12:31 AM
THE RIDGEWOOD NEWS
Editor’s Note – This historical background, timeline and pictures were provided by Marie DeNoia Aronsohn, YWCA director of Development and Communications
Ninety-five years ago the world, the nation, and Ridgewood were very different places. In 1920 Woodrow Wilson, president of the United States Congress approved The Eighteenth Amendment which prohibited alcohol (as one historian notes, “Not only did the Amendment fail to be heeded; it often failed to be acknowledged with a straight face.”) and finally, after a crusade that began as far back as 1638, the states ratified the Nineteenth Amendment legalizing a woman’s right to vote. Ridgewood had a lot going in on in 1920 as well. One resident, in particular, was inspired to make an addition to her community – one that stands as a valuable resource to this day. Her name was Nell Doremus.
Born in 1891 to Ridgewood parents, Doremus was a local girl with an abiding commitment to serving her community and more specifically was an avid advocate for safe affordable housing, better working conditions, and improved wages for young women in industry. In 1920, as a leader of a group called the “Girls Patriotic League,” Doremus applied to the national YWCA and received a charter to form the YWCA chapter which is now the YWCA Bergen County. This year the YWCA Bergen County is celebrating its Ridgewood roots, reflecting on its legacy, while also embracing a new call to action: recommitting to the YWCA’s mighty mission: eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, dignity, and freedom for all.
This month, as part of its Giving Tuesday appeal, the YWCA Bergen County is sharing specific stories about the power and promise of its mission-driven programs: from girls’ leadership seminars to sexual violence intervention, to special needs and therapeutic swim classes, the YWCA Giving Tuesday site will be featuring true stories that illustrate what we mean by “living our mission” to promote the self-empowerment and social justice of the families and individuals throughout Bergen County.
The now international YWCA, formed in its earliest incarnation in 1858, is the oldest and largest multicultural women’s organization in the world. Throughout our history, YWCA has been in the forefront of most major movements in the United States as a pioneer in race relations, labor union representation, and the empowerment of women. The YWCA Bergen County’s history is also richly reflective of the international organization’s spirit and traces Ridgewood’s own community history.