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For the first half of the twentieth century, the YWCA actively struggled for the protection and rights of working-class women. In fact, labor issues were a major emphasis of the political and social work of both the national and Portland, Oregon YWCAs from their foundings until the 1950s. In the postwar period, however, programs for young business and professional women gained prominence over those focused on the industrial working class. Several factors united to bring about this shift. Longstanding class anxieties and conflicts within the YWCA combined with McCarthyite political pressure and postwar demographic changes to redirect programming for wage earning women from working-class "industrial girls" to middle-class "career girls."
At the turn of the century, the national YWCA focused its attention on young, urban, wage-earning women and sought to provide them with the guidance of middle-class values and the protective embrace of a Christian environment. The organization's goals soon broadened to Include a concern to improve poor working conditions, and beginning In 1911, the YWCA campaigned for protective legislation for women workers. (1) By World War I, the YWCA began to advocate for working women in a more radical way, organizing Industrial Worker's Clubs and education programs, and In 1934, officially supporting collective bargaining rights.
In the Portland YWCA, outreach to working-class women reached its peak during and directly after World War II. Under the program goal, "To work towards a better understanding of Labor groups through [a] wider representation of industrial girls, [and] close cooperation with labor," (2) the Young Adult committee of the Portland YWCA established Industrial Girls clubs in 1945, offered swing-shift classes for industrial workers, and opened the "Lunchtime Canteen" for working women in the downtown area. The observance of Union Day, beginning in 1945, was perhaps the Portland YWCA's most radical pro-labor …