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Ladies' Christian Union Records

Call Number

MS 359


1850-2001 (Bulk 1858-1960), inclusive


Ladies' Christian Union


9.5 Linear feet (14 Archival Boxes and 3 Metal Boxes)

Language of Materials

English .


The collection consists of the records of the Ladies' Christian Union, an organization that provided affordable housing to young women in New York City. It documents 150 years of efforts to assist young women working and studying in New York City.

Series I through XIII of the collection are digitized and available in the Shelby White and Leon Levy Digital Library.

Historical Note

Missing Title

1858 Mrs. Caroline Roberts establishes the "Ladies' Christian Association" to hold Protestant prayer meetings for employed young women. After a request by a young woman for Christian boarding turns up nothing, the women decide to create and maintain housing for young, unmarried, Protestant women living in New York City.
1860 Ladies' Christian Association rents its first house at 21 Amnity Street, now West Third Street, to let to young women. The women are to be self-supporting or students and have testimonials of character.
1870 The "Young Ladies' Branch" is established as an auxiliary group of the Ladies' Christian Union. The group seeks to assist young women by "securing for them safe boarding places in private families, employment, church privileges and intellectual improvement" (1870 Annual Report). The Band of Prayer, in which members pray for the petitions of others, is also established as part of the Ladies' Christian Union.
1871 The "Young Ladies' Branch" of the LCU reorganizes and becomes the independent organization the "Young Ladies' Christian Association," and later the "Young Women's Christian Association," more commonly known as the YWCA.
1873 The LCU embarks upon a temporary home for women of all ages at 133 MacDougal St. Called the Branch Home, it is later transformed into a more permanent home open to all women, married, unmarried or widowed.
1887 New home purchased at 72 Seventh Ave as the Home for Young Girls. The board is kept at a low rate for girls who are especially inexperienced and unskilled in work.
1893 The Eva House purchased at 153 East Sixty-Second Street as a new home for young women.
1908 The Rosemary House, a gift from Joseph Milbank to mark the jubilee year of the LCU, is established at 24 West Twelfth Street as the fourth home of the Ladies' Christian Union.
1911 Also a donation from Joseph Milbank, the Katharine House opens at 118 West 13th Street.
1918 Milbank Memorial Home at 11-13 West Tenth Street given to LCU by Mr. Jeremiah Milbank.
1922 The Roberts House on 151 East 36th Street is given to the Ladies' Christian Union by Miss Mary Roberts, daughter of Mrs. Caroline O. Roberts, its first director.
1923 Two trained nurses are employed to attend to sick girls living in the homes.
1942 The LCU allows women who have married overseas servicemen to remain in the homes. This is the only time the LCU allows married women to live in the homes other than the Branch Home.
1970 The LCU constitution changes to remove religious and/or ethnic restrictions on boarders from its Constitution.
1971 Annual Report states that the Sage House has white and black girls living together "compatibly."
2000-2001 The last LCU homes for women, the Katharine House and Roberts House, close to the public, and the LCU becomes a private grant giving foundation. It awards grants to schools and not-for-profit institutions to help young women with housing expenses who are studying or starting careers in New York City.
2003 Ladies' Christian Union changes its name to the LCU Foundation.

List of LCU Homes with Dates of Operation

Missing Title

1860-1976 Sage House, formerly called the Young Women's Home
21 Amnity Street (1860)
174-176 E. Fourteenth Street (1860-1868)
27 & 28 Washington Square North (1868-1897)
49 West 9th Street (1897-1976)
1873-1968 Hegeman House, formerly called the Branch Home and/or the Temporary Home for Women
133 MacDougal (1873-1878)
268 West 11th Street (1878-1880)
308 Second Avenue (1880-1968)
1887-1890 72 Seventh Avenue
1893-1922 The Eva
153 East 62nd Street
1908-1970 Rosemary House
24 West 12th Street
1911-2000 Katharine House
118 West 13th Street
1919-1994 Milbank House
11 West 10th Street
1922-2000 Roberts House
151 East 36th Street


The collection is arranged by type of material.

The Ladies' Christian Union Records have been organized into the following 15 series:

Missing Title

  1. Series I: Histories of the LCU, 1958, undated
  2. Series II: Reports, 1859-2001
  3. Series III: Minutes, 1858-1958
  4. Series IV: Real Estate Documents, 1850-1931
  5. Series V: Financial and Tax Materials, 1869-1907
  6. Series VI: Correspondence, 1872-1977, undated
  7. Series VII: Lists of Boarders and Members of LCU, 1860-1870, undated
  8. Series VIII: Photographs, [1880-1994], undated
  9. Series IX: Brochures, [1870-1966], undated
  10. Series X: LCU Celebrations and Events, 1868-1966, undated
  11. Series XI: Tributes to LCU Leaders, 1874-1949, undated
  12. Series XII: Manuals, 1869-1876
  13. Series XIII: Articles, 1868-1997, undated
  14. Series XIV: Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA), 1860-1945
  15. Series XV: Books, 1911-1932

Scope and Content Note

The Ladies' Christian Union (LCU) collection documents 140 years of efforts to provide safe and affordable housing to young Christian women in New York City. The collection is arranged by type of material and contains administrative materials, photographs, brochures, articles, and comprehensive information on the houses, boarders, members, and history of the LCU. Portions of this collection have been digitized and can be viewed here.

This collection's strength is its overview of young women working and studying in New York City from 1858-2001. The Annual Reports describe the changes in young women's professions, fields of study, recreational interests, and political concerns. For instance, early occupations of boarders included teachers, seamstresses, governesses, telegraph operators, and milliners while professions in the twentieth century began to include drama students, secretaries, librarians, and eventually, business and engineering students. Similarly, the patriotic work of the women during World War II contrasts with views from the 1968 Annual Report describing the difficulty of providing for young women, "while they are loudly rejecting everything current, including both the domestic and foreign policies of this country."

The early annual reports also recount the number of foreign residents and the number of girls who left the house to marry. The reports describe the large number of illnesses and deaths among the women living in the homes and how the LCU eventually provided nurses and health insurance to its residents. Other items include a ledger book of boarders from 1864-1870 and minutes of general meetings and house meetings, which reveal conflicts with boarders and circumstances when young women were asked to leave.

The collection also supports research on the general history of the administration and membership of the LCU. Claiming to be the first women's Christian association in the world, the LCU was a model for other women's Christian efforts such as the YWCA. The administrative files, particularly the annual reports, demonstrate the rise of the organization and the successes and challenges of its efforts. The collection also documents the early devotional work of the organization. Originally, the LCU focused on devotional work, including a Devotional Committee which oversaw prayer meetings and its Band of Prayer, and Christian housing. The files show how the organization began concentrating less on its devotional work and more on the operation of its houses. The Annual Reports in the collection support research into the architectural history of the various LCU buildings, and some of the general meeting and house meeting minutes describe local crime incidents.

Notable items in the collection include two letters from writer and photographer, Jacob Riis to the LCU administration regarding complaints from a boarder. Another item is a pamphlet entitled, "Behind the Lace Curtains of the YWCA," which attempts to expose the Communist infiltration of the YWCA. The collection includes three metal boxes that display the Ladies' Christian Union logo.

Access Restrictions

Open to qualified researchers.

Photocopying undertaken by staff only. Limited to twenty exposures of stable, unbound material per day. (Researchers may not accrue unused copy amounts from previous days.) Researchers on site may print out unlimited copies from microfilm reader-printer machines at per-exposure rates. See guidelines in Reading Room for details.

Use Restrictions

Permission to quote from this collection in a publication must be requested and granted in writing. Send permission requests, citing the name of the collection from which you wish to quote, to

Library Director
The New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024

Preferred Citation

This collection should be cited as Ladies' Christian Union Records, The New-York Historical Society.


Donation by Ladies' Christian Union, 2001 and 2002.

Existence and Location of Copies

Digital copies of Series I through XIII are available in the Shelby White and Leon Levy Digital Library.

Collection processed by

Processed by Maurita Baldock

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-08-21 15:50:25 -0400.
Language: Description is in English.

Edition of this Guide

This version was derived from Ladies01mb.xml


New-York Historical Society
New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024