Ladies' Christian Union Records
Language of Materials
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.
List of LCU Homes with Dates of Operation
21 Amnity Street (1860)
174-176 E. Fourteenth Street (1860-1868)
27 & 28 Washington Square North (1868-1897)
49 West 9th Street (1897-1976)
133 MacDougal (1873-1878)
268 West 11th Street (1878-1880)
308 Second Avenue (1880-1968)
153 East 62nd Street
24 West 12th Street
118 West 13th Street
11 West 10th Street
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:
- Series I: Histories of the LCU, 1958, undated
- Series II: Reports, 1859-2001
- Series III: Minutes, 1858-1958
- Series IV: Real Estate Documents, 1850-1931
- Series V: Financial and Tax Materials, 1869-1907
- Series VI: Correspondence, 1872-1977, undated
- Series VII: Lists of Boarders and Members of LCU, 1860-1870, undated
- Series VIII: Photographs, [1880-1994], undated
- Series IX: Brochures, [1870-1966], undated
- Series X: LCU Celebrations and Events, 1868-1966, undated
- Series XI: Tributes to LCU Leaders, 1874-1949, undated
- Series XII: Manuals, 1869-1876
- Series XIII: Articles, 1868-1997, undated
- Series XIV: Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA), 1860-1945
- 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.
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.
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
The New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
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.