The 1918 flu pandemic was the most severe in recent history, causing an estimated 675,000 deaths in the U.S. In the spring of 1918, YWCA Lancaster had just opened the doors to its now-historic building. Six thousand women visited the first week — at a time when women couldn’t vote or control their own money, yet shared a vision of education and opportunity for the women of Lancaster. A few months later, the Spanish influenza closed the YWCA’s doors — the shock had to have been as deep as it feels now as we deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
We have been here before. The YWCA reopened all those decades ago and has remained an engaged community actor ever since. In 1970, the agency turned to the elimination of racism because empowering all women could not happen without this aim, and today it remains as critical as ever.
The novel coronavirus is spreading indiscriminately but the impacts appear to be unequal. Lacking adequate health care and with greater exposure through front-line jobs, the African American and Latino communities are disproportionately dying from the virus. Women in abusive relationships are now staying at home with their tormentors, facing a higher risk of domestic and sexual violence. For over 100 years, we’ve been here. We shelter the vulnerable and support survivors, and when the virus ebbs, we will restart the other programs that support a strong Lancaster.
Stacie Blake, CEO