Located as it was in Lawrence, the Greater Lawrence YWCA served a rich mix of immigrant members. Organized by Protestant women to provide girls with leadership skills, it nevertheless embraced young women of various immigrant and religious backgrounds through its International Institute, and continued to do so after the YWCA and the International Institute separated in 1933.When Eartha came to the Lawrence area, she learned about the programs of the Greater Lawrence YWCA and was convinced to serve on the International Committee.
Click to listen to Eartha Dengler's oral history of the Lawrence YWCA.
And this group met once a month to discuss other immigrant groups and usually the discussion was how different are Italians from Spanish or Spanish from Irish and I – and usually it was multinational – the groups hat met. And I had the idea that I would like to see how much we have in common. So I asked the group to sit down and go through a day and see how mothers in India have to get their kids out of bed as well as mothers in Germany and all the whole full preparation: clothing their children and all this – how many things are the same in different ways – done in different ways. But the worries when a child gets sick – do I send her to school, do I keep her home – is the same in Turkey as it is in America.
There were lots of little lessons on the way to show me that a different nationality here, given the right incentive and the right climate of acceptance, could work together and wih almost comparative looking for the worst in the other person that had happened in Germany was – it happened here but wasn't promoted here. It was really interesting for me personally and also to bring these things to the attention of Y members – how exceptional they were when compared with other nations.
That's when I started to look at their records how they had started because I had heard that the Protestant religion had played a large role in its development and still was not quite gone as a criteria for membership and also for the immigrant children. The Italians, for instance, lived around here where the YWCA was and how one of the priests tried to discourage their membership. And several Italian girls had told me they were taking their showers in the Y because there was no place for a decent girl to take a shower and it was only five pennies, five cents.
Eartha had already been gathering some records pertaining to the Germans and the Irish, but it was the YWCA records that gave shape to her interest.
So it was interesting. And that's what piqued my interest in the Y as an organization and when the records became obsolete for them but they became important to me and I convinced them to turn them over to me and I would like to keep them.