YWCA Life Member Janet Whitham began her journey with the YWCA in Adelaide when she was just 19 years old and has since borne witness to almost 60 years of the organisation’s growth and change.
Janet started out as a Voluntary Leader for the YWCA’s Reserve Girl Citizens in South Australia which taught young women to take on social responsibility through activities like sewing and physical exercise.
For our modern members, this might seem far flung from YWCA’s current focus on achieving gender equality, providing safe housing and ending gendered violence – but the principle of young women coming together for social change and connection has never changed!
Janet served as a Program Director / Youth Worker with the Adelaide YWCA, and as the National Youth Field Officer with National YWCA. Her membership with the YWCA took her all over the world, volunteering and working with YWCA’s in London, Geneva and the United States for three years in the 1960s.
Janet often captivates YWCA staff and members with stories of her adventures as a Y woman – she once had afternoon tea at the White House with the YWCA International Training Institute!
Janet’s love and dedication to the history of the YWCA has never wavered and in 2005 Janet was the principal author of a book on the history of YWCA Adelaide to commemorate its 125 Anniversary. The book, aptly named ‘Before Their Time’, is a nod to the pioneering and progressive history of the YWCA, and its ability to evolve to meet the needs of women in that moment. Janet still passionately declares that the most exciting thing for her about the YWCA is how it changes with the times.
Janet’s life has slowed down only a little bit since those early days. Together with her husband Peter, Janet has raised their two daughters, Justine and Alexandra, to be leaders in their own right with Janet often musing about her luck to be constantly surrounded by amazing women.
When she’s not regaling the Adelaide office with stories of her adventures, Janet spends her days painting and writing. In fact, Janet is hoping to share the inspiring history of the late Margaret Davey, a former YWCA President and long-time YWCA member. She is currently seeking donations to get her completed book published, aiming to share Margaret’s legacy with the world.
Janet’s involvement with the YWCA over the past 60 years, is a true and vibrant testament to the power of membership organisations. It is rare today to find a space for lifelong sisterhood, change-making and opportunities for young women; but the history of the YWCA has always been to bring women together.
We are so humbled by the service and love Janet has given to the YWCA and are honoured to have her as a Life Member.