The Work of the Hamilton Branch of the YWCA in Indian Hospitals, Sanatoria, and Residential Schools

Kristin Burnett

Award: 2021 Project Grant

During the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, women’s philanthropic organizations made financial and in-kind contributions to Indian hospitals, sanatoria, and residential schools. Records from the Department of Indian Affairs and churches describe the arrival of clothing, bedding, medicine, and toys from women’s organizations. For large voluntary organizations, these contributions went further to include running educational programming, camps, and voluntary labour. This project explores the work of the Hamilton YWCA in these institutions during the twentieth century.


Histories of the YWCA have explored the labours of the organization among working-class women, recent immigrants, girls’ homes, and more broadly the ‘girl problem,” but less attention has been paid to situating the YWCA within Canada’s settler-colonial project.

It is important for us to understand the work of non-Indigenous women in Indian Hospitals and Residential schools and look beyond the church and its various missionary organizations, to include the contributions of organizations like the YWCA. Making these histories visible answers Calls to Action issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in 2015.