YWCA’s All Nations Club
In 1921 the Emergency Quota Law was passed by the US Congress. This law established the United States’ first numerical limit on the number of immigrants allowed to enter the United States. A year after this law passed, the Sioux Falls YWCA created the All Nations Club – a club founded to support new women citizens.
Many new citizens felt homesick and lonely, unsure how to engage in American culture. This club aimed to celebrate the members’ home countries while teaching them about the American way of life.
Each meeting would center around a different topic. Some topics included sewing, picnics, craft nights, and dancing; however, in most meetings, the subject was focused on a specific country. During these meetings, a member from one particular country would lead the group in exploring their culture, customs, food, music, dance, art, or language.
This club also focused on giving these women a place to discuss their specific challenges. The meetings allowed members to share their struggles with American life and space to talk about the family and life they left behind.
Some meetings would focus on a specific holiday. During these gatherings, the club leader would share about the American holiday, and then the members would share how they celebrated it in their home countries. Some holiday meetings included: Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween, and Christmas.
Annual Bazaar “Fete of the Nations”
The culmination of the club’s work was the annual bazaar “Fete of the Nations.” This event showcased different countries unique to the current club members. At this celebration, members would celebrate their culture, wear the clothes of their home countries, and help people of the Sioux Falls community learn about the various places.
In the 1927 celebration, member rooms of the YWCA house hosted different countries. The rooms held art, food, and music from a specific country. As the guests walked through the house, they toured the world and enjoyed the different cultures.
In 1928, the celebration included a collection of 50 dolls dressed in the clothes of various countries. Each member helped decorate a doll and was sold off to community members to help fundraise for the club. The countries represented were France, China, Japan, England, Scotland, Russia, Greece, Norway, Switzerland, Holland, Hungary, and America.
In 1929, the members each created a unique display of their country, again showcasing art, music, and food. The countries presented included Russia, India, Greece, England, China, and Japan. A special bake sale featured Grecian, Scandinavian, Jewish, Russian, and German baked goods.
1930 brought an exceptional Spanish dance performance. Community members watched two club members perform the traditional dance, then attempted to participate in the celebration under the members’ instruction.
The All Nations Club’s “Fete of The Nations” was well anticipated yearly. With the money raised from this event, the club could fulfill its goal of providing support and aid to foreign women citizens in the Sioux Falls area community.
This club was truly ahead of its time. Intending to help immigrants and foreign citizens, it was a staple for the YWCA members for many years.
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