Feminist leader Patricia Ireland was removed as CEO of the YWCA on Thursday. This decision by the YWCA National Coordinating Board (NCB) comes after months of pressure by right-wing groups such as the Traditional Values Coalition. The so-called Traditional Values Coalition went so far as to write Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson, asking him to review $114 million in federal grants to YWCA organizations. The group also urged its members to ask their legislators to restrict funding to the organization, which, through its 302 local YWCAs, provides child care, domestic violence services, employment training, and other programs to more than two million women and girls annually.
“I am very concerned that pressure from right-wing groups resulted in the loss of a strong leader, both for women’s rights and for ending racism, at the YWCA,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation. The YWCA, citing employment policies, will not discuss whether pressure from these ultraconservative groups led to its decision to terminate Ireland. Instead, the YWCA’s board chair, Audrey Peeples, released a statement saying, “We have the deepest admiration for Ms. Ireland’s dedication to women’s issues and social justice, but the YWCA has proved the wrong platform for her to advocate for these issues.”
Ireland’s top priorities upon assuming office at the YWCA in April were domestic violence prevention and programs aimed at stopping racism. The mission of the YWCA is to empower women and girls and eliminate racism. When Ireland, a former president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), was named CEO less than six months ago, Peeples said, “There is no better person than Patricia Ireland to help re-ignite our advocacy positions.”