LCU Fund for Women's EducationLCU Fund for Women's Education

Opening Doors Since 1858

Our History

Mrs. RobertsThe LCU story began back in 1858, on the eve of the Civil War, when a group of philanthropic New York women led by Mrs. Marshall Orme Roberts noted with concern the influx of young single working women arriving every day in New York — and the lack of decent, safe housing for these newcomers.  Taking up this cause, they organized the Ladies' Christian Association, a name soon changed to the Ladies' Christian Union.

They opened their first house in a rented property at what is now West 3rd Street and in 1860 opened its doors to "young ladies who are supporting themselves by their own exertions," charging each $3 to $3.50 a week for room and board. Not only did the young women need housing, they needed jobs, so in 1872 a branch of the Ladies’ Christian Union was founded to locate jobs—a branch that eventually became the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA).

In January 1868, the Ladies’ Christian Union was able to raise enough money to buy its first property, 27-30 Washington Square North, eventually named Sage House. This was followed in due time by Hegeman House (opened 1873), 308 Second Avenue; the Home for Young Shop Girls, 1887-90, at 72 Second Avenue; The Eva, 1893-1923, at 153 East 62nd Street; Rosemary House (opened 1908), at 24 West 12th Street; Katharine House (opened 1910, expanded 1931), 118 West 13th Street; Milbank House (opened 1919), 11 West 10th Street; and Roberts House (opened 1923), 151 East 36th Street.

Through financial panics, depressions, and wars, the Ladies Christian Union continued to expand to meet the pressing need for housing for young working women. By 1958, the organization owned and operated no less than six houses in New York City, an undertaking of much greater scale than its founders may have envisioned.

The LCU Fund for Women's Education Archives are available at the New York Historical Society. View the Guide to the Records of the Ladies Christian Union.


Past Presidents of the LCU Foundation

Organized November 24, 1858