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Logo of the YWCA of India

“An Ever-Widening Circle of Friendship”:
YWCA Overseas Secretaries from China to Liberia

Elmina R. Lucke (1889-1987)

Elmina Lucke with small child, undated
1889 Born on 6 December in Carleton, Michigan
1912 B.A., Oberlin College
1917-19 Worked for the U.S. Children’s Bureau in Gary, Indiana, and studied social service at the University of Chicago
1919-23 Founded and directed the International Institute of the Detroit YWCA
1926-27 Enrolled in International Law and Relations doctoral program at Columbia University; received M.A.
1927-46 Taught social studies at Lincoln School, Teacher’s College, Columbia University
1946-49 Founded and directed the Delhi School of Social Work under the auspices of the YWCA in India
1950-51 Awarded Fulbright Scholarship to Cairo, where she served as consultant in social work training to the Cairo School of Social work
1952-55 Appointed chairman of the United Nations Technical Assistance Program to Pakistan advising on social work education
1964-65 Served as delegate, Tonga conference, Pan-Pacific and Southeast Asia Women’s Association (PPSEAWA); appointed PPSEAWA representative to the U.N.
1985 Publication of Unforgettable Memories, A Collection of Letters in India
1987 Died on 31 October in Sarasota, Florida

View finding aid for Elmina Lucke Papers

Main building of the Delhi School of Social Work, 1985
School of Social Work dormitories, 1985

“The new University students were arriving so unexpectedly early that many were without final letters of acceptance…. Many of them already had Master’s degrees in Economics, Education, or English or Geography. I have to admit, alas, there are more men than women as yet. In spite of having begun with YWCA scholarships, we have had to make a special effort to reach promising women students…. We must require equal numbers of men and women at the Delhi School.”

[Elmina R. Lucke, Remembering at Eighty Eight: Letters I Should have Written, edited by Elizabeth Clark Reiss (Athol, Mass.: Athol Press, 1987)]

YWCA School for Social Work in: “First Group,” Lucknow, India, undated
YWCA School of Social Work Bulletin, 1946-47

“…Be assured that it is the size of the job which is demanding all I can give – or could give if I were three experienced people in teaching, college administration, and social work… I’m insisting that all the students have experience in city and rural work before they specialize…. They learn a lot but I learn much more about the teaching that has to supplement books if anything is to happen to this nation of philosophers. And I learn still more about the state of social work…in most of India. There is so little the students can see except the needs and the problems, practically no ‘going concerns’ where they could be inspired by seeing good social work done.”

[Elmina Lucke to her brother, 27 January [1947?]]

Delhi School for Social Work class of 1950
studying welfare methods in Bombay
Girls class at old Hajji refugee camp, undated

“We have long known the YWCA is not in any country just a working girls[‘] residence, or a program of evening classes and swimming pool or gym tournaments…. I had been thrilled to hear that certain American advisors had planned excellent social work projects in city slums…. This proposal, however, of ‘an organization for training mature students for Social Work’ was most unexpected and exciting.”

[Elmina R. Lucke, Remembering at Eighty Eight: Letters I Should have Written]

Mrs. Dalton Murray (left) and Doctor
Singh (second from left), with students, undated

“Do you realize it was just three years ago this month that I left Columbia University to come out to your country to help you build a new profession?…All the doubts I had during the more than difficult first year, all the mistakes made, all I wish now I had known how to do, have become very vivid these first months back at home and keep turning my thoughts to you. Your ideals and your hard work and your loyalties, you must know, made it possible for me to go on until the School became an entity…. Good courage, dear young friends. The new India must and will conquer its social ills…. You will let me hear from each one of you? I need your letters for I feel too far away.”

[Elmina Lucke to Delhi School Class of 1950, 6 April 1950]

Elmina Lucke with social work students, undated
“To Miss Lucke from Your Students,”
from Delhi School of Social Work, undated

“Phyllis Marr most fortunately agreed with us after that Lucknow visit and from that time on was in consultation. She really became Indian Acting Director, which office I feel so necessary if I am to realize my dream of this School as Indian, and myself as only an advisor who must work herself out of a job.”

[Elmina R. Lucke, Remembering at Eighty Eight: Letters I Should have Written]

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