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Developing roles

Journey of Faith, the history of the World YWCA 1945-1994 By Carole Seymour-Jones, Allison amp; Busby Pounds 11.99. 0 74900 265 4.

The size of this book (532 pages) is intimidating: only the most stalwart reader will read it at a sitting. However, neither that nor its unpromising title should deter anyone from browsing.

The Young Women's Christian Association was founded in the middle of the 19th century and the World YWCA was born from it in 1894. This book, published in the movement's centenary year, charts the progress of the World YWCA since 1945.

The author shows how the movement grew from an evangelical charity to one focusing on developmental work. Throughout the book the personalities of individual women shine out, presenting a fascinating insight into the power of quite ordinary women to facilitate change.

As background to the history of particular YWCA groups, chapters on individual countries are illuminated by interesting historical and sociological vignettes of life in different parts of the world. The author also shows how the influence of the movement extends beyond the purely local to national and political issues. In India, for instance, the YWCA has joined other women's groups to promote equal opportunities . That the YWCA is founded on Christian principles has not deterred it from working with groups from other faiths.

This is a book to dip into and select from, for some sections will be of more interest to members of the YWCA than to the general reader. In particular, the chronology, notes and an index mainly listing names, will be of use to those seeking information on the organisation.

Nevertheless, for those interested in the sisterhood of women, their emancipation and their capacity for co-operation there is much meat in these pages.

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