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Aveling, Wilhelmina (1907-1987) | Archival Collections at Wheaton College

Name: Aveling, Wilhelmina (1907-1987)

Historical Note: Wilhelmina Aveling was born December 20, 1907 to Julia Cook and Christian Wilhelm Aveling in Chicago near Morgan Park High School. Her father worked for Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company and for a time the family spent time in Singapore. With an undergraduate degree from Wheaton College (1928) and a graduate degree from Northwestern University in Personnel and Guidance, Willie, as she was known, began working with YWCA in Atlantic City, New Jersey. In 1933 she left New Jersey to begin a pioneering work with the Chicago YMCA where she worked for twenty-eight years—the first woman to serve on the Metropolitan staff. At this time involvement of women and girls in the YMCA was minimal and was likely the first official Women and Girls Secretary. She was responsible for the development of the family YMCA concept, a model that was replicated across the United States and Canada. She saw an opportunity for the YMCA to developing a work where the whole family, each member, could find something suited to his or her own taste and together they may share interests common to all. Her weight loss program, Lose Weight the Y’s Way, gained worldwide recognition and her "Danish Gymnastics" program was a precursor to the development of modern aerobic dance. Elected prior to her death, Aveling was inducted into Springfield College’s YMCA Hall of Fame for her achievements and dedication to the YMCA in 1987. Aveling died April 17, 1987.
Note Author: Wheaton College Archives and Special Collections staff

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