Ms. Elizabeth Palmer, a resident of Pilgrim Place, California, passed away October 4, 2014 at the age of 101. Ms. Palmer was a trailblazer and an exceptional leader who dedicated her whole life to the YWCA mission. Her vision and leadership resulted in the World YWCA becoming one of the most respected women’s organizations known for setting global standards on the status of women.
A native New Yorker, Elizabeth Palmer’s lifelong dedication to the YWCA and her multiracial vision were significant factors in propelling the YWCA movement into the modern world. Her early YWCA experience was gained both in the USA and during the Second World War in Great Britain where she spent three years as General Secretary of the YWCA of Manchester. She first joined the staff of the World YWCA in 1945, working mainly with the YWCAs of Belgium and France as they were emerging from the war and occupation. In 1946, Ms. Palmer organized the first post war conference of young leaders and members of the YWCAs of Europe. After attending the World Council in Hangzhou, China, in 1947 she was appointed World YWCA Secretary for South East Asia, bringing the associations of South and East Asia closer to each other and to the world movement. Ms. Palmer returned to the World Office in Geneva in 1952 as Secretary for Interpretation and Finance and was later appointed General Secretary in 1955, a position she held until her retirement in 1978.
Ms. Palmer is one of three women on the United Nations list of 100 people who helped build the United Nations. In 1980 she chaired the NGO Forum at the Second UN World Women’s Conference in Copenhagen. Ms. Palmer worked very closely with the World Council of Churches, and succeeded in shaping the YWCA as a worldwide ecumenical movement respecting diverse cultures, religions, and national contexts. Until her passing, she was an active member of the YWCA World Service Council.