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Cambridge Women's Heritage Project

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Yona, Anna (Foa)
YWCA of Cambridge


Anna (Foa) Yona (b. 1908 in Turin, Italy, d. October 2006 in Newton, MA)
Teacher, Radio Host
     Anna Foa was the middle daughter of Lelia and Ettore Foa of Turin, Italy. She married David Yona, a civil engineer, in that city in 1932. The couple fled Mussolini’s Italy in 1940, arriving in New York City; a few years later the couple moved to Cambridge with their young daughters. Anna began to teach Italian and during the Second World War hosted the “Italian Hour” radio show that included information on relatives in Italy. She also served as a translator. For many years, Anna Yona also taught Italian at the New England Conservatory of Music. After the war, her cousin, Primo Levi, sent her a manuscript; she translated a chapter of what would later be published as Survival in Auschwitz. (She submitted the manuscript to Little, Brown, which chose not to publish the book; forty years later, the book would make Levi famous in America.)
     In her old age, she provided information and material about the Foa family for a book on the experiences of five Italian Jewish families under Mussolini, which was published in 1991. Her papers and those of her husband, which include memories of her early life in Turin, are held at the Immigration History Research Center at the University of Minnesota. She died in a Newton nursing home at the age of 98.
References: Sergio Parussa. I Would Have Liked to Flee to Patagonia: Conversations with Anna Yona Bridges: A Jewish Feminist Journal Autumn 2005, Vol. 10, No. 2: Pages 10-27; Alexander Stille. Benevolence and Betrayal: Five Italian Jewish Families under Fascism (1991); Anna Yona Papers, Immigration History Research Center, College of Liberal Arts, University of Minnesota ; Obituary, Gloria Negri “Anna Yona at 98; hosted Italian-Hour” radio show” Boston Globe, October 15, 2006

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YWCA of Cambridge (est. 1892)
     The YWCA of Cambridge was established by women in the Cambridgeport branch of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. It was incorporated in February of 1892 to provide safe and inexpensive accommodations for working women and transients. During its first thirty years, it offered classes in music, dressmaking, cooking, Bible study, watercolors, German, hygiene, and physical culture. Over time, it included additional programs and services, including vocational guidance, an employment office, youth programs, day care, senior citizens’ activities, recreational facilities, and study groups on public affairs. Currently, it is the largest residential facility for women in the city.
     The YWCA of Cambridge is self-governing and administered by a volunteer Board of Directors and a small professional staff. Originally funded by membership fees, benefits, lectures, and bazaars, since the late 1930s, it receives part of its budget from United Community Services (the United Way). A collection of the records of its parent group, the Cambridgeport Woman’s Christian Temperance Union from 1881 to 1925, is held at Schlesinger Library, as well as photographs, clippings, publications, and office files of the YWCA of Cambridge from 1891 to 1981.


Cambridge YWCA Girls Basketball Team, 1916.
Photo courtesy of the Cambridge Historical Commission.

References: YWCA papers, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute; YWCA of Cambridge website http://www.ywcacam.org/default.html

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Cambridge Women's Heritage Project
March 27, 2007

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