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York College graphic design professor contributes mug to YWCA York’s 125th-anniversary celebrations

February 15, 2016
York College graphic arts professor Melanie Rodgers

Melanie Rodgers can still remember the first few times as a child that she picked up a drawing pencil or jumped into the waters of the swimming pool at YWCA York.  

The organization contributed so much to the native Yorker’s life that when she was asked recently to design a mug for its 125th-anniversary celebrations, it seemed like the perfect way to give back, says Rodgers, a graphic designer and associate professor at the York College of Pennsylvania 

“The YWCA was one of the first places I experienced true independence in a safe and supportive environment,” she says. 

Rodgers’ mug is one of four that will appear in a series to highlight the YWCA York’s anniversary. Each mug highlights women through different time periods: the 1890s, 1940s, 1970s, and modern times.  

Rodgers’ contribution to the 1890s mug highlights when York’s chapter of the YWCA was incorporated. Her inspiration for the mug’s design came from all of the photos she came across when researching what was a significant development for women at the time. The mug’s star is a young woman on a bicycle in front of Central Market York – also 125 years old – and directly across the street from Marketview Arts, an acquisition made by York College in 2015. 

Something as simple as a bicycle provided these women with the freedom to travel, take part in recreation, physical exercise, and social activities, she says. The bicycle had recently been redesigned to get rid of the huge front wheel, and women all over Europe and the United States were hopping onboard.  

Many even donned new outfits, such as bloomers and split skirts, to make riding easier. But even riding a bicycle was controversial for a woman at the time, Rodgers says. In her research, she found one passage where a doctor referred to “Bicycle Face” as a condition in which women would become flushed, with reddened skin and irritation that would compromise their attractiveness. 

“It’s no wonder that the national Federation for Woman’s Suffrage was founded in 1895 in the midst of this social revolution,” Jean Treuthart, the executive director of York YWCA, wrote on an insert that goes in the mug.  

In York, that revolution led to the creation of the Young Women’s Christian Association. Just 16 women created the organization as a gathering place to lift up one another through employment, as well as classes in French, cooking, nature, and stenography. 

Rodgers’ mug is now available for sale through YWCA York and a meet the artist reception will be 5 to 7 p.m. March 24 during the York County Economic Alliance’s Business After Hours event at the YWCA York, 320 E. Market St., York. Each mug is $10 and benefits the numerous programs provided through the YWCA York. For more information, visit www.ywcayork.org or call 717-845-2631.