YWCA dismisses Ireland from chief executive job

Conservatives criticized hiring of feminist leader less than 6 months ago


WASHINGTON - The feminist leader Patricia Ireland has been dismissed as chief executive officer of the YWCA less than six months after she was hired.

Ireland was notified of the board's decision on Thursday. She said in an interview yesterday that members of the YWCA's National Coordinating Board first asked her to resign, but she declined because she didn't want to give the impression that she had "jumped ship."

"I was uncharacteristically speechless," Ireland said. "There had been no notice." Her dismissal was first reported in Newsweek.

The YWCA's appointment of Ireland last May was strongly criticized by some conservative groups, which said that her background made her unfit to run the organization, founded 144 years ago as the Young Women's Christian Association.

Among the concerns they noted then were Ireland's tenure as president of the National Organization for Women, which supports gay rights and abortion rights.

Ireland praised the YWCA yesterday as a "wonderful organization with a lot of potential," and she declined to comment on specific issues on which she and the organization's leaders disagreed.

She said, however, that in recent years the YWCA had focused more on restructuring and that her enthusiasm for advocacy might have "raised some disquiet in some quarters."

She also mentioned an article in The New York Times last May in which the chairwoman of the YWCA's National Coordinating Board, Audrey Peeples, said she had not expected the intensity of criticism surrounding its decision to hire Ireland.

Ireland said those comments "set this relationship off on a somewhat difficult course." Still, she said she harbored no animosity toward the organization and would try to help the next chief executive make a "seamless transition."

Peeples declined to comment on the reasons for the termination.

Peeples dismissed speculation that Ireland's removal was the result of pressure from conservative groups.

Andrea Lafferty, executive director of the Traditional Values Coalition, a Washington-based conservative Christian group that conducted an online petition to have Ireland fired, said she believed her organization's campaign prompted the YWCA's decision.

"I believe their contributors forced them to fire her," Lafferty said.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.