Young Men's Christian Association

From Ohio History Central

YMCA Building.jpg
Photograph of the YMCA building in Columbus, Ohio

by the Baker Art Gallery, ca. 1880-1915.

In June 1844, twelve men in London, England, established the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA). Its principal organizer was Sir George Williams, an English nobleman. The YMCA originally tried to instill and continues to seek the development of Christian principles and values in young men. The organization originally confined membership to only men, but since World War II, it has accepted women as members.

In 1851, YMCA chapters opened in North America, including in Boston and Montreal. The organization quickly spread across the United States. An early predecessor to the YMCA opened its doors in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1848. Known as the Young Men's Society of Religious Inquiry, this organization was affiliated with the Presbyterian Church and hoped to promote morality in the community. In 1857, the Young Men's Society of Religious Inquiry officially united with the YMCA, establishing the first YMCA chapter in Ohio.

During the late nineteenth century, the YMCA played a vital role in helping working-class Americans cope with the dramatic changes occurring in their lives. As the United States transformed from an agricultural nation to an industrialized one, the YMCA provided urban Americans access to low-cost housing and recreational activities for both adults and children. During World War I and World War II, YMCA branches provided housing for soldiers preparing to be sent overseas to fight. They also sponsored food and clothing drives to keep the soldiers well equipped. In 2000, the YMCA provided services to approximately thirty million people in 120 countries.

See Also