YMCA of the USA

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A child of evangelical Protestantism, the YMCA at first considered itself a specialized agency for bringing young men to Christ. Although the early Y's mission was unabashedly religious in nature, the organization focused on method rather than doctrine or philosophy. Dominated by business men rather than professional religious leaders, the movement tended to emphasize facilities, expansion, practical usefulness, and specific influence. Early work included not only the distribution of tracts, Bibles and other Christian literature, but the creation of lists of respectable houses and places to obtain employment, community relief projects, and care for members who were ill. As early as 1857, the YMCA added physical work to its programs, basing its effort on the belief that "bodily health is intimately connected with mental and spiritual activity and development." The YMCA went on to pioneer such programs as vocational education, recreational camping, and support services to men and women in the armed services, invent the sports of basketball and volleyball, and become a key provider of recreation and social welfare services in cities across the country. Still, religious motivations remained at the heart of YMCA programs. The International Committee (the governing administrative body of the YMCA in North America) formed the Religious Work Department in 1902 with Frederic S. Goodman as its secretary. Until 1931, representation at conventions was limited to YMCAs that accepted the Portland Basis. This test, established in 1869, affirmed tenets held by most conservative Protestant churches of the day, such as the inerrancy of scripture, the divinity of Christ, and the centrality of the atonement using widely recognized scripture texts and statements of faith. Even so, the Y did become increasingly ecumenical and pluralistic as the years went by.

From the description of YMCA religious work records, 1814-1984 (bulk 1870s-1970s). (University of Minnesota, Minneapolis). WorldCat record id: 502031064

The YMCA of the USA is the national body of the U.S. American arm of the Young Men's Christian Association. Organized in 1844 in London, England, the YMCA was initially intended to be a young businessmen's organization dedicated to evangelism, social welfare, and relief services. Originally this evangelizing took the form of libraries, lecture courses, and social activities. The first North American chapters were established in 1851 in Montreal and Boston. In 1912 the Canadian associations split from the International Committee and formed their own organization. In 1923 the domestic work of the International Committee was taken over by the newly formed General Board (later National Board). The International Committee continued until 1936 when it was absorbed by the National Council. In 1981, following the move of the headquarters from New York to Chicago, the organization incorporated under the name YMCA of the USA.

From the description of Miscellaneous YMCA research, planning and development records, 1885-1984 (bulk 1920-1970) (University of Minnesota, Minneapolis). WorldCat record id: 166870146

State committees were established in the mid-1860s as a way to better meet the needs of local associations for "mutual conference and discussion." The first permanent state organization was set up by delegates to a convention held in New Haven, Connecticut in May 1867. By 1895, more than twenty-eight state and provincial organizations had been established. Much of the early state work was spearheaded by Robert Weidensall, particularly in the Midwest. Weidensall was responsible for founding eleven state committees and supporting many more. The state committees worked closely with the International Committee, which rendered a wide variety of services to the states. Services included financial advising, coordination between two states working joinly, and the development of model constitutions, program outlines, and statements of purpose for state work. The growth of state YMCAs climaxed in the early 1890s, and plateaued for a couple of decades before the outbreak of the First World War. Although some of the stronger state Associations -- Illinois, Massachusetts-Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Ontario-Quebec, Ohio, and New Jersey -- continued to flourish, developing intense supervisory relationships to boys' work, camping, education, student and county programs, many areas saw a serious decline in interest in the state conventions. Regional districts, initially set up by the Convention of 1913 to work with the state committees, began during the 1930s to merge with and in many cases, take over the role of the state associations. In 1935, the North Central Area Council was organized, comprising the state associations of Minnesota, the Dakotas, Wisconsin and Iowa. Other areas were established thereafter, with some state associations electing to remain independent. The purpose of the area and state organizations was to promote, organize, direct, and coordinate services to local associations.

From the description of YMCA state committee records, 1851-1993 (bulk 1865-1970). (University of Minnesota, Minneapolis). WorldCat record id: 123435091

The Student Department of the YMCA, established in 1877, was involved in religious work among college and university students. Its headquarters were located in New York, with member associations on campuses throughout the United States.

From the description of YMCA - Student Division records, 1886-1967 (inclusive). (Yale University). WorldCat record id: 702180025

From the description of Archives of the YMCA - Student Division, 1886-1967 (inclusive). (Yale University). WorldCat record id: 122542626

The first student YMCAs were formed at the Universities of Michigan and Virginia in 1958, and many others were either established or evolved from existing student religious societies in the following decade. YMCA work among students increased after 1870, largely due to the work of Robert Weidensall. The Student Department was officially formed in 1877, and Luther Wishard was appointed by the YMCA International Committee as the first full-time secretary for student work at the national level. Student YMCAs reached their peak of popularity and growth in the 1920s, when there were over 700 Student YMCAs on roughly 1000 campuses in the United States.

From the description of Student work records, 1979-1995 (bulk 1900-1970). (University of Minnesota, Minneapolis). WorldCat record id: 70188073

The YMCA/YWCA records contain correspondence, documents, records, programs, flyers, reports, and photographic materials generated by both organizations between the years of 1917 and 1970. Materials focus on the University of Kentucky campus chapters, including clubs administrated by the YMCA/YWCA, activities, and meetings. Also included are materials that document the organization at the regional and national level.

Some of the activities covered in the collection are: UK Freshman Camp; Pitkin Club meetings and events; a drive to end segregation in Lexington area restaurants; World University Service programs; community service projects at the Lincoln School; Appalachian projects; retreats; and Southern Regional Conferences.

From the description of YMCA/YWCA records. (University of Kentucky Libraries). WorldCat record id: 317566002

The first Young Men's Christian Association was organized by the Englishman George Williams in June of 1844. The idea spread quickly to the United States and by the 1850s YMCAs were being formed at various colleges and universities. YMCA work among students increased, largely through the efforts of Robert Weidensall, until,in 1877,the intercollegiate branch was established as a separate department of the International Committee of the YMCA. Most instrumental in organizing the Student Department was a young man named Luther Deloraine Wishard, who in 1877 became the world's first full-time student Christian movement secretary.

Wishard served as executive secretary of the student YMCA from 1877 until 1888 when Charles K. Ober and John R. Mott assumed joint responsibility for YMCA student work. In 1890, Ober moved to another position in the YMCA hierarchy and Mott served as executive secretary of the Student Department until 1915 when he was replaced by David R. Porter. The majority of the Student YMCA archives available in this collection were accumulated under the leadership of executive secretaries Mott, Porter, A. Roland Elliott (1934-1943) and R.H. Edwin Espy (1943-1955).

The early years of the Student YMCA were characterized by an emphasis on personal religion- evangelism, prayer meetings, and Bible study, complemented by "neighborhood work" in jails, rescue missions and other social agencies, and devotion to the missionary cause. The nationwide summer student conference as an important modus operandi of the Student YMCA beginning with the 1886 "summer school for Bible study" directed by Dwight L. Moody in Northfield, Massachusetts. This conference also led to the formation of the Student Volunteer Movement for Missions, which served as the missionary arm of the Student YMCA.

Rapid growth followed the establishment of the Student Department in 1877. By 1891, there were 345 college member associations and by 1900, 628 associations. The Student YMCA reflected the changing tone of religion in America during the first two decades of the 20th century as, under the leadership of John R. Mott, the Student Department assimilated social gospel doctrines well before the parent YMCA. YMCA evangelism began to tend away from emphasis on individual conversion and take on a stronger ethical tone, particularly in the social evangelism campaigns of Raymond Robins and John L. Childs. From 1908 on, the trend in Bible study was away from content study and towards the view of Bible study as a means to illuminate contemporary problems.

World War I's enormous impact on the Student YMCA continued nearly until 1920 because of the military training programs of many colleges and universities. In student conferences after World War I, intense concern for social problems such as race, labor and war had replaced the earlier interest in YMCA methods. C. Howard Hopkins has written of D.R. Porter's term of leadership (1915-1934): "The two decades of his secretaryship spanned the most difficult period the student movement had known, a time in which student life reflected not only the dynamic shifts taking place in the American college and university but also the revolutionary changes in the total cultural pattern of western civilization."(C.Howard Hopkins. History of the YMCA in North America. N.Y.: Association Press, 1951 p.639.) In 1919, students and their leaders procured the passage of the 'Social Creed of the Churches' at the International Convention and for the first time the Student Department was attacked as "radical" by certain elements of the parent YMCA. The 1920's saw increasing tension between the Student YMCA and its parent body as the students sought more control of policymaking and freedom to establish a more liberal membership basis. The tension reached a head in 1927 when the National Student Committee members, D.R. Porter and his staff all resigned. They withdrew their resignations only when the Student Department was given co-ordinate divisional status along with the home and foreign divisions of the YMCA National Council. During the 1930s there was a lessening of tension between the parent and Student YMCAs and a renewed emphasis on evangelism and Bible study. The number of member associations declined as the years went by from 731 in 1920 to 594 in 1930 and 480 in 1940. This decline resulted from colleges-taking over some functions formerly performed by the YMCA, increased denominational and cooperative work and the general climate of the times.

The first cooperative effort of the Student YMCA, the Council of North American Student Movements, was dissolved in 1918. In 1922 the Council of Christian Associations, essentially a cooperative effort of YMCAs and YWCA's, was formed. The CCA was succeeded in 1935 by the National Intercollegiate Christian Council (NICC) which was succeeded by the National Student Council YMCA/YWCA (NSCY) in 1951. The YMCA also participated in other cooperative movements including the World Student Christian Federation and the United Student Christian Council. Beginning in 1934 many regions of the country developed Student Christian Movements which united YMCA, YWCA and denominational campus groups. The Student Christian Movement of New England archives (Record Group No. 57) provide an interesting case study of how the YMCA interrelated with the SCM movements.

As the YMCA celebrated its centennial in 1955, the Student YMCA was still an active organization but it had lost its central role in American college and university life.

For more information on the Student YMCA see:

Hopkins, C.Howard. History of the YMCA in North America (New York: Association Press, 1951). Morgan, William H. Student Religion During Fifty Years: Programs and Policies of the Intercollegiate YMCA. (New York: Association Press, 1935). Shedd, Clarence P. Two Centuries of Student Christian Movements (New York: Association Press, 1934)

From the guide to the Archives of the YMCA--Student Division, 1886-1967, (Yale University Divinity School Library)

Physical education as a means to separate young men from temptations to vice appears early in the history of the American YMCA. The earliest record of YMCA activity in this area dates back to 1856, when the Brooklyn YMCA appointed a committee to consider setting up a gymnasium. At the Montreal Convention of the Confederation of American YMCAs later that year, a committee was charged to report back as to "whether any means can be provided by YMCAs for the physical development and promotion of the health of their members -- by gymnasiums, baths, etc." Spurred on by increasing industrialization and immigration, the YMCA entered a period of rapid expansion during the late 1860s and 1870s. With the influx of young men into the cities came an inevitable increase in delinquency and crime. As the YMCA sought new ways to reach these youths, physical work increasingly proved an effective means of fulfilling the movement's goal to provide a wholesome leisure-time environment for young men.

The first YMCA gymnasiums were informal facilities, often located in church basements or lecture halls. The first purpose-built facilities appeared in 1869, when gymnasiums were included in new YMCA buildings in San Francisco, Washington D. C., and New York City. By the end of the century, at least 450 YMCA buildings featured gyms. Those that did not add them, noted Association secretary Sherwood Eddy, gradually "disappeared."

Among the earliest leaders in the movement to integrate physical education into the YMCA's movement was Robert J. McBurney (1837-1898), who in 1862 assumed the secretaryship of the New York YMCA. McBurney equipped the Association's new Twenty-Third Street YMCA building with one of the earliest, most well-equipped gyms. An even greater contribution to the cause was his "Four-Fold Plan," "the first clear rationale form combining athletics with evangelism. Proposed around 1869, it advocated ministry to all four aspects of a young man's life: bodily, social, spiritual, and intellectual" (Putney, 69).

The term "body building" was coined by Robert J. Roberts, a devout Baptist and former mechanic who worked as a gymnastic superintendent for the Boston YMCA during the 1870s. He went on to start the Leaders Corps in 1884 to select and train physical education instructors and was considered the first Christian physical director in the YMCA movement. In 1887, Roberts joined the department of physical education, organized earlier that year by Luther Gulick, the YMCA's first national physical education secretary, at the new YMCA International Training School (later known as Springfield College). It was Gulick who is credited with originating the YMCA's famous inverted red triangle symbolizing the unity of "body, mind, spirit." In 1891, this symbol was adopted as the YMCA's official seal. The year 1891 also marks the invention of basketball, the brainchild of James Naismith, a faculty member at Springfield, who was instructed by Gulick to come up with a game that would be "interesting, easy to learn, and easy to play indoors by artificial light" (Johnson, 87).

Volleyball, another YMCA innovation, was invented in 1895 by William Morgan of the Springfield (Mass.) YMCA. Patterned after an Indian game called minton and originally called "mintonette," volleyball was designed as somewhat less demanding alternative to basketball for middle-aged businessmen.

The YMCA also has a long-standing tradition in aquatics. The first YMCA pool was in Brooklyn, built in 1885. In 1909, by which time there were 293 YMCA swimming pools, the YMCA started a national campaign to teach swimming under the leadership of George H. Corson. In 1916, the Association Press published one of the first books on lifesaving by George E. Goss, a former physical secretary.

During World War I, the YMCA carried on a number of physical education programs for soldiers in the states and abroad. It also sponsored the Inter-Allied Games held in Paris in 1919 for Allied soldiers. With the departure of so many young men for service abroad, these years also saw a shift in YMCA constituency at home towards boys, middle-aged men and increasingly, women.

In the period since 1920 the YMCA has continued to support and improve its physical education mission with activities and programs for people of all ages and backgrounds. The YMCA pioneered the training and certification of fitness instructors and sponsored numerous competitive leagues for amateur athletes. YMCAs continued to be the launch pads for new sports and fitness activities, including racquetball, which was invented by YMCA volunteer Joe Sobek in 1950. Jazzercise made its debut at the McGaw YMCA in Evanston Illinois in 1969, and a year later inspired Jackie Sorenson to begin "dance exercise" classes at the Towson, Maryland YMCA, leading to the boom in "aerobics" in the United States and Canada. As of the beginning of the 21st century, YMCAs were collectively the largest provider and promoter of health and fitness programs in the country.

Historical information was compiled from: Discovery YMCA, Spring/Summer 2001; Elmer L. Johnson, The History of YMCA Physical Education (Chicago: Association Press, 1979); Clifford Putney, Muscular Christianity: Manhood and Sports in Protestant America, 1880-1920, (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard U Press, 2001).

From the guide to the Physical education program records., 1887-2001., (University of Minnesota. Kautz Family YMCA Archives. [ymca])

While contemporary Americans tend to associate the YMCA primarily with fitness and recreation, the organization's roots are firmly embedded in the missionary movement of the mid-19th century. A child of evangelical Protestantism, the YMCA at first considered itself a specialized agency for bringing young men to Christ. In 1855, eleven years after the founding of the YMCA in London, Ys from around the world met in Paris and adopted a statement of individual commitment as a basis for membership. Called the Paris Basis, it pledged the Y to unite young Christian men who "regarding Jesus Christ as their God and Savior according to the Holy Scriptures, desire to be His disciples in their faith and in their life and to associate their efforts for the extension of His kingdom amongst young men." Initially and for much of the Y's history, religious work was primary and all other features were intended to contribute to it.

Although the early Y's mission was unabashedly religious in nature, the organization focused on method rather than doctrine or philosophy. Dominated by business men rather than professional religious leaders, the movement tended to emphasize facilities, expansion, practical usefulness, and specific influence. Early work included not only the distribution of tracts, Bibles and other Christian literature, but the creation of lists of respectable houses and places to obtain employment, community relief projects, and care for members who were ill. As early as 1857, the Brooklyn (N.Y.) YMCA added physical work to its programs, basing its effort on the belief that "bodily health is intimately connected with mental and spiritual activity and development." The YMCA saw physical work as a means of attracting to its Christian program young men it could not otherwise reach. In 1866, the New York association expanded its statement of purpose to include the word "physical," thus defining the fourfold purpose of the YMCA: "The improvement of the spiritual, mental, social, and physical condition of young men." This concept was formally endorsed by the Y movement as a whole at the Baltimore Convention in 1879.

The YMCA went on to pioneer such programs as vocational education, recreational camping, and support services to men and women in the armed services, invent the sports of basketball and volleyball, and become a key provider of recreation and social welfare services in cities across the country. Still, religious motivations, influenced heavily by the Social Gospel movement with its call for compassionate Christian response to issues of social justice, remained at the heart of YMCA programs. As YMCA leader Robert McBurney stated, "the primary object for which these societies have been established is the binding together of Christian young men and the leading to the savior of those who are ignorant of him. All other services, no matter how good, how great, or how desirable are but collateral and subordinate and should be engaged in only as they tend to secure this primary object." Until 1931, representation at conventions was limited to YMCAs that accepted the Portland Basis. This test, established in 1869, affirmed tenets held by most conservative Protestant churches of the day, such as the inerrancy of scripture, the divinity of Christ, and the centrality of the atonement using widely recognized scripture texts and statements of faith.

The International Committee (the governing administrative body of the YMCA in North America) formed the Religious Work Department in 1902, focused on Bible study and evangelistic work, with Frederic S. Goodman as its secretary. It published the first complete YMCA handbook of religious work methods and principles. Larger city YMCAs increasingly added religious work secretaries to their staffs. Although a separate department had been established, however, religious emphasis was expected to permeate the work of all departments of the International Committee and all local associations. A year later, Laurence L. Doggett, president of the YMCA-founded Springfield College, helped found the Religious Education Association, which dealt with problems of philosophy, methods, leadership, and materials in the field of religious education. Through this organization, many YMCA leaders first learned the concept of character building by way of educational and group activities. The YMCA's physical, social, and educational work seemed an ideal laboratory for testing these new ideas.

Following the vote in 1931 by the delegates to the 43rd International Convention to eliminate the Portland Test, the YMCA abandoned formal theological identification of any kind, adopting a more general statement of purpose: "The Young Men's Christian Association we regard in its essential genius, a worldwide fellowship of men and boys [changed in the late 1950s to "persons"] united by common loyalty to Jesus Christ for the purpose of developing Christian personality and building a Christian society." The delegates also proposed "a program of social and Christian education with the view of helping to educate public opinion for the purpose of reconstructing our social order in the light of, and upon the basis of, the teachings of Jesus." In 1937, a committee on Christian Emphasis and Method, chaired by Dr. Rolland W. Schloerb, was established by the National Board. The committee was charged with "specific tasks connected with preserving the Christian emphasis and with devising methods of infusing it into the program as a whole."

The 1931 statement of purpose was reaffirmed by the annual meeting of the National Council in 1963, and again by the National Council meeting in 1983. Even so, the Y did become increasingly ecumenical and pluralistic as the years went by. Throughout the years, local YMCAs have negotiated between the the Y's evangelical heritage and the desire (and in many cases, need) to broaden its constituency, accounting for the diversity that existed within their own membership but attempting to remain consistent with the spirit of the national statement. A 1952 study conducted by the Program Committee of the National Board on the basic characteristics of the YMCA reported that it was characteristic for the YMCA to "demonstrate what it meant to be a Christian in one's daily life and to welcome persons of various religions, provided they respected the Y's Christian purpose." In 1967, the same year that the National Council banned racial segregation in the YMCA, it also recommended "Guidelines for Ecumenical Education in the YMCA." These guidelines called for "laymen and staff to free themselves from religious prejudice and increase their knowledge and respect for diverse religious traditions," as well as that membership in YMCAs and boards "be open to qualified persons of all Christian affiliations, as well as to Jews and to persons of other religious faiths who wish to join." In 1983, the National Council amended the YMCA constitution by adding the word "religion" to the list of categories on the basis of which discrimination is banned. In 1990, the National Board approved the following positioning statement for the YMCA of the USA: "We will position the YMCA as a community service organization that meets community needs and is open to people of all ages, all abilities, and all incomes; that meets health and social service needs of the family; and that emphasizes the development of values -- the encouragement of moral and ethical behavior based on Christian principles"

Quoted largely from: John C. O'Melia, Jr, Christianity and the YMCA: A Review of the Significant Dates, People, and Events Related to Christian Development in the YMCA, (June 1992). Information also taken from C. Howard Hopkins, History of the YMCA in North America, (New York: Association Press, 1951).

From the guide to the YMCA religious work records, 1814-1984., (bulk 1870s-1970s), (University of Minnesota. Kautz Family YMCA Archives. [ymca])

Art activities have played a role in YMCA programs throughout much of the movement's history. Arts and crafts activities were common at after-school programs and YMCA camps around the world. These early art programs included student performances, photography clubs, and painting courses, among other activities; however, these programs were created by the initiative of individual YMCA associations, rather than any concerted effort by the national movement.

In 1982, the YMCA national office hosted a consultation on the arts by inviting fifty associations with arts programs to present their work and program details to the larger YMCA movement. The next year, the YMCA held the National Seminar on the Arts, a three-day conference in Chautauqua, New York, which led to the creation of the YMCA's Arts Week and a comprehensive arts training program at four associations in the United States.

The Writer's Voice program, perhaps the most notable arts program of the YMCA, was conceived of by a New York writer named Jason Shinder in 1981. The program was based out of New York's West Side YMCA, and offered writing workshops and readings by prominent authors, including Allen Ginsberg, Isaac Asimov, Kurt Vonnegut and many others. In 1986, the Writer's Voice was merged with the Writers Community, a community-based writing initiative that would eventually place authors-in-residence to live and work in YMCAs. Following a $2.75 million grant from the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund in 1991, the program was expanded to become the YMCA National Writer's Voice program, which led to the establishment of six literacy centers around the country.

Arts activities grew in popularity at YMCAs throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Some associations started to offer art activities for members, while others were even opening arts centers staffed with art and dance directors. YMCA camps and associations also offered residence programs for artists who wished work in YMCAs by teaching and creating art. In 1998, the YMCA announced that arts and humanities would become a “core program area” of the movement. Jason Shinder – the founder of the YMCA National Writer's Voice – was chosen to direct the YMCA's new arts and humanities program.

As schools and communities cut funding for arts programs, the YMCA has stepped up to fill the void by aspiring to become the largest and most influential arts provider for kids and adults in the United States. Since 1998, American YMCA arts programs have increased 29 percent on average annually, with more than 1,100 YMCAs claiming to be “arts-friendly” in 2012. In addition, the YMCA National Writer's Voice program has grown to include more than thirty YMCAs.

[ Historical information was adapted from the collection, as well as from "Gibson Foundation Supports YMCA Arts and Humanities Initiatives" (http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/gibson-foundation-supports-ymca-arts-and-humanities-initiatives-56281592.html) ; "Laurel Blossom: The Writer's Community" (http://www.laurelblossom.com/writers-community.html) ; and "YMCA of Long Island: Cultural Arts" (http://www.ymcali.org/Association/Programs/Cultural-Arts.aspx) ]

From the guide to the YMCA arts and humanities program records, 1972-1999, (bulk 1977-1995), (University of Minnesota. Kautz Family YMCA Archives. [ymca])

After coming to the United States in 1851, it did not take long for the Young Men's Christian Association to begin spreading to the nation's college and university campuses. With their concentrations of young men separated from their usual family and church influences and thus prey to the temptations of gambling, drinking, and bad influences in general, academia was a natural home for the work of the YMCA. The first student associations were formed at the Universities of Michigan and Virginia in 1858, and many others were either established or evolved from existing student religious societies in the following decade. YMCA work among students increased after 1870, largely due to the work of Robert Weidensall. Weidensall, along with Robert Morse and Adam K. Spense, was instrumental in passing a resolution at the International Convention of 1870 officially calling for the Association to "extend their work in this important field." The resolution opened the way for Weidensall to focus his fieldwork efforts on campuses. In the next five years he visited 37 colleges and founded Ys in 24 of them.

The Student Department was officially formed in 1877, and Luther Wishard was appointed by the YMCA International Committee as the first full-time secretary for student work at the national level. He served as executive secretary of the Student YMCA until 1888, when Charles K. Ober and John R. Mott assumed joint responsibility for YMCA student work. Rapid growth in the student movement followed the establishment of the department. By 1891, there were 345 college member associations and by 1900, 628 associations. The movement reached its peak in 1921 at over 730 associations comprising almost 94,000 members.

The early years of the student YMCA were characterized by an emphasis on personal religion -- evangelism, prayer meetings, and Bible study, complemented by "neighborhood work" in jails, rescue missions, and other social agencies, and devotion to the missionary cause. The nation-wide summer student conference was an important modus operandi of the student YMCA beginning with the 1886 "summer school for Bible study," directed by Dwight L. Moody in Northfield, Massachusetts. This conference also led to the formation of the Student Volunteer Movement for Missions, which served as the missionary arm of the Student YMCA.

With the tremendous growth of colleges and universities in the late 19th century, the Student YMCAs soon expanded their services to meet the needs of the rapidly expanding academic communities. The Student YMCAs pioneered much of what is now referred to as Student Services on most campuses, including student counseling, financial aid, housing services, orientation, freshman camps, international student services, and religious advisors. During the first two decades of the 20th century, the Student YMCA was strongly influenced by the Social Gospel doctrines that were prominent at the time and a corresponding shift in the view of Bible study as a means to illuminate contemporary problems. In student conferences after World War I, intense concern for social problems such as race, labor, and war dominated the agenda.

Student YMCAs reached their peak of popularity and growth in the 1920s, when there were over 700 Student YMCAs on roughly 1000 campuses in the United States. The decade was also one of increasing tension between the Student YMCA and its parent body as the students sought more control of policy-making and freedom to establish a more liberal membership basis. The tension reached a head in 1927 when the students threatened to withdraw from the YMCA movement. Ultimately, YMCA leadership agreed to grant the Student Department divisional status along with the home and foreign divisions of the YMCA National Council. The National Student Council of YMCAs, composed of students from different campus YMCAs as well as staff from the Student Department became the governing body of the Student YMCAs.

The first cooperative effort of the Student YMCA, the Council of North American Student Movements, was dissolved in 1918. In 1922, the Council of Christian Associations, essentially a cooperative effort of YMCAs and YWCAs was formed. The CCA was succeeded in 1935 by the National Intercollegiate Christian Council (NICC), which was succeeded by the National Student Council YMCA/YWCA (NSCY) in 1951. The YMCA also participated in other cooperative movements, including the World Student Christian Federation and the United Student Christian Council. Beginning in 1934, many regions of the country developed Student Christian Movements which united YMCA, YWCA, and denominational campus groups.

During the 1930s there was a lessening of tension between the parent and Student YMCAs and a renewed emphasis on evangelism and Bible study. At the same time, Student YMCAs began a slow but steady decline in numbers, going from 731 in 1920 to 594 in 1930 and 480 in 1940. This decline resulted from colleges taking over some functions formerly performed by the YMCA, increased denominational and cooperative work, and the general climate of the times. As the YMCA celebrated its centennial in 1955, the Student YMCA was still an active organization but had lost its central role in American college and university life. In 1970, the YMCA closed the Student Department. The discontinuation of direct support from the national office resulted in in a dramatic decline in the remaining Student YMCAs, with 200 student associations closing by the middle of the decade. Despite attempts to revive and expand the student YMCA movement during the 1980s and 1990s, the total number of student associations never rose above 40 after the mid-1970s. As of 2006, there are still 18 campus Ys in the United States, some functioning as branches of larger metropolitan YMCAs. They cooperate through the Campus Coalition of YMCAs.

References:

Large portions of this history note are borrowed directly from "Guide to the Archives of the YMCA - Student Division (Record Group no. 58)," Yale University Library, Divinity Library Special Collections, compiled by Martha Lund Smalley.

Additional sources include "The University of Minnesota and the U-YMCA," University of Minnesota History Department "major paper" by Jill Elaine Jacobson (1986); "What Happened to the YMCA Student Movement," University of Minnesota student paper by Kaori Kenmotsu (1992); and C. Howard Hopkins, History of the YMCA in North America, (New York: Association Press, 1951).

From the guide to the Student work records, 1879-1995., (bulk 1900-1970)., (University of Minnesota. Kautz Family YMCA Archives. [ymca])

The YMCA of the USA is the national body of the U.S. American arm of the Young Men's Christian Association. Organized June 6, 1844 in London, England, the YMCA was initially intended to be a young businessmen's organization dedicated to evangelism, social welfare, and relief services. Originally this evangelizing took the form of libraries, lecture courses, and social activities. The first North American chapters were established in 1851 in Montreal and Boston. The idea quickly took root and by the time the first "Annual Convention of Young Men's Christian Associations of the United States and British Provinces" was held in 1854 there were fourteen American associations present.

The YMCA in America continued to grow and take on a character of its own. In America, with its large immigrant populations, the associations were focused on "the promotion of evangelical religion, the cultivation of Christian sympathy, and the improvement of the mental and spiritual condition of young men." Throughout the 1850s, local Ys would host lectures on a variety of topics to stimulate the minds of young men and would send out men to preach on street corners in order to promote Christian values. In 1856 the Brooklyn, New York Association instituted a physical education program in order to provide a more holistic approach to the development of young men. Also in 1856 the first bricks were laid for what was to become the Student YMCAs.

Throughout the years the nature of the YMCA's work grew more complex until the American Civil War (1861-1865). Many local associations did not survive this conflict and those that did experienced severe declines in membership. The YMCA, with the New York City association taking the lead, quickly rebounded. New YMCAs were established to serve specific populations, including African Americans, students, and railroad workers. YMCA colleges were founded and specific departments such as boy's work and the industrial division were formed.

Local associations have always maintained administrative and financial autonomy. Starting in 1854, annual national conventions, held under the auspices of the Executive Committee, were in charge of coordination on the national level. In 1879 the Executive Committee changed its name to the International Committee and in 1883 was incorporated as the permanent, centralized agency for the American YMCA movement. This was possible due to the many programs established and the number of associations established in the United States and Canada.

In 1912 the Canadian associations split from the International Committee and formed their own organization. In 1923 the domestic work of the International Committee was taken over by the newly formed General Board (later National Board). The International Committee continued until 1936 when it was absorbed by the National Council. In 1981, following the move of the headquarters from New York to Chicago, the organization incorporated under the name YMCA of the USA.

The various name changes reflect the complexity and growth of this national organization. Each time a new initiative was begun or an national crisis was faced the YMCA in America reflected these changes within its national structure.

From the guide to the Miscellaneous YMCA research, planning and development records., 1885-1984, (bulk 1920-1970), (University of Minnesota. Kautz Family YMCA Archives. [ymca])

Within a few years of the establishment of YMCA work at the national level, it became clear that a single organization for the entire United States and Canada could not meet the needs of local associations for "mutual conference and discussion." Numerous district conventions had been held prior to the Civil War, and the idea of state and local meetings was proposed by the Executive Committee to the Philadelphia Convention of 1865. The concept was formally adopted the following year at the Albany Convention, with the goal that conventions be held in every state and district. These conventions were intended to include not only established YMCAs, but individuals interested in the work of the YMCA where no YMCA was yet organized. The first permanent state organization was set up by delegates to a convention held in New Haven, Connecticut in May 1867. Other pioneers included the maritime provinces of Canada, Vermont, and Ohio, all of which organized later in 1867. The first state to obtain a secretary was Pennsylvania, which hired Samuel A. Taggart to fill that role starting in 1871. By 1895, more than fifty such positions were being maintained by twenty-eight state and provincial organizations. Much of the early state work was spearheaded by Robert Weidensall, particularly in the Midwest. Weidensall was responsible for founding eleven state committees and supporting many more.

The state committees worked closely with the International Committee, which rendered a wide variety of services to the states. Services included financial advising, coordination between two states working joinly, and the development of model constitutions, program outlines, and statements of purpose for state work. State organizations almost universally followed the structural organization of the parent agency, with an executive committee, an evangelical test of membership, the direct relation to local Associations, and incorporation including provision for property holding for local Associations.

The growth of state YMCAs climaxed in the early 1890s, and plateaued for a couple of decades before the outbreak of the First World War. Although some of the stronger state Associations -- Illinois, Massachusetts-Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Ontario-Quebec, Ohio, and New Jersey -- continued to flourish, developing intense supervisory relationships to boys' work, camping, education, student and county programs, many areas saw a serious decline in interest in the state conventions. With the growth of nationalism during the war and the appearance of "metropolitan" organizations in the larger urban areas, the appeal of the state as a unit of fellowship or of loyalty weakened and its logic as an administrative entity became more difficult to rationalize.

Regional districts, initially set up by the Convention of 1913 to work with the state committees, began during the 1930s to merge with and in many cases, take over the role of the state associations. In 1935, the North Central Area Council was organized, comprising the state associatons of Minnesota, the Dakotas, Wisconsin and Iowa. Other areas were established thereafter, with some state associations electing to remain independent. The purpose of the area and state organizations was to promote, organize, direct, and coordinate services to local associations.

This note is a summary of material from C. Howard Hopkins, History of the YMCA in North America, New York: Association Press, 1951.

From the guide to the YMCA State committee records, 1851-1993, (bulk 1865-1970)., (University of Minnesota. Kautz Family YMCA Archives. [ymca])

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Relation Name
associatedWith Adams, Harold L., person
associatedWith Adriance Memorial Library (Poughkeepsie, N.Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith Amateur Athletic Union of the United States. corporateBody
associatedWith American Association for Adult Education. corporateBody
associatedWith American Association for Health, Physical Education, and Recreation. corporateBody
associatedWith Appleyard family family
associatedWith Association Press (New York, N.Y.). corporateBody
associatedWith Athletic League of the Young Men's Christian Associations of North America. corporateBody
associatedWith Auchincloss, Gordon, 1886-1943. person
associatedWith Babcock, George. person
associatedWith Bahn, Chester B. person
associatedWith Barnett, Eugene E. person
associatedWith Barnett, Eugene E. person
associatedWith Barr, Richard, d.1918. person
associatedWith Beatty, Norvelle. person
associatedWith Booksellers' Training School (New York, N.Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith Brownlee, Kay (Anna Kathryn Brownlee Scherer), 1912-1971. person
associatedWith Brown University. corporateBody
associatedWith Bunting, James F. person
associatedWith Bunting, James F. person
associatedWith Cappelmann, John D., 1857-1929. person
associatedWith Carter, Edward C. (Edward Clark), 1878-1954. person
associatedWith Clifton Mills (S.C.) corporateBody
associatedWith Clowers, Max W. person
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associatedWith Cosmopolitan Club (University of Kentucky), corporateBody
associatedWith Council for National Cooperation in Aquatics. corporateBody
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associatedWith Davis, John W. (John Warren), 1888-1980. person
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associatedWith Forbes, Walter Tillou, 1877-1944. person
associatedWith French, Arden Odell, 1906- person
associatedWith Frey, J. Mark (Jacob Mark) person
associatedWith Friermood, Harold T. person
associatedWith Fuller, Nathan Frederick. person
associatedWith Genné, William H. person
associatedWith Georgia Institute of Technology. YMCA corporateBody
associatedWith Goodman, Frederic S. 1858-. person
associatedWith Goodman, Frederic S. (Frederic Simeon), 1858- person
associatedWith Griffin, Edward L. person
associatedWith Griffin, Edward L. person
associatedWith Guttery, Arthur M., 1885-1981. person
associatedWith Harmon, Francis Stuart, 1895- person
associatedWith Hein, Lucille E. person
associatedWith Huston, Charles Lukens, 1856-1951. person
associatedWith International Council of Religious Education. corporateBody
associatedWith Interseminary Movement. corporateBody
associatedWith Jordan, Edward C. (Edward Conrad) person
associatedWith Kautz Family YMCA Archives corporateBody
associatedWith Kautz Family YMCA Archives, corporateBody
associatedWith Kautz Family YMCA Archives, compiler. corporateBody
associatedWith Keeny, Spurgeon Milton, 1893- person
associatedWith Kelland, Clarence Budington, 1881-1964. person
associatedWith Kell, John McIntosh, 1823-1900. person
associatedWith Kingman, Harry L. (Harry Lees), b. 1892. person
associatedWith Law, W. W., person
associatedWith Leland, S. R person
associatedWith Leland, S.R. person
associatedWith Los Angeles Flower Festival Society. corporateBody
associatedWith Los Angeles Flower Festival Society. person
associatedWith Ludwig, Marvin person
associatedWith Ludwig, Marvin. person
associatedWith Mabry, Norris Kemp, 1925- person
associatedWith Maguire, Bruce. person
associatedWith Maguire, Bruce. person
associatedWith Manry, James Campbell, 1893- person
associatedWith McCloy, Charles Harold, 1886-1959. person
associatedWith McDowell, John E. person
associatedWith McKay, Claude, 1890-1948 person
associatedWith Moorland, Jesse Edward, 1863-1940. person
associatedWith Mott, John Raleigh, 1865-1955. person
associatedWith Murphy, Marjorie M. person
associatedWith National Association of Student YMCAs. corporateBody
associatedWith National Board of the Young Men's Christian Associations. corporateBody
associatedWith National Board of the Young Men’s Christian Associations. corporateBody
associatedWith National Board of the Young Men's Christian Associations. Religious Work Dept. corporateBody
associatedWith National Council of Student Christian Associations. corporateBody
associatedWith National Council of Student Christian Associations. corporateBody
associatedWith National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. corporateBody
associatedWith National Council of the Young Men's Christian Associations of Canada. corporateBody
associatedWith National Council of the Young Men's Christian Associations of the United States of America. corporateBody
associatedWith National Council of the Young Men’s Christian Associations of the United States of America. corporateBody
associatedWith National Intercollegiate Christian Council. corporateBody
associatedWith National Recreation Association. corporateBody
associatedWith National Student Christian Federation. corporateBody
associatedWith Nelson, Louis Edward. person
associatedWith New Orleans (La.) corporateBody
associatedWith New Orleans (La.) corporateBody
associatedWith New Orleans (La.) corporateBody
associatedWith Nordahl, Henry A. person
associatedWith Ober, Charles K. b. 1856. person
associatedWith Oliver Iron Mining Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Our Savior Lutheran Church (Twin Falls, Idaho) corporateBody
associatedWith Peace Corps (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Peak, Bart. person
associatedWith Pennsylvania Railroad Company. Financial Dept. corporateBody
associatedWith Pennsylvania Railroad Company. Office of Secretary. corporateBody
associatedWith Pew, J. Howard (John Howard), 1882-1971. person
associatedWith Phillips, William V. person
associatedWith Phillips, William V. person
associatedWith Phipps, Bob. person
associatedWith Physical Education Society of the YMCA's of North America. corporateBody
associatedWith Porter, David Richard, 1882- person
associatedWith Queens Borough Public Library. Long Island Division. corporateBody
associatedWith Rainey, Glenn W. (Glenn Weddington), 1907-1989. person
associatedWith Rand, George F. (George Franklin), 1891-1942. person
associatedWith Rogers, Fred. person
associatedWith Rogers, Warren Lee, 1912-1992. person
associatedWith Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945 person
associatedWith Rosenwald, Julius, 1862-1932. person
associatedWith Rutgers University. Dean of Student Affairs. corporateBody
associatedWith Rutgers University Dean of Student Affairs, (Earle W. Clifford, Jr.) person
associatedWith Sanger, I. J. (Isaac J.), 1899-1986 person
associatedWith Schomburg, Arthur Alfonso, 1874-1938. person
associatedWith Scott, Emmett J. (Emmett Jay), 1873-1957. person
associatedWith Seattle (Wash.). Office of Economic Development corporateBody
associatedWith Sellwood, W. A. person
associatedWith Shillinglaw, David Lee, b. 1889 person
associatedWith Shinder, Jason, 1955-2008 person
associatedWith Speer, Robert E. 1867-1947. person
associatedWith Sperry, Elmer Ambrose, 1860-1930. person
associatedWith Stokes, Caroline Phelps, 1854-1909. person
associatedWith St. Peter Lutheran Church (Tillamook, Or.) corporateBody
associatedWith Student Christian Movement in New England. corporateBody
associatedWith Student Christian Movement of Great Britain and Ireland. corporateBody
associatedWith Student Volunteer Missionary Union. corporateBody
associatedWith Student Young Men's Christian Association. corporateBody
associatedWith Thompson Illustragraph Co. corporateBody
associatedWith Thwaites, Reuben Gold, 1853-1913. person
associatedWith Tobias, Channing H., 1882-1961. person
associatedWith Trenholm, H. Councill (Harper Councill), 1900-1963. person
associatedWith United States Volleyball Association. corporateBody
associatedWith Van Dusen, Henry P. 1897-1975. person
associatedWith Visser 't Hooft, Willem Adolph, 1900- person
associatedWith Wada, Yori. person
associatedWith Weidensall, Robert, 1836-1922. person
associatedWith Williams, M. B. (Milan Bertrand) person
associatedWith Williams, Scott, fl. 1890-1893. person
associatedWith Wishard, Luther D. 1854-1925. person
associatedWith World Conference of Christian Youth. corporateBody
associatedWith World Council of Churches. corporateBody
associatedWith World's Student Christian Federation. corporateBody
associatedWith World Student Christian Federation. corporateBody
associatedWith YMCA at Duke University. corporateBody
associatedWith YMCA of Greater New York. West Side Branch. corporateBody
associatedWith YMCA of Syracuse (N.Y.). corporateBody
associatedWith YMCA of the USA. International Division. corporateBody
associatedWith YMCA of the USA. International Division. corporateBody
associatedWith Young Men's Christian Association of Charleston. corporateBody
associatedWith Young Men's Christian Association of Greater New York. corporateBody
associatedWith Young Men's Christian Association of Rutgers College. corporateBody
associatedWith Young Men's Christian Associations of North America. International Committee. corporateBody
associatedWith Youngstown State University. corporateBody
associatedWith Young Women's Christian Association (Newark N.J.) corporateBody
associatedWith Young Women's Christian Association of the U.S.A. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
United States
Kentucky--Lexington
Canada
Subject
Church work with students
Sports
Young Men's Christian associations--Publishing
Young Men's Christian associations--Finance
Young Men's Christian associations
College students--Societies and clubs
Young Men's Christian associations--Canada
Youn Men's Christian associations--Periodicals
Ecumenical movement
Physical education and training
Student volunteers in social service
Church and social problems
Writers' workshops
Young Men's Christian associations--Administration
Physical education for children
Young Men's Christian associations--United States
Physical education facilities
Creative writing--United States
Religious education
Young Men's Christian associations--United States--Administration
Skin diving
Universities and colleges--Religion
College students--Religious life
Physical fitness
Athletics
Scuba diving
Exercise
Olympics
Christian youth--Religious life
Young Men's Christian associations--Periodicals
Arts--Education and training
Religious institutions
Lifesaving
Meeting
Speeches, addresses, etc
Southern States--Race relations
Christianity and other religions
Christian education
Service learning
Aquatic sports--Safety measures
Occupation
Authors
Function

Corporate Body

Active 1885

Active 1984

Information

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SNAC ID: 47846405