Christian Association (University of Pennsylvania)

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The organization was founded as the University branch of the intercollegiate Young Men's Christian Association in 1892 (John R. Mott was the director), became independent in 1898 and incorporated under the current name in 1901. Under the mission of Christian advancement, the institution engaged in such traditional social services as operating settlement houses for the poor; providing summer camps for kids from less fortunate families in the vicinity; holding various kinds of social activities for women; financing needy students with low-interest loans; and undertaking foreign missions in areas like China and India. In World War II period, when the University camp was substantially used as a military reservation and a large proportion of the student body were in uniform, the institution also provided recreational activities for the service men. The 1960 saw its interest surge in contemporary issues related to global peace, humanitarianism, social justice, as well as in services specifically addressed to minorities or such marginalized groups as homosexuals.

The institution has been affiliated with major denominations of Protestant Christianity: Episcopal, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, and the United Church of Christ. In the early days, each denomination had a representative on its staff. After 1958, each denomination gradually began to have its own budget. Since 1967, the CA has enjoyed support from the Pennsylvania Commission of the United Ministries in Higher Education.

The CA's interest in social service emerged with the establishment of the institution. In 1898, two undergraduates (one being CA president, the other CA vice president) started a Sabbath-afternoon School for a group of boys in the neighborhood. This effort quickly developed into formal projects--settlement houses and summer camps. The first settlement house opened in January 1899. Several more followed from late 1920s to 1945. The first summer camp for boys started in 1907, followed by a girls' camp in 1925. The camps were required to maintain a 50/50 white/non-white ratio, and had University of Pennsylvania students serve as counselors. Both programs flourished from the late 1920s through the late 1950s.

The CA established its women's division in 1922. The Women's Advisory Council organized bazaars, crafts fairs, antiques fairs, teas and card parties for the purpose of raising funds for CA programs. The women's organization reached its peak in the 1950s and early 1960s.

At the turn of the century, the CA developed its interest in foreign missions. In 1902, the CA Board resolved to support a representative on the foreign mission in China. In 1907, it sent Josiah C. McCracken to China to operate a medical school in Canton, which was then renamed the University Medical School. The CA transferred its interest to Shanghai in 1914, and from 1914 to 1948, McCracken served as Dean of the Shanghai medical school called "The Pennsylvania Medical School being the Medical Department of St. John's University." The medical school turned out hundreds of Chinese doctors, a great contribution to the development of China's modern medicine. In 1938, the CA also formed a committee to support the work of Dr. Victor Rambo, an eye surgeon, in India.

The CA sponsored two more international programs. One was the International Student House, which was founded in 1908. In 1918, the CA bought a house and used it as the program's home. Though only twelve students could live at the house, it served as a center for hundreds of international students. In 1943, the student house separated from the CA and was renamed the International House of Philadelphia. This program was reportedly the first of its kind in the country. Another international program, the International Hospitality Program, became a CA undertaking in 1965. Due to financial constraints of the CA, the program was taken over by the International House of Philadelphia in 1977.

In the 1960s the CA's interest in social service burst into a wide variety of cultural and social activities which corresponded to the liberal and civil rights movements in the nation in general. The CA sponsored art exhibits, film series programs, the Wilma Theater, the Cultural Harvest program, the Big Small Theater, the Fish Poetry series, etc. In addition, the CA developed services specifically addressed to homosexuals. A campus ministry to gay students took shape around 1970. By 1974 the CA had formalized its gay ministry. In 1978, the CA sponsored the Philadelphia Gay Cultural Festival, formed Gay and Lesbian Peer Counseling, supported homosexual student groups at the University, and created the Philadelphia Lesbian Gay Task Force. Although the CA terminated its relationship with PLGTF in 1983, its support of gay ministry continued.

During the same period, the CA expanded its interest in issues that were related to the upholding of social justice and humanistic values. It opposed American military intervention overseas and supported student groups like the Penn Peace Action Committee and a number of "Peace and Justice" projects, among them the Mobilization For Survival (MOBE) and Stop the Pentagon/Serve the People (STP). In terms of geographical areas, the CA focused its attention more on two areas, Central and South America and South Africa. It supported such programs as the Central American Solidarity Alliance and the Penn Committee for Divestment (from South Africa). Throughout the 1980s, the CA organized Central America Week at the University, a movement based originally on the memorial for Oscar Romero, a missionary priest killed in El Salvador. At home, the CA committed itself to a domestic mission called Project Mississippi in 1965. Participants in the program traveled to Tribbit, Mississippi, to build tent homes and facilities for striking tenant farmers who had been evicted. In 1974, the CA organized the Penn Hunger Action Committee and in the early 1980s sponsored the formation of the Penn Committee for the Homeless. The latter grew in time into a cooperative program called the University City Hospitality Coalition, which started feeding local homeless people on a regular basis.

From the description of Records, 1857-2000. (University of Pennsylvania). WorldCat record id: 122528778

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn University of Pennsylvania. Building Dedication Committees. Records, 1904-1915. University of Pennsylvania, Archives & Records Center
creatorOf Christian Association (University of Pennsylvania). Correspondence with Edgar Fahs Smith, 1909. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
creatorOf Christian Association (University of Pennsylvania). Correspondence to Chaim Potok, 1983. University of Pennsylvania Library
creatorOf Christian Association (University of Pennsylvania). Records, 1857-2000. University of Pennsylvania, Archives & Records Center
creatorOf Christian Association (University of Pennsylvania). Correspondence with Henry Charles Lea, 1905-1909. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Canton Christian College. corporateBody
associatedWith Evans, Thomas St. Clair. person
associatedWith International House of Philadelphia. corporateBody
associatedWith International Student House of Philadelphia. corporateBody
associatedWith McCracken, Josiah C., 1874-1962. person
associatedWith Mobilization for Survival. corporateBody
associatedWith Mott, John R. 1865-1955. person
associatedWith Pennsylvania. Commission of the United Ministries in Higher Education. corporateBody
associatedWith Pepper, G. W. person
associatedWith Rambo, Victor. person
associatedWith Remington, William Proctor, 1879-1963. person
associatedWith Romero, Óscar A. 1917-1980. person
associatedWith St. John's Medical School (Shanghai, China) corporateBody
associatedWith St. Mary Church (Philadelphia, Pa.) corporateBody
associatedWith Tabernacle Church (Philadelphia, Pa.) corporateBody
associatedWith The University Settlement (Philadelphia, Pa.) corporateBody
associatedWith United Church of Christ, Evangelical and Reformed (Philadelphia, PA) corporateBody
associatedWith University of Pennsylvania. corporateBody
associatedWith University of Pennsylvania. Building Dedication Committees. corporateBody
associatedWith Wood, Edward Cope. person
associatedWith Young Men's Christian Association (Philadelphia, Pa.). University Branch (University of Pennsylvania) corporateBody
associatedWith Young Women's Christian Association. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Central America
South Africa
South America
African Americans
Christian sects
Medical education
Service learning
Social settlements
Social service
Social service
Student aid
Student loans
Student movements
Students volunteers in social service
Student volunteers in social service
Missionaries, Medical

Corporate Body

Active 1857

Active 2000



Ark ID: w63b9sx7

SNAC ID: 63360633