1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Young Men's Christian Association
YOUNG MEN'S CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION, an organization for social and religious work among young men, founded in England by Sir George Williams (1821–1905), a merchant of London. Williams's organization grew out of meetings he held for prayer and Bible-reading among his fellow-workers in a dry goods business in the city of London, and was founded in 1844; on the occasion of its jubilee its originator was knighted. Similar associations, indeed, had been in existence in Scotland at a much earlier date. In 1824 David Naismith, who also founded city missions in London and Glasgow, started the Glasgow Young Men's Society for Religious Improvement, a movement which spread to various parts of the United Kingdom, France and America: later the name was changed to the Glasgow Young Men's Christian Association. The object of such associations is to provide in large towns a rendezvous for young men who are compelled to live in lodgings or in the apartments provided by the great business houses. An associate of the Y.M.C.A. must not only be of good moral character, but must also express his adherence to the objects and principles of the association. To be a member means a definite acceptance of the doctrines of the Evangelical Christian faith. In 1910 there were about 400 associations in England, Ireland and Wales, and 226 in Scotland—besides various soldiers' and other auxiliaries. The total membership was about 146,000. Some of the buildings, notably in the Midlands and the north of England, are very fine. The London Association, which from 1880 until shortly before its demolition in 1908 used Exeter Hall, Strand, has erected a handsome block of buildings in Tottenham Court Road, designed to provide, in addition to the usual features, bedrooms at a reasonable rent.
The Young Men's Christian Association is seen at its best in the United States. It is true that Germany has more associations than any other country, but of its 2129 branches only 142 have their own buildings, and the total membership is only 125,000. In America, however, the associations have been built on a broad basis and worked with enterprise and business skill. Thus they have been able to secure the generous support of many of the leaders of commerce. America has over 1900 associations, and the total membership is 456,000. In Greater Britain the associations are numerous and flourishing, and Canada has 35,000 members. There are many active associations in Switzerland, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands, and indeed the Y.M.C.A. is now well known all over the world. Even in Japan, China and Korea there are 150 branches with a membership of nearly 12,000. The value of association buildings all over the world is £11,940,000 (America, £8,900,000; Greater Britain, £1,912,000; United Kingdom, £1,128,000).
The Young Women's Christian Association was founded in 1855, by two ladies simultaneously. In the south of England Miss Robarts started a Prayer Union with a purely spiritual aim; in London Lady Kinnaird commenced the practical work of opening homes and institutes for young women in business. In 1877 the two branches united in the Young Women's Christian Association, which seeks to promote the all-round welfare of young women by means of residential and holiday homes, club rooms, restaurants, noon rest rooms, classes and lectures, and other useful departments. The Young Women's Christian Association has spread all over the world, and the total membership is about half a million.
- Commonly abbreviated Y.M.C.A.
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