George Williams was the Founder of the YMCA. Raised in the rural countryside of England, George Williams was drawn to London as a young man during the Industrial Revolution. He worked long hours in a city store, living in small, crowded rooms in the same building. The moral conditions of the inner city were incompatible with Williams’ evangelical Christian outlook and in 1844, he gathered a group of young men together for prayer and reflection forming the basis of the YMCA movement. By 1845 the YMCA was holding public lectures in rented halls and Sunday afternoon teas at Hotel Radley in London. By 1851 the YMCA had spread to 16 other cities in England, Scotland and Ireland. The YMCA movement reached the American shores in 1851, with the first YMCA established in Montreal on November 25 and the second in Boston December 29. Williams grew to be a prominent businessman in London. He maintained a lifelong affiliation with the rapidly-spreading association, providing influence and financial support. By the time George Williams was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1894, the 50th anniversary of the YMCA, there were 5,000 YMCAs in 24 countries with 500,000 members. He died in 1905 and was commemorated by a stained-glass window in Westminster Abbey. Sir George Williams is buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Text and images are owned, held, or licensed by Springfield College and are available for personal, non-commercial, and educational use, provided that ownership is properly cited. A credit line is required and should read: Courtesy of Springfield College, Babson Library, Archives and Special Collections. Any commercial use without written permission from Springfield College is strictly prohibited. Other individuals or entities other than, and in addition to, Springfield College may also own copyrights and other propriety rights. The publishing, exhibiting, or broadcasting party assumes all responsibility for clearing reproduction rights and for any infringement of United States copyright law.