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YMCA rural and smaller community work records

 Collection
Identifier: Y.USA.93

SCOPE AND CONTENTS OF THE COLLECTION

Correspondence, memoranda, reports, conference materials, newsletters, and other records of the Committee on Extension, the Town, Country, and Extension Committee and its predecessor bodies, including the County Work Department; the Town and County Department; and the Town, County, and Community Committee; among other slight variations over the years. The collection also includes a large number of pamphlets, booklets, and similar publications on various aspects of this work.

Dates

  • 1867-1970
  • Majority of material found within 1900-1960

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

Open for use in the Elmer L. Andersen Library reading room.

Conditions Governing Use

This collection may be protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright ownership and to obtain all necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials. Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law.

HISTORY OF YMCA RURAL WORK

First referred to as "county work," the YMCA's rural, or "town and country" work focused on expanding the movement beyond its urban origins to serve the needs of smaller communities.

Originally founded very much as an urban organization and focused largely on responding to problems inherent to city life, the YMCA movement nevertheless spread to smaller communities, with half of its local associations established during its first twenty-five years located in small towns or rural neighborhoods. However, many of these associations were short-lived due to the lack of resources and support for professional staff or buildings. Robert Weidensall was one of the first to recognize and promote the need support greater investment in what was then referred to as "county work." Building on his efforts and attempts of varying success to pursue this work in various states, the International Committee established the County Work Department in 1903, with John R. Boardman as its first secretary. The name changed to Town and Country Work Department as of January 1922, to conform to terminology used by other related organizations for similar work, and to better describe its nature.

Rural YMCA work was continually challenged by a particularly precarious financial base due to their smaller and spread out memberships and the fact that the YMCA prefered not to establish associations in towns that could not provide them with buildings. A parallel difficulty was that the YMCA ws increasingly idnetified with a gymnasium-centered program. These associations responded with innovations like boys' clubs and with health and recreational programs that did not rely on gyms, as well with an increased focus on evangelism. By 1915, county work was organized in 78 areas.

The onset of the first World War dealt a major blow to county work, especially in areas where they had no formal ties with the state organization or with a nearby city association. While being unencumbered by buildings made many of the rural YMCA programs more resilient to the challenges of the Depression, nevertheless, by 1940 only 448 of the 976 associations extant in 1900 in places of less than 25,000 population survived. The programs that did survive to the 1940s and beyond tended to shift their focus toward youth in smaller cities, towns, and suburban places, rather than in rural or agricultural areas. Following World War II, the YMCA made efforts to support this work by creating new types of YMCA organizations such as clubs and affiliates, as well as authorizing arrangements where executives could be shared between multiple, smaller associations. By the early 1950s, the YMCA increasingly conceived of and termed this work "extension services" and by the early 1960s the department overseeing it was the "Committee on Extension."

[Historical information is primarily taken and in some cases quoted directly from History of the Y.M.C.A. in North America, by C. Howard Hopkins, as well as from material in the collection.]

Extent

4.4 Cubic Feet (5 boxes)

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

Correspondence, memoranda, reports, conference materials, newsletters, and other records of the Committee on Extension, the Town, Country, and Extension Committee and its predecessor bodies, including the County Work Department; the Town and County Department; and the Town, County, and Community Committee; among other slight variations over the years. The collection also includes a large number of pamphlets, booklets, and similar publications on various aspects of this work.

Processing Information

Includes material fast-processed as FP71.

Catalog Record ID number: 9977747309101701
Title
YMCA RURAL AND SMALLER COMMUNITY WORK
Subtitle
An Inventory of its Records
Author
Lara Friedman-Shedlov
Date
2021-03
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Kautz Family YMCA Archives Collecting Area

Contact:

612-625-3445