Strong men

Photo courtesy of the Young Men’s Christian Association of Greater Boston (M13), University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections Department, Northeastern University.

“The YMCA deals in manhood. It is a builder of men.” —The YMCA Annual Budget Balancing Canvass Organization, 1930.

How do you define strength? If you asked a young man who frequented the YMCA in the 1910s, he would have said that strength meant physical, spiritual, and mental might. New YMCA programs reflected this philosophy, encouraging members to build their bodies and strengthen their self-confidence in recently built branches across the city.

When violence erupted in Europe, the YMCA adapted its programs to make sure members would be strong enough to meet the needs of a city and a nation at war. Through the highs of the Roaring Twenties and the devastating lows of the Great Depression, the YMCA kept on building strong men and, after 1937, strong women, too. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, the YMCA was a self-proclaimed “strength factory.” From the institution emerged a new generation of men and women with the fortitude to defend the United States.

« Photo courtesy of the Young Men’s Christian Association of Greater Boston (M13), University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections Department, Northeastern University.