George Williams (YMCA)

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Sir George Williams
Sir George Williams by John Collier.jpg
Born(1821-10-11)11 October 1821
Died6 November 1905(1905-11-06) (aged 84)
London, England
Resting placeSt Paul's Cathedral, England
Known forFounding the YMCA
Helen Jane Maunder Hitchcock (m. 1853)
A plaque for George Williams 13-16 Russell Square, London.

Sir George Williams (11 October 1821 – 6 November 1905) was an English philanthropist and founder of the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA). The oldest and largest youth charity in the world, its aim is to support young people to belong, contribute and thrive in their communities.[1]

Early life[edit]

Williams was born on a farm in Dulverton, Somerset, England and baptized into the Church of England.[2] As a young man, he described himself as a "careless, thoughtless, godless, swearing young fellow". After an accident, his family sent him to Bridgwater to be an apprentice at a draper's shop. In 1837, Williams converted from Anglicanism to Congregationalism. He went to the Zion Congregational Church and became an involved member.[3] Through his son Frederick Williams, Sir George is the four times great grandfather of Boris Johnson


In 1841, he went to London and worked again in a draper's shop. After three years, in 1844, was promoted to department manager. He married the boss's daughter, Helen Jane Maunder Hitchcock in 1853. Williams became a member of the Weigh House Congregational Church and used his time for evangelization.

Appalled by the terrible conditions in London for young working men, he gathered a group of his fellow drapers together to create a place that would not tempt young men into sin. That place was the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA), which he founded on 6 June 1844.[4] It promoted Muscular Christianity. One of the earliest converts and contributors to the new association was George's employer, George Hitchcock. It also provided a safe place for young men and women.


Williams was knighted by Queen Victoria in her 1894 Birthday Honours. After his death in 1905, he was commemorated by a stained-glass window in the nave of Westminster Abbey. Sir George Williams is buried in St Paul's Cathedral. Sir George Williams University in Montreal, which was founded by the YMCA, was named in commemoration of Williams; it was later merged into Concordia University, with its former campus retaining the name Sir George Williams Campus.


  1. ^ "YMCA and YMCA England". YMCA. 17 March 2017. Archived from the original on 17 March 2017.
  2. ^ "YMCA Somerset Coast website". August 22, 2015. Retrieved August 22, 2015.
  3. ^ Rene Bester, YMCA Nelson, History & More, New Zealand, 2009, page 10
  4. ^ "My Dear Home, I Love You, You're a House for Each of Us and Home for All of Us". World Digital Library. 1918. Retrieved October 26, 2013.


  • Binfield, Clyde George Williams and the Y.M.C.A.: a Study in Victorian Social Attitudes 1973 London, Heinemann ISBN 0-434-07090-4