In 1855, 99 YMCA delegates from Europe and North America met in Paris at the First World Conference of YMCAs, held before the 1855 Paris World Exposition of the same year.They discussed joining together in a federation to enhance cooperation amongst individual YMCA societies.In 1880, the YMCA became the first national organization to adopt a strict policy of equal gender representation in committees and national boards, with Norway being the country that first adopted it. The camp, originally located near Orange Lake in New Jersey, moved to Lake Wawayanda in Sussex County the following year, and then to the shore of Lake Champlain near Westport, New York, in 1891.
In 1947 the World Alliance of YMCAs gained special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council.
In 1955 the first black president of the World Alliance of YMCAs, Charles Dunbar Sherman from Liberia, was elected.
During World War II the YMCA was involved in war work with displaced persons and refugees.
They set up War Prisoners Aid to support prisoners of war by providing sports equipment, musical instruments, art materials, radios, gramophones, eating utensils, and other items.
Local YMCAs engage in a wide variety of charitable activities, including providing athletic facilities, holding classes for a wide variety of skills, promoting Christianity, and humanitarian work.
YMCAs continue to be religious organizations; many national or local organizations de-emphasize this aspect, while others choose to prioritize its religious mission above all others.
These three angles are reflected by the different sides of the (red) triangle—part of all YMCA logos.
From its inception, it grew rapidly and ultimately became a worldwide movement founded on the principles of Muscular Christianity.
The YMCA "combined preaching in the streets and the distribution of religious tracts with a social ministry.
Philanthropists saw them as places for wholesome recreation that would preserve youth from the temptations of alcohol, gambling, and prostitution and that would promote good citizenship." The YMCA was founded by George Williams, a London draper, who was typical of the young men drawn to the cities by the Industrial Revolution.
Its motto was taken from the Bible, "That they all may be one" (John ).