December 29, 1851

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Thomas Valentine Sullivan (1800-1859)

Monday Dec 29th  Have been at work about the house all

day  Helped Susan wash the dishes this morning

cleaned the dining room swept & dusted the

parlour & sitting room chambers entry &c  This

evening have spent in Olivers quilted the lining

to Susans hood  Helen has a bad cold and has

come home  It has cleared off very pleasant

It was an average Monday at the Ames’s house. Jane McHanna washed clothes and linens in big tubs in the kitchen while Evelina swept and dusted all around the house.  Susie Ames worked, too, helping her mother with the breakfast dishes.  After the chores and meals were over, Evelina visited next door with some sewing in hand.

In Boston, however, the day was more noteworthy. An iconic American institution – so familiar to most of us in the 21st century that it seems to have always existed – was formed today. Borrowed from London, where the original organization had been founded six years earlier, a Young Men’s Christian Association was formed at the Old South Church. The “Y” was born in the U. S. A.

The driving force behind the creation of an American YMCA (another had just opened in Canada) was Thomas Valentine Sullivan, a sea captain who had chosen to spend his retirement working as a missionary on the Boston waterfront. According to the Y’s own history, Sullivan noted a “need to create a safe ‘home away from home’ for sailors and merchants.”*  Young men who found life on the street too dangerous or unsavory could take refuge at the Y for “Bible study and prayer.”*

Among her dishrags and dustmops, Evelina wouldn’t have known about Capt. Sullivan and his new work. Yet the small, hopeful gathering at the Old South Church would grow into a major, caring resource for millions of people.

 

*http://www.ymca.net

 

 

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