Personality, character, and self-expression: the YMCA and the construction of manhood and class, 1877-1920
Historians have largely neglected to explore the ways in which emerging constructions of middle-class manhood were contingent on defining and structuring class difference. Using the YMCA's efforts with railroad and industrial workers from the 1870s to the end of World War I as a case study, the author argues that definitions of class difference were an integral part to new articulations of middle-class manhood. YMCA officials hoped that workingmen would abstain from political radicalism and industrial unrest once they adopted an ideal of Christian manhood. Bringing an ideal of Christian manhood to the workers, the YMCA presumed, could engender a workforce that would set examples of sacrifice and service and exude goodwill and selflessness. While YMCA officials took part in the remaking of middle-class men's notions about the meaning of manhood, they also constructed and affirmed class differences through their cultural practices.