The Junior League History… Celebrating a Century of Community Service

An ancient proverb says, “Tell me, I’ll forget.  Show me, I may remember.  But involve me and I’ll understand.”  For ten decades, Junior Leagues have worked in their communities to foster that spirit of involvement in improving the community.  Beginning at the turn of the century, Junior League founder Mary Harriman sought to involve those who were more fortunate in the lives of those who were in need.  The Junior League was founded in 1901 to address the needs of the disadvantaged.  The League soon grew to 85 members strong and attracted the attention of many. The Junior League has evolved into one of the largest all women’s volunteer organizations worldwide with over 140,000 women, across 4 countries, in 291 Leagues. This is our story:

2000’s –

  • In 2000, with nearly 200,000 members in Canada, Great Britain, Mexico and the U.S., the 296 Junior Leagues of the Association of Junior Leagues International begin to plan for the 2001 Centennial celebration celebration of the Junior League movement.
  • The AJLI Board adopts Ends Policies to guide and position the Association for its second century.  The Ends stress the importance of the Association in helping Junior Leagues develop women for community leadership, achieve a shared, positive collective identity, and function as strong, viable and healthy organization with the capacity to achieve the Mission.
  • In 2001, AJLI is named the co-chair of the US Steering Committee for the International Year of the Volunteer, along with the Points of Light Foundation.  The International Year of the Volunteer coincides with the Centennial founding of the Junior Leagues. The Association launches its Centennial Celebration with a major annual Conference in New York City where the first Junior League was founded. In their own communities, Junior Leagues commemorate the extraordinary contributions Junior Leagues have made to their communities in our four countries.  The Centennial year closed at an annual conference in Dallas, TX where the association introduced a new branding campaign to create a positive, shared identity for all 296 Junior Leagues in four countries as they enter their second century of service.

1990’s –

  • AJLI introduced AJLI Info-System, a bulletin board system and a toll-free service hotline for all League members
  • Early in the decade 230 Leagues participated in “Don’t Wait to Vaccinate”, an AJLI public awareness campaign
  • Leagues adopted an expanded mission which added “developing the potential of women”

1980’s –

  • The Canadian Federation held the first Junior League-sponsored national conference to focus on violence against women
  • AJLI was presented with the U.S. National Service Award and the U.S. President’s Volunteer Action Award

1970’s –

  • Membership diversification became a priority adopting the statement “reaches out to women of all races, religions and national origins”
  • Leagues were expanding child advocacy efforts through the establishment of volunteer guardian ad litem programs

1960’s –

  • Junior Leagues added environmental issues to their agendas with the development of the educational film “Fate of a River”
  • Many leagues formed community advisory boards to increase their awareness of the communities’ needs

1950’s –

  • As many as 123 Leagues worked to improve public schools in areas such as remedial reading, diagnostic testing and programs for gifted and challenged children
  • Helped start educational TV and the first to promote quality programming for children
  • Mexico City League created and opened the most complete, internationally recognized center for blind in the Spanish-speaking world

1940’s –

  • Play major role during WWII leading the creation of central volunteer defense bureaus and chairing hundreds of war-related organizations
  • Louisville League financed and helped staff cancer clinic

1930’s –

  • Set up special volunteer bureaus to recruit, train and place volunteers to assist those suffering from the Great Depression
  • Developed first State of Public Affairs Committee for the State of Virginia

1920’s –

  • AJLI formed in 1921
  • Leagues respond to nationwide economic hardship due to the 1929 stock market crash by operating baby clinics, day nurseries and training schools for nurses

1910’s –

  • Concept of Junior League spreads west to Portland, Oregon, becoming fourth in the nation
  • Efforts begin to focus on social issues of children, women and families
  • Junior League of Brooklyn successfully petitioned Board of Education to provide free lunches in city schools