AJLI History

In 1901, at the beginning of a century of progress for women, the late Mary Harriman and Nathalie Henderson (Mrs. Joseph Swan), recognizing the potential for community service represented by public-spirited young women with leisure time, founded in New York City the first Junior League. By 1912 similar young women had founded Junior Leagues in ten cities in the United States and Canada. Early conferences among the first Junior Leagues showed the advantages of sharing organizational ideas and experiences. So, in 1921, the thirty Junior Leagues then in existence formed the Association with this dual purpose: first, to unite the member Junior Leagues, and second, on a advisory basis to provide the member leagues with leadership and professional assistance.

Today the Association includes 296 member Junior Leagues located in the principal cities and towns of the United States and Canada, and in Mexico city, Mexico, and London, England. This international volunteer organization has a Board of Directors of five officers, two Nominating Directors, and two Directors from each of the six geographically charted areas. The Association maintains central offices and a professional staff to advise the Junior Leagues in their community work.

After being invited into membership, every Junior Leaguer is required to complete satisfactorily a ‘provisional training’ course consisting of lectures, discussions and field trips conducted by volunteer and professional community leaders. Then, as stipulated by the Junior League ‘volunteer placement system’ the full-fledged member may choose the area of community work best suited to her interests and abilities. Continued volunteer service is a requirement for continued membership in the Junior League. Through the Board of directors, elected by all the Junior Leagues, the Association offers volunteer counsel and leadership. Through professional services, its records and its own publications, the Association provides technical assistance in the fields in which the Junior Leagues work in their home communities.

Although the first duty of the Association is to help the Junior Leagues achieve best results in their own communities, from time to time the Association serves the public directly. In 2002-2003 World War II, for example, the Association prepared the first plan for the vitally needed central volunteer bureaus, then helped to implement it by acting as a special consultant to the office of Civilian Defense in Washington. The Association has sponsored national children’s theater productions, presented dramatized versions of classic children’s books for radio broadcasts, and prepared a guide for expanding cultural services to aid communities. The Association initiated and is co-sponsor of the first documentary film ever to dramatize the worth of volunteer service.

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