From May 15 to 18, more than 600 delegates attended AJLI’s 91st Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. where the Junior Leagues of Washington, D.C. and the Oranges and Short Hills were celebrating their 100th anniversaries. Flying a bold new “Leadership Empowered” flag, the conference updated delegates on the work of the Association. In addition, it offered workshops ranging in content from innovations in fund development and Sustainer engagement to issue-based impact and legislative advocacy, and celebrated the work of individual Leagues at the annual Awards Banquet.


The day before the conference officially began, the Association capitalized on the D.C. location and the number of attendees by organizing its first Hill Day, an afternoon of advocacy and education during which members of numerous Leagues (and SPACs, PACs and SLICs) fanned out all over Capitol Hill speaking to legislators about the issues affecting their communities. Topics on the table included childhood obesity, the charitable deduction and human trafficking, among others.


At the opening session, following a moving procession into the ballroom by delegates bearing placards engraved with their Leagues’ founding years, attendees were energized by “It Starts With a Woman,” a new video presentation that illustrates the premise of The Junior League Mission and the impact of the League’s work on the problems faced in communities through its network. Following the video’s debut, greetings from the heads of state of the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the U.K. were read aloud and the national anthem of each country was performed on stage. President Toni Freeman welcomed delegates.


Another conference stand-out was the funny, poignant and empowering keynote address by Zainab Salbi, an Iraqi-American woman who survived brutal oppression in Saddam Hussein’s inner circle to go on to found Women for Women International, an agency that supports women in conflict zones around the world.
Now at work on a film about the women of the Arab Spring, Salbi shared her experiences with women who have shown extraordinary courage despite unspeakable violence and hardship, and revealed how her own search for truth and peace brought her wisdom and humility. She received a standing ovation.


Following a multi-faceted Service Dialogue featuring presentations from nearly every department of the Association—and including remarks from Executive Director Susan Danish about the transformative work underway to modernize the League and from Anne Dalton on the work of the Action Learning Teams—the Annual Meeting turned voting delegates’ attention to management and governance. Several changes were made to Association bylaws; a handful of Advisory Resolutions were passed; and the new members of the Board of Directors and the Governance Committee, each of whom was slated by the Board earlier this year, were announced.

Here is a summary of the changes to the AJLI Bylaws:

The AJLI Governance Committee

Change the requirements for the position of Governance Committee Vice Chair. Vice Chair must have previously served at least two years on the Board of Directors or Governance Committee

  • Remove the Board Representative position, change title from At-Large Representative to At-Large Member and reduce the size of the committee from 13 to nine members
  • Update election cycle to note that in Odd Years four At-Large Members will be elected and in Even Years three At-Large Members will be elected
  • Define how and when vacancies on the Governance Committee are filled

Annual and Special Meeting Practices

  • Define who may hold a Proxy. Only the Association Secretary or a voting delegate from another Junior League may be given a Proxy

Additionally, the delegates passed three Advisory Resolutions on the following topics:

  • Gender Inequality
  • The AJLI Reaching Out Statement
  • National Women’s History Museum


HillDayAmong the educational offerings, both old favorites and new additions won high marks or drew enthusiastic crowds. Among them were Vicki Clark’s “Transitions;” “Women’s Leadership: The Continuing Journey” featuring representatives of Miss Hall’s School and the National Women’s History Museum; “On Capitol Hill: A Junior League Insiders’ Guide to Using Political Power,” which offered reflections from Congresswomen Susan Brooks of Indiana and Carolyn B. Maloney of New York; “Because Children Need to Read: Promoting Literacy as a Fundamental Tenet of a Vibrant Society,” which included panelists from Reading Is Fundamental and The Literacy Lab, among others; and “Beyond Awareness: Strategies to Address Human Trafficking.”


At Friday’s luncheon, Florence Shapiro of The Junior League of Collin County was honored with the prestigious Mary Harriman Community Leadership Award for the lifetime of bold and dynamic leadership that led her to the Texas State Senate. Saturday night’s Awards Banquet recognized several Leagues for their outstanding achievements in a variety of categories ranging from Fund Development and Marketing, to Membership Development and Vision. The Junior League of Napa-Sonoma won the coveted Community Impact Award while The Junior League of Raleigh was honored with the Leadership Development Award. Stacey Chavis of The Junior League of Atlanta and Laurie Green of The Junior League of Sacramento won Rising Star Awards.


Kashi, our generous sponsor and partner in the fight for healthy food for kids, was back for a second year in a row with $50,000 in grants for Leagues who demonstrated a commitment to fighting childhood obesity and teaching a healthy lifestyle to kids and their families. Senior Brand Manager Joe Kramer presented awards to 18 Leagues.

This article originally appeared in the print edition of connected, August 2013 edition.