Chapter Two of The Junior League: 100 Years of Volunteer Service, entitled “Igniting the Junior League Movement,” is next up in our handy online curriculum of required reading.
The chapter covers the years 1911 to 1919, when the last lacy frills and stiff corsets of the Victorian era were giving way to an earnest and increasingly respected band of female activists greatly influenced by the rise of the Settlement House movement. Out of the stir arose the Girl Scouts, the Boy Scouts, the Camp Fire Girls, the Kiwanis Club, and the American Legion, all of them vying for the attention and participation of women who were marching in suffrage parades and working in war relief.
With Leagues established in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Montreal — and allegedly Holland – The Junior League Bulletin, available by subscription to readers for $1 and thick with articles on politics and culture and ads for dressmakers and luxury hotels, boldly announced an international conference designed to bring “all the Junior Leagues in the world” together to trade advice and inspiration.
Held at Mary Harriman’s home on East 69th Street in New York, the meeting drew 50 delegates from Baltimore, Boston, Brooklyn, Chicago, and Philadelphia, and featured an evening at the theater. (As reflected in the minutes of the meeting held in mid-April, it eerily coincided with the sinking of the Titanic; The Junior League House would later take in 50 immigrant women from the ship).
By 1917, Leagues had put down roots in San Francisco, St. Louis, Kansas City, Denver, Omaha, Atlanta, Chattanooga, and elsewhere. The tradition of a biennial conference was quickly morphing into an annual rite at which pressing issues were up for discussion.
These included whether war relief work could qualify as official League volunteer service; whether the name the Junior League of America should be copyrighted; and the vigorous debate over the League’s involvement in the suffrage movement, which came to a head in St. Louis, home of the only League officially organized to support a woman’s right to vote, and where 7,000 women marched carrying yellow parasols during the Democratic National Convention of 1916, ultimately helping to their state to become the eleventh to ratify the 19th Amendment, a year before it became federal law in 1920.
Keeping abreast with the press for the right to vote, though, were the demands of World War I. Leagues all over the country organized to collect money for war refugees, tend to wounded soldiers who’d returned from the front, host in-home nursing classes, and collect warm clothing. Hundreds of League recruits even volunteered overseas in France under the auspices of the YMCA’s Women’s Division of the War Personnel Board, which was chaired by Caroline McCormick Slade, the president of the New York League.
To read more from Chapter Two of The Junior League: 100 Years of Volunteer Service, just flip the pages below.