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History of Junior League Advocacy

  • 1901: Junior League of New York founded by Mary Harriman, a NYC debutante who mobilized a group of 80 young women to work on improving the squalid conditions in which immigrants were living on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

  • 1910s: Junior League focused its advocacy towards social, health and educational issues affecting communities at large. Junior League of Brooklyn successfully championed the advocacy to provide free lunches in city schools to the Board of Education. There were now 27 Leagues including one League in Canada by 1920.

  • 1920s: There were now more than 100 Leagues across the nation. In response to The Great Depression Junior Leagues opened nutrition centers and milk stations in addition to operating baby clinics, day nurseries for working mothers, birth control clinics and training schools for nurses.

  • 1950s: Nearly 150 Junior Leagues were involved in remedial reading centers, diagnostic testing programs and programs for gifted and talented. Leagues collaborated in the development of educational TV and were among the first to promote quality programming for children.

  • 1960s: Many Junior Leagues added environmental issues to their agenda: Junior League of Toledo produced an educational film: Fate of a River – a report on the devastating effects of water pollution. At this same time, Leagues also established advocacy programs addressing education, social services and employment needs of urban residents.

  • 1970s: AJLI expanded its participation in public affairs most especially in child health and juvenile justice.

  • 1980s: Junior Leagues gained recognition for national advocacy efforts to improve the nation’s child welfare system by helping gain passage of the first federal legislation to address domestic violence. In the time period, Leagues also developed a campaign tackling alcohol abuse among women: Woman to Woman – involving more than 100 League communities.

  • 1990s: 230 Junior Leagues participated in a nationwide campaign Don’t Wait To Vaccinate encouraging early childhood immunization. The end of this decade launched the largest public awareness campaign on domestic violence.

  • 2000s: Sex-trafficking is a top public awareness campaign for Junior Leagues this new millennium leading to positive legislative impact protecting the vulnerable. This advocacy campaign continues to be a top priority together with domestic violence, education and child healthcare.

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