The Association of Junior Leagues International Inc (AJLI) is an international non-profit organization of women who are committed to encouraging volunteerism, education, and community leadership. The Association operates 293 Junior Leagues throughout the United States, Mexico, Canada, and the United Kingdom. It is estimated that there are now more than 170,000 Junior League members across the globe.
The first Junior League was founded by 19-year-old Mary Harriman in 1901. She led 80 other young women on a variety of projects designed to improve nutrition and literacy for immigrant families in New York. Soon after, ambitious young women from around the United States began creating similar service organizations. In 1912, the Junior League of Montreal gave a global importance to the group’s mission by becoming the first Junior League outside the U.S.
By World War II, Junior League members were earning a reputation for their commitment to community service. Members made a significant contribution to the war effort by chairing organizations that collected goods and supplies for soldiers. Many American and Canadian Junior League members even served overseas to lend assistance to military personnel in need.
Today, Junior League members are responsible for implementing a variety of improvements in their communities. Members have started recycling programs, community beautification projects, free medical clinics, literacy campaigns, and clothing drives for foster children. Each chapter is encouraged to brainstorm ways in which they can use their skills and talents to make an impact.
Traditionally, one of the most important ways Junior League members raise funds for their projects is by publishing cookbooks. In 1943, the Junior League of Minneapolis raised $3,000 US Dollars (USD) by publishing a cookbook of member recipes. Inspired by this accomplishment, other chapters have followed suit with a variety of cookbooks. The AJLI has also published three cookbook compilations as part of a national fundraising effort.
As a testament to the group’s importance, it is interesting to note that many of the world’s most prominent and influential women were once members of their local Junior League. According to the AJLI website, Eleanor Roosevelt, Audrey Hepburn, Barbara Bush, Sandra Day O’Connor, and Eudora Welty are among the Junior League’s best known alumni.
Junior League membership is open to all women regardless of race, religion, or national origin. However, each local chapter has slightly different requirements in regards to dues, meeting attendance, and community service participation. If you are interested in becoming a Junior League member, contact your local chapter for additional information.