The Junior League of Brooklyn was established in 1910 by women interested in fighting the health and social problems associated with over-crowded tenement neighborhoods. It is the third oldest of the 292 Junior Leagues comprised of more than 155,000 women in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom and the United States, united through the Association of Junior Leagues International (AJLI).
Take a step back through our last 107 years...
CREATION OF THE JUNIOR LEAGUE
The first Junior League was organized in New York City in 1901 by Mary Harriman and Nathalie Henderson. Young women were encouraged to take part in some form of active service to their own neighborhoods. Through voluntary service, members were given an opportunity to learn more about the city's administration, hospitals, schools and other social agencies.
Boston established its League in 1907. In 1910, the third oldest League, The Junior League of Brooklyn, was organized by Miss Elizabeth Dutcher, Mrs. Otis S. Carroll and Mrs. John G. Underhill. By 1912, seven more Junior Leagues had been formed, including Portland, Philadelphia, Chicago and Baltimore.
The Leagues continued as isolated units, occasionally meeting to exchange ideas and discuss mutual problems. The need for a central advisory and liaison organization led to the founding of The Association of Junior Leagues Inc. in 1921 by the 42 Leagues then active. The Association now consists of 293 Leagues in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom and the United States. Its purpose was and is to promote voluntarism and to improve the community through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers.
The Junior League of Brooklyn Historical Highlights
Successfully petitioned the Board of Education to provide free lunches for the children in Brooklyn schools.
Constructed and furnished a residence for one hundred working girls, the Junior League House. This building was given to the YWCA the following year for incorporation into the Harriet Judson Branch.
The Sanitary Fair and Calico Ball belied hard times and raised an unsurpassed $12,000 for the community.
The war effort included Red Cross training, the sale of war bonds and other war-related projects. In the late 1940’s the League purchased equipment for the Research Laboratory of the State University of New York’s College of Medicine, at Kings County Hospital.
Established a Children’s Recreation Program at Kings County Hospital, and proceeds from the Ball were used to equip a permanent playroom for the ambulatory pediatric patients.
Established Brooklyn Junior League Social Service Fellowships providing trained social workers for the community. Created the Corrective Reading Program to help children at the South Brooklyn Neighborhood Houses Creation, with Brooklyn Cumberland Medical Center created and staffed premature nursery and installed a highly specialized laboratory for the nursery. Sponsored programs included partnerships with Visiting Nurse Association, Long Island Historical Society and Brooklyn Museum
Programs established include: co-sponsorship of school hot breakfast program in Fort Green, funded the establishment of a Family Day Care Program for infants at the Amboy Neighborhood Center in Brownsville, a relocation facility for fire victims, and a Cultural Outreach program to promote Brooklyn’s cultural institutions within its communities. JLB Members also developed and staffed a Senior Citizens Advice Desk at the St. George Hotel. Other programs co sponsored with community partnerships included United Hospital Fund of New York, Inc., Downstate Medical Center, Council on Adoptable Children, The Council of New York Law Associates of Concern for Children in Placement (a foster care system monitoring project). The “Underground Society Bash” brought more than 750 people, including politicians and celebrities, to the New York Transit Exhibit in Brooklyn’s old Court Street Station.
JLB volunteers initiated a Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) project to train lay advocates for children in the foster care system, Brooklyn Women’s Anti-Rape Exchange (BEWARE), The Chemical People, and New York City Self-Help Clearinghouse, Home Safety for Senior Citizens (the publishing and distribution of information to prevent home accidents), docent program at Lefferts Homestead historic Dutch House in Prospect Park. With Long Island College Hospital members established an evening Story Hour and activity program to relieve children’s stress of being hospitalized. Other partnerships established during this decade include Women’s Survival Space and Interfaith Medical Center. In addition, Members held the first ever Decorators Showhouse in Brooklyn with more than 1,000 attendees
Awards received during this time include the Presidential Recognition Award from the Federal Regional Council for its community work with the Parenting Education Program (PEP), the Court Appointed Special Advocates Project (CASA) and the Prospect Park Map In addition, JLB was invited to attend a White House briefing in Washington, D.C. The invitation came in recognition of the enormous impact which the Junior League has on its various communities through the extraordinary contributions of its volunteers.
New Placements developed to address community needs included Mentoring program with Graham Windham, HOPE program that focused on issues and concerns facing the homeless, Crown Heights Youth Collective (educational, cultural and recreational programs), Brooklyn Child Advocacy Center (BCAC).
New initiatives include partnerships with ABC Quilt Project to produce and develop quilts for children that had AIDS, filming and scripting of Survivors First Video, Day of Silent Witness (including an educational panel of experts on Domestic Violence and represented NY State at March on Washington DC.). Along with The Brooklyn Chapter of the Links, Incorporated, the JLB hosted a panel discussing advocacy issues presented at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women (held in Beijing). JLB Members honored our 85th Anniversary with gala Anniversary Ball at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden which we honored our 58 past presidents.
In response to September 11th, JLB in conjunction with the Junior League of New York, raised and distributed over $250,000 which benefitted various programs in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Other new Community Projects included: Career Awareness Program with Brooklyn Bureau of Community Service focusing on at risk teens, partnership with Out of the Box (OOTB) Youth Financial Literacy Program, Business Etiquette Workshop (in partnership with Brooklyn Borough Hall for their Summer HEAT participants). Along with hundreds of Leagues nationwide, JLB added Kids in the Kitchen, a national initiative of AJLI to address nutritional needs in communities, to our community programming. Long time JLB supporter JP Morgan Chase supported the development of Board Training and Development Program which prepared community members to serve on non-profit boards within Brooklyn. Additional partnership included hosting panel with newly elected Borough President Eric Adams, titled “Stop the Traffic: Present Day Human Trafficking”
JLB Members celebrated 95th Anniversary Party at the Historical Society and initiated Preserving the Archives Campaign. Other Fundraiser during this time included Just Desserts: Mad Hatters Tea. JLB donated their records for preservation at the Brooklyn Historical Society. Our Centennial was celebrated with a Masquerade Ball held at Dyker Beach and Golf Course resort, the Inaugural event for the then new resort.
In response to the passing of long term Member Elaine Potter Bradbury, in 2004 our Volunteer of the Year Award was renamed The Elaine Potter Bradbury Volunteer of the Year Award. JLB also established The Marcia Smith Past Presidents Award to honor past presidents who continue to go above and beyond in service to the League long after their term is completed. Inaugural winner was PP LaSeanda Covington.
With its inaugural program in 2008, Belle of the Ball program (now Belle and Beau of the Ball) continues to expand with rotating events in Red Hook, Brownsville and East Flatbush. In 2014, collaboration in with the Kappa Beta Sigma chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity now allows participation of young men.
As we prepare for another decade of service in Brooklyn the focus this year will be to educate Members on current Community Issues, trainings to benefit personal and career development and preparation for the 10th Anniversary of our signature placement - Belle and Beau of the Ball.