What is the Junior League?

Dana Hinders

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.

Retired Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Sandra Day O'connor was once a member of the Junior League.
Retired Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Sandra Day O'connor was once a member of the Junior League.

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.

Eleanor Roosevelt was among the Junior League’s best known alumni.
Eleanor Roosevelt was among the Junior League’s best known alumni.

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.

Actress Audrey Hepburn was once a member of the Junior League.
Actress Audrey Hepburn was once a member of the Junior League.

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Discussion Comments


@truman12 - Most major cities have a Junior League and I know St. Louis has one because one of my friends is a part of that group.

I happened to be visiting her when they were working on one of their well known fundraisers which was selling cinnamon rolls.

They are sold in many locations around the city, and they never have any trouble selling them. People who are familiar with this look forward to them like they do Girl Scout cookies.

From what I know, they are very active in a lot of community projects. My friend has participated in cancer walks and helped build a playground for kids. She has met a lot of great people and has found this to be very rewarding.


Being involved in the Junior League has been a part of our family for generations. Both my grandmother and my mom were part of the Junior League.

Today, my sister and I are a part of our local Junior League as well. One of our biggest fundraisers is a boutique store similar to a second hand store.

This started out as a one day rummage sale many years ago. They have had so much success with it that it is now a permanent store in our community.

From this store alone, they have been able to support many community projects that have helped a lot of people.

Not only do they raise money to pour back into the community, but are able to help people find suitable clothes to go to a job interview in, or have nice winter coats for the kids of a single mom.

I find it interesting that many influential women were part of their local Junior League.

When I was right out of college, my boss was a very well-known and influential woman in our community. She was a part of the Junior League, and this was the first time I had even heard of this organization.

She had served in many different capacities with this organization and it seems like they were always working on some kind of program to benefit the community.

I was in my early 20s at the time, and I can remember attending a couple of meetings. The group in my area had women of all ages, but most of them seemed to be in their 30s and 40s.

At that time in my life I wasn't too interested in getting involved, but did have a lot of respect for what they were doing.


Recently I became involved with the Junior League in the Boston area. I was impressed with their emphasis on volunteering and community service.

This Junior League has been in existence for 100 years, so it has quite a history in our area. We just finished with a charity ball where we raised money for local charities.

It isn't very often that I dress up for an elegant event like this, and it was a lot of fun.

One of the most helpful things I participate in is called Kids in the Kitchen through the Junior League. We are working with young girls teaching them nutrition and wellness through proper food.

This has been very rewarding as I have seen many of these girls really blossom and grow through this experience.


@MissDaphne - I loved that book, too! I'm a librarian so looking things up is kind of raison d'etre, so I looked into the name. It was, indeed, originally a group of younger women doing charitable work. I'm not sure at what point it became more of a group for women of all ages.

The Junior League doesn't necessarily come off very well in the novel - its main activities seem to be providing segregated toilets for African American maids and gossipping - but of course, that's just a representation of one particular fictional chapter.

The real Junior League seems to have been pretty progressive. As early as the 20s and 30s, for instance, they ran birth control clinics and day care centers!


Does anyone know why it's called the Junior League? I came across it recently reading The Help; the narrator and all her friends were in the Junior League. She was pretty young, early 20s, and so were they.; there was not mention of older women being in the group.

My impression is that it is for women of all ages now, at least, but I notice that the founder was also quite a young woman. Did it used to be mostly for young adults?

Is there a Junior League in every city? Specifically, is the one in St. Louis?

I have never heard of the junior league before but this sounds like an amazing organization. I would like to be involved if there is a local chapter.


I am in the Dallas chapter of the Junior League and we have an incredibly popular cookbook that we publish a yearly edition of. It sells thousands of copies and we are able to do a lot of great work with the money we raise.

Each member contributes a recipe and we have a professional editor that help us collect them in a logical and appealing way. I have had a few recipes show up in there over the years. This year I have one for an amazing spinach and artichoke dip.


I have been a member of the junior league for almost ten years and I've found it to be an incredibly rewarding experience. I had always wanted to be more involved but struggled to find a focus and an outlet for the things I wanted to do. That is why the junior league is great. It is a service organization that allows me to contribute my efforts to many causes.

One of our biggest projects is a coat drive in the winter time. We routinely collect upwards of 5 thousand coats and they all get donated to the needy at the beginning of the winter. I can be proud of something like that. That is a real problem that we are responding to.

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