The First Junior League
In 1901, Mary Harriman, a socially conscious 19-year old New York City debutante, founded the first Junior League. Moved by the suffering she saw around her, Harriman mobilized a group of 80 other young women—hence the name “Junior” League—to work to improve the squalid conditions in which immigrants were living in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Harriman’s vision for improving communities by using the energy and commitment of trained volunteers inspired others around the country.
In 1921, the Association of Junior Leagues was formed to provide professional support to the leagues. Today, the Association of Junior Leagues International governs 291 Junior Leagues in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Great Britain.
Junior League of Seattle
The Junior League of Seattle (JLS) was established in 1923 and has been a member of the Association of Junior Leagues International (AJLI) since 1924.
JLS has a strong history of launching projects that help the greater Seattle community. The organization began with members opening the Eastlake Branch of the Seattle Day Nursery, where they took responsibility for the welfare of 50 children. They payed all maintenance and operating expenses, managed the medical and dental clinic at the nursery, and supplied members to assist the matron and kindergarten teacher. Today this childcare organization still thrives and is known as Childhaven.
The Northwest Art Project was created by the JLS in the early 1960s to bring arts education to schoolchildren. This collection of original works by Northwest artists continues to reach more than 20,000 students annually. In 1966, the JLS published and distributed, free-of-charge, the Guidebook for the Handicapped. League members surveyed all public buildings in the downtown Seattle area for accessibility for the disabled. In the 1980s, the Court Appointed Special Advocate program (CASA) was developed by Seattle Judge David W. Soukup and JLS was one of the first volunteer organizations to implement the program, which has since gone nationwide. The goal is to ensure that needy children have a caring adult to advocate and intervene on their behalf with the court system.