Junior League – Wikipedia

Volunteer nonprofit organization in the United States

Junior League
St. Paul sells roses for soldiers LCCN2014719482.jpg

Junior League members sell flowers during WWI. New York City?

Predecessor Junior League for the Promotion of the Settlement Movement,
New York Junior League
Formation 1901; 121 years ago (1901)
New York, NY, U.S.
Founder Mary Harriman Rumsey
Type Private, 501(c)(3) nonprofit
Registration no. 13-1656639
Headquarters 80 Maiden Lane
New York, NY 10038


140,000 women

Key people

Dorothy Payne Whitney (First President, AJLI)
Laurel Lee-Alexander (President)
Subsidiaries 291 Junior League chapters


$7,195,946 (FY 2019)[1]
Expenses $7,035,466 (FY 2019)[1]inc. direct program support as all members serve as unpaid volunteers
Website ajli.org

The Association of Junior Leagues International, Inc. (Junior League or JL) is a private, nonprofit educational women’s volunteer organization aimed at improving communities and the social, cultural, and political fabric of civil society. With 291[when?] Junior League chapters in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the United Kingdom, it is one of the oldest and largest of its kind.[clarification needed] Members engage in developing civic leadership skills, fundraising, and volunteering on JL committees to support partner community organizations related to foster children, domestic violence, human trafficking, illiteracy, city beautification, and other issues.

It was founded in 1901 in New York City by Barnard College debutante Mary Harriman Rumsey.


Astor House, clubhouse owned by the New York Junior League (the first League), Upper East Side

The first Junior League was founded in 1901 in New York City as the Junior League for the Promotion of the Settlement Movement. It is now known as the New York Junior League (NYJL). Its founder was then 19-year-old Barnard College student and debutante Mary Harriman Rumsey, sister of future Governor of New York W. Averell Harriman and daughter of railroad executive Edward H. Harriman.[2][3]

Inspired by a lecture on settlement movements that chronicled the works of social reformers such as Lillian Wald and Jane Addams, Harriman Rumsey organized others to become involved in settlement work. The organization’s first project was working at the College Settlement on Rivington Street on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Eleanor Roosevelt was an early member of the NYJL, joining in 1903 when she was 19 years old.[3]

For many years the NYJL’s clubhouse was located at 221 East 71st Street in Manhattan. Designed by architect John Russell Pope and opened in 1929, the building contained a swimming pool on the top floor, bedrooms for volunteers, a ballroom, a hairdressing salon, and a shelter for up to 20 abandoned babies.[3][4]Marymount Manhattan College currently owns the building.[4] In 1950 the NYJL clubhouse moved to the former Vincent Astor townhouse (Astor House) at 130 East 80th Street, where it remains as of 2020.[3]

The New York Junior League was soon emulated: by 1921, thirty Leagues joined to form the national association. In 1921—after serving as New York City’s Junior League president from 1907 to 1910—Dorothy Payne Whitney became the first president of the Association of Junior Leagues International Inc., operating as the umbrella organization for all Junior Leagues worldwide.

In 1961, the Junior League of Chicago co-founded the Art Institute’s volunteer Docent Program to revitalize and expand “programming for children.”[5]

Women’s organization[edit]

The League is an all-women organization. In 1996, the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and San Francisco Gate publicized that a male hairdresser named Clark Clementsen, tried to join the League after his “high society clients” recommended him, but was denied membership and retained an attorney to argue his case at a meeting of AJLI representatives in NYC. For him, members had “been trained to be organized, articulate community leaders, and it showed…no men’s organization even came close.”[6][7][8][9]



“The Association of Junior Leagues International, Inc. (AJLI) is an organization of women committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. Its purpose is exclusively educational and charitable.”

Chartered Leagues[edit]

As of 2019 there are 291 Leagues of 140,000 women in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the UK,[10] including but not limited to:


  • Junior League of Montreal—the first League outside of the U.S.
  • Junior League of Toronto
  • Junior League of Hamilton-Burlington

Junior League of Jacksonville
Junior League of Orlando
Junior League of Manatee County
Junior League of Miami
Junior League of Sarasota
Junior League of Tampa



  • Junior League of Jackson—featured in The Help book and film

New York

  • Junior League of Buffalo
  • New York Junior League—the first league
  • Junior League of Kingston

North Carolina

  • Junior League of Raleigh
  • Junior League of Greensboro
  • Junior League of Charlotte
  • Junior League of Durham and Orange Counties


  • Junior League of Akron
  • Junior League of Cleveland
  • Junior League of Cincinnati
  • Junior League of Columbus
  • Junior League of Dayton
  • Junior League of Toledo







Prospects must attend orientation at their chapter’s clubhouse before applying for membership. The application requires biographical data, two short essay questions, two recommendation letters (in most chapters, with some chapters requiring the letters be written by members), and a $100 application fee (fees vary by league).[11]


Once admitted, candidates must register for the ~$150 provisional course (fees vary by league) where they are trained on the organization’s history and professional volunteerism over four clubhouse meetings, an off-site group trivia session (JL 101), a group community project (oftentimes PIP aka “Playground Improvement Project”), a volunteer credit shift, a personal development session (VET aka “Volunteer Education Training”), a committee overview event (placement previews), and optional social events with their group of 15-20 women out of 150 total new class members each fall and spring semester. Those who don’t complete graduation requirements by the end of the semester must start over the next semester.[11]


Following graduation from provisional course training, members pay annual dues of approximately $525+[11] (fees vary by league) to become Active members and participate in the annual placement process to serve on a committee for the next academic year under the following areas as unpaid volunteers:

  • Communities (volunteering with partner community organizations)
  • Fundraising (event planning)
  • Membership Development
  • Communications (marketing and PR)

They’re required to attend at least 75% or more of committee meetings and one personal development session (included in membership) each year. Fundraising events are optional for members not on the fundraising committee, with discounted tickets available to members. They can renew their committee placement annually with some restrictions, change committees, and/or run for committee, council, board, organization, and/or headquarters leadership. Those who don’t complete their annual membership requirements have their membership revoked.

Sustainer and Sustainer Emeritus[edit]

Requirements for Active and Sustainer status vary by League, but after 20 years of membership or reaching a certain age, members achieve Sustainer status, followed by an option of Sustainer Emeritus status for members aged 80 years or older.

Fundraisers and advocacy[edit]

The Junior League has a full calendar year of members-only, family-friendly, and public events at their clubhouses and local venues such as hotels. Notable JL events raising money for partner community organizations related to foster children, domestic violence, human trafficking, illiteracy, city beautification, and other issues include, but are not limited to:

The New York Junior League used to have a thrift shop where proceeds went to the community organizations.

Other JL initiatives include its contributions to the passage of the Clean Water Act, free school lunch campaign, “Don’t Wait to Vaccinate” campaign, and The Junior Leagues’ Kids in the Kitchen initiative, which combats childhood obesity and educates families on health and nutrition.[21]

Notable League members and alums[edit]

As of 2020, five First Ladies of the U.S. have been Junior League members.


  • Ann Bedsole—first female Alabama State Senator (1983–1995)
  • Margot Birmingham—wife of 1992 / 1996 Presidential Candidate and businessman, Ross Perot
  • Florence Bird—Canadian Senator appointed by Pierre Trudeau, broadcaster, and journalist
  • Pam Bondi—Attorney General of Florida
  • Barbara Bush—41st First Lady during George H.W. Bush administration
  • Laura Bush—43rd First Lady during George W. Bush administration
  • Pat Evans—three-term Mayor of Plano, Texas (2002-2009)
  • Betty Ford—38th First Lady during Gerald Ford administration
  • Judith Giuliani (née Nathan)—wife of 107th Mayor of New York City, Rudolph Giuliani
  • Margaret Hance—first female Mayor of Phoenix, Arizona
  • Glenda Hood—first female Mayor of Orlando, Florida (1992–2003)
  • Margaret McTavish Konantz—Canadian Parliament, first woman elected to Canadian House of Commons from Manitoba
  • Mary Pillsbury Lord—UN Delegate
  • Stephanie Malone—Arkansas House of Representatives member (2009–present)
  • Carolyn Maloney—U.S. Congresswoman from New York (2013–present)
  • Doris Matsui—U.S. Congresswoman from California (2005–present)
  • Geanie Morrison—Texas House of Representatives member (1999–present)
  • Willie Landry Mount—Louisiana State Senator (2000-2012), first female Mayor of Lake Charles, Louisiana
  • Sandra Day O’Connor—Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1981-2006) appointed by Ronald Reagan
  • Diane Patrick—Texas House of Representatives member
  • Nancy Reagan—40th First Lady during Ronald Reagan administration
  • Eleanor Roosevelt—32nd First Lady during Franklin D. Roosevelt administration, United Nations Delegate
  • Margaret Chase Smith—first female U.S. Senator and first to serve in both houses
  • Bobbie Sparrow—Canadian politician, House of Commons
  • Carole Keeton Strayhorn—first female Mayor of Austin, Texas (1977–1983)


Entertainment, media, literature, and fashion

Military and government

Nonprofit and philanthropy


In popular culture[edit]

• The character of Betty Draper in the TV series Madmen is a member of the Junior League

  1. ^ a b “AJLI FY 2018-2019 Financial Statement” (PDF). AJLI. 2019.
  2. ^ Mitchell, Donn (2008). “Debutantes of the World: Unite! The Irrespressible Mary Harriman”. The Anglican Examiner Presents The New York Anglicans: Twenty Who Shaped the Twentieth Century. The Anglican Examiner. Retrieved 28 July 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d “The New York Junior League Throughout the Years”. The New York Junior League. 2014. Retrieved 28 July 2020.
  4. ^ a b Gray, Christopher (5 December 1999). “Streetscapes/Readers’ Questions; Junior League, Garden Co-op and Pumpkin House”. The New York Times. Retrieved 28 July 2020.
  5. ^ “Expanding the Museum’s Impact”. Learn with Us. The Art Institute Chicago. Archived from the original on 21 March 2020. Retrieved 12 October 2021. Volunteerism surged in the United States in the postwar period […] In this context, the Art Institute’s […] to create the museum’s Docent Program in 1961 with the Junior League of Chicago as a means of revitalizing and expanding programming for children
  6. ^ Prodis, Julia (January 28, 1996). “Man Battles Junior League Over Policy of Admitting Only Women”. Los Angeles Times.
  7. ^ Boudreau, John (March 16, 1996). “CALIFORNIA HAIRDRESSER IN A LEAGUE OF HIS OWN”. Washington Post.
  8. ^ “STIFF LIPS”. Chicago Tribune. February 15, 1996.
  9. ^ Simon, Mark (January 31, 1996). “San Jose Man Rebuffed by Junior League”. San Francisco Gate.
  10. ^ “The Association of Junior Leagues International Civic Leadership Development for Women”. www.ajli.org. Retrieved 2016-06-20.
  11. ^ a b c “Join Us – New York Junior League”.
  12. ^ “New York Junior League’s 59th Annual Winter Ball”. Hamptons.com. February 21, 2011. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  13. ^ Maggie Maloney (March 8, 2018). “Inside the New York Junior League’s 66th Annual Winter Ball”. Town & Country. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  14. ^ “Inside The New York Junior League’s 63rd Annual Winter Ball”. Guest of a Guest. March 2, 2015. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  15. ^ Stephanie Cohen (December 26, 2010). “Glove affair”. New York Post. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  16. ^ “What’s a Deb to Do in Hard Times? Go to the Ball?”. New York Times. December 16, 1990. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  17. ^ “Junior League Will Introduce. 62 Debutantes”. New York Times. September 29, 1964. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  18. ^ “Junior League Debutante Ball Held at the Plaza; Thanksgiving Week Parties Begin With Gala Benefit”. New York Times. November 26, 1959. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  19. ^ Mollie Chen (May 2, 2002). “Welcome to the Ball”. Harvard Crimson. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  20. ^ “New York Junior League Events”. New York Junior League. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  21. ^ “AJLI: WHAT WE DO”. AJLI. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  22. ^ “Ethma Ewing Odum, March 22, 2009”. Alexandria Town Talk. Archived from the original on June 2, 2014. Retrieved June 2, 2014.
  23. ^ “Charities”. 21 March 2016.
  24. ^ Mia Geiger (October 12, 2006). “Ex-Junior Leaguer knows her characters”. Denver Post. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  25. ^ Jeannie Kever (September 10, 2006). “Texas writer takes on the Junior League”. Houston Chronicle. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  26. ^ “Jennifer Garner Is the Devil in the Junior League”. Movie Web. February 13, 2007. Retrieved January 17, 2020.

External links[edit]