Junior League

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 295 Junior League chapters in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the United Kingdom, it is one of the oldest and largest of its kind. 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. Its mission is to advance women's leadership through meaningful community impact through volunteer action, collaboration, and training.

Junior League
PredecessorJunior League for the Promotion of the Settlement Movement,
New York Junior League
Formation1901 (1901)
New York, NY, U.S.
FounderMary Harriman Rumsey
TypePrivate, 501(c)(3) nonprofit
Registration no.13-1656639
Headquarters80 Maiden Lane
New York, NY 10038
140,000 women
Key people
Dorothy Payne Whitney (First President, AJLI)
Laurel Lee-Alexander (President)
Subsidiaries291 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

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

The League is an all-women organization. In 1996, the Los Angeles Times, The 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

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 San Francisco[11]


  • 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 Boston Inc.
  • Junior League of Greater Springfield


  • 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
  • Junior League of Long Island

North Carolina

  • Junior League of Raleigh
  • Junior League of Greensboro
  • Junior League of Winston-Salem [12]
  • 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


  • Junior League of Salt Lake City


  • Junior League of Lower Columbia
  • Junior League of Olympia
  • Junior League of Seattle
  • Junior League of Spokane
  • Junior League of Tacoma


  • Junior League of Eau Claire[13]
  • Junior League of Madison[14]
  • Junior League of Milwaukee[15]
  • Junior League of Racine[16]


  • Junior League of London


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).[17]


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.[17]


Following graduation from provisional course training, members pay annual dues of approximately $525+[17] (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

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

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.[27]

Notable League members and alums

As of 2020, five first ladies of the U.S. have been Junior League members.



Entertainment, media, literature, and fashion

Military and government

  • Jeannie Deakyne—Army Officer and Bronze Star Medal recipient
  • Cornelia Fort—first female pilot in American history to die on active duty
  • Oveta Culp Hobby—first secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, first commanding officer of the Women's Army Corps
  • Deborah Taylor Tate—FCC Commissioner

Nonprofit and philanthropy


  • Five and Ten (1931 film) Marion Davies is shown volunteering at a Junior League Charity Bazaar.
  • The Official Preppy Handbook—1980 tongue-in-cheek reference guide book featuring the Junior League
  • The Help (2009) book and The Help (2011 film)—the film stars Emma Stone and Bryce Dallas Howard in the Junior League of Jackson, Mississippi
  • The Devil in the Junior League—2006 novel written by a former Junior Leaguer[30][31] originally set to star Jennifer Garner in the film version.[32]
  • The character Betty Draper in the TV series Madmen is a member of the Junior League


  1. "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. "The New York Junior League Throughout the Years". The New York Junior League. 2014. Retrieved 28 July 2020.
  4. 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". The 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. Junior League of San Francisco
  12. Junior League of Winston-Salem
  13. Junior League of Eau Claire
  14. Junior League of Madison
  15. Junior League of Milwaukee
  16. Junior League of Racine
  17. "Join Us – New York Junior League".
  18. "New York Junior League's 59th Annual Winter Ball". Hamptons.com. February 21, 2011. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  19. Maggie Maloney (March 8, 2018). "Inside the New York Junior League's 66th Annual Winter Ball". Town & Country. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  20. "Inside The New York Junior League's 63rd Annual Winter Ball". Guest of a Guest. March 2, 2015. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  21. Stephanie Cohen (December 26, 2010). "Glove affair". New York Post. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  22. "What's a Deb to Do in Hard Times? Go to the Ball?". New York Times. December 16, 1990. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  23. "Junior League Will Introduce. 62 Debutantes". New York Times. September 29, 1964. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  24. "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.
  25. Mollie Chen (May 2, 2002). "Welcome to the Ball". Harvard Crimson. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  26. "New York Junior League Events". New York Junior League. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  27. "AJLI: WHAT WE DO". AJLI. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  28. "Ethma Ewing Odum, March 22, 2009". Alexandria Town Talk. Archived from the original on June 2, 2014. Retrieved June 2, 2014.
  29. "Charities". 21 March 2016.
  30. Mia Geiger (October 12, 2006). "Ex-Junior Leaguer knows her characters". Denver Post. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  31. Jeannie Kever (September 10, 2006). "Texas writer takes on the Junior League". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  32. "Jennifer Garner Is the Devil in the Junior League". Movie Web. February 13, 2007. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
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