“Our League, as I see it, was organized as a means of expressing the feelings of social responsibility for conditions which surround us.” – Mary Harriman: Founder of the Junior League movement, New York City, 1901.
The Junior League of Detroit, a local chapter of the Association of Junior Leagues International, has embraced the vision of Mary Harriman, founder of the Junior League movement. Throughout the last 100 years, the Junior League of Detroit has worked to build a better community. It has continually provided trained volunteers and financial support to projects and programs that help local residents.
ACCOMPLISHMENTS OVER THE YEARS
1914 – 1920’s
1915 – Lunchroom for Working Women. Located on Woodward Ave. between John R and Grand Circus Park, this lunchroom provided a safe and clean place for women entering the work force.
1921 – Along the 30 other Junior Leagues, formed the Association of the Junior Leagues of America, Inc., which eventually became the Association of Junior Leagues International (AJLI) after the organization expanded into Canada, Mexico and the UK. The AJLI held a conference in Detroit in May, 1923.
1922 – Founded the Detroit League for the Handicapped as an agency of the Community Union, to provide services for those in need. Merged with and still serving others as Goodwill Industries.
1924 – Set up home schooling for handicapped children, later taken over by the Board of Education.
1930’s – 1940’s
1930 -With Helen Keller as the guest of Honor, the JLD opened the Training Cottage for Blind Children on Helen Ave., later moved to 3799 Seneca Ave. in Detroit. This 10-year effort offered life skills training along with educational support. All JLD members were required to learn to transcribe Braille.
1931 – The Junior League Little Shop opened, supported and staffed by JLD until 1953; originally served as an outlet for merchandise made by the Detroit League for the Handicapped.
1932 – Junior League Gardeners were established, and initiated a Victory Garden in Grosse Pointe in 1940.
1937 – The 1st Junior League Ball was held on October 8 and earned over $11,000 for the Training Cottage.
1939 – Celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the Junior League of Detroit.
1945 – The Oakland County Group was set up as a separate committee of the JLD. It would eventually separate and become the Junior League of Birmingham, MI in 1952.
1945-1946 – Nearly 500 JLD members completed volunteer service in branches of the armed services and war relief agencies.
1946-1947 – Pioneer House opened at 5740 Second Blvd, offering support, education and group therapy for troubled children. The 1st Junior League Follies was presented, with funds used to support Pioneer House. The Junior League Little Shop changed its name to Junior League Shop of Grosse Pointe and moved to 72 Kercheval Ave.
1950’s – 1960’s
1950-1951 – Inaugurated the 96-hour annual requirement for volunteer work. The office was moved from Kercheval to the Grosse Pointe War Memorial. And the JLD withdrew the responsibility of staffing the Junior League Little Shop, changing its name to “The League Shop”.
1952-1953 – The 1st J.L. Hudson Fashion Show was held as a fundraiser. The JLD co-sponsored the Young People’s Concert Series by the Detroit Symphony. And the 96-hour annual volunteer work requirement was rescinded.
1953-1954 – Opened the Junior League Senior Center at 7706 Mack Ave, supported by the $22,000 raised by the Follies of that year.
1954-1955 – Senior Center moved to 587 East Grand Blvd. and the JLD celebrated it’s 40th Anniversary with a party at the Country Club of Detroit. Follies netted $24,455 for the Center.
1958-1960 – Public Affairs Committee initiated a Civil Defense program with other local organizations, and hosted a 2-day meeting of the Public Affairs Committees from the other seven Junior Leagues in Michigan.
1961-1962 – Art to the Schools program was initiated. DIA trained JLD volunteers to give art lectures to 4th and 5th grade public school children in nearly 100 schools in the community.
1963-1964 – The Poison Control Project was initiated in conjunction with Children’s Hospital of Michigan for the purpose of treating and preventing accidents due to poisoning. The Michigan Welfare League presented the JLD with its “Achievement Citation” for founding and operating the Senior Center, which became independent of the JLD in October, 1963. And the JLD celebrated its 50th Anniversary with a number of events and parties.
1965-1966 – Poison Control won the National Safety Council’s Highest Award. Forty-one volunteers gave 375 hours to lead poison testing; posters were placed on 500 Detroit buses and 620,000 pieces of literature was placed in mailed bank statements. Slide talks were presented at 65 schools, reaching 7,500 students. Art to the Schools continued with 29 volunteers reaching over 17,000 children.
1967-1968 – New projects included the Playroom at Children’s Hospital of Michigan.
1968-1969 – Children’s Television Workshop, a program geared to pre-school children, was initiated with a financial pledge for air time costs and JLD volunteers for promotion.
1970’s – 1980’s
1970-1972 – OPERATION LINC (Linking Individuals to Needs in the Community) was launched, an office at 7441 Second Ave. was opened and a full time staff coordinator was hired. In the 2nd year, Operation LINC secured donations of needed equipment and services from 28 organizations with the help of 45 JLD members and 15 community volunteers, who gave in excess of 2,500 hours into this project. By 1976, reorganization efforts began for this project to continue the good works as an independent agency.
1972-1973 – In May, the JLD erected 20 “Pavilions for People” on the Kern Block in downtown Detroit to house a program of continuing community activities. Designed by Alex Pollack and Joe Orloff of the Detroit Community Development Commission, the JLD’s gift was available for use by various organizations, and made to be easily moved to other locations in the city. The JLD added planter boxes and over 70 trees to the area and continued to bring public programming (Children’s Weekend, Fall Festival) to the Kern Block. In 1976, the JLD initiated the renovation and installation of the Kern Clock, which had fallen into disrepair, back on the Kern Block.
1975-1976 – Two new fundraisers were initiated: Rediscover Detroit Bicentennial Calendar and a Decorators’ Show House. 20,000 calendars were published and 9,000 sold the first year. The first Show House opened at 900 Lake Shore Road and netted close to $100,000. Now called the ‘Designers’ Show House’ the event has become a fundraising tradition for the JLD and is in its 42nd year. In 2020 the JLD is holding its 23rd Designers’ Show House in Detroit. It is the first time the event has been held in the city. For full details please click here.