Held at: Historical Society of Pennsylvania [Contact Us]1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19107
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
The Junior League of Philadelphia was founded in 1912 by a group of women from several well-to-do area families, including Constance E. Biddle, Gertrude Ely, and Sarah Lowery. The organization was one of seven Junior Leagues existing in the country at the time, with the original founded in 1901 in New York City. From the outset, the League became involved with charitable efforts to aid children, the poor, and the sick, and volunteered time and money to hospitals and charity organizations. During World War I, the League focused its activities on war relief, hosting fundraising events and volunteering as nursing aides at area hospitals. With the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920, the League offered education and training to women voting for the first time. In 1924, the League became the caretakers of Sweetbriar Mansion in Fairmount Park, raising money to restore the old home which would serve as their headquarters for the next twelve years. Throughout the Great Depression, the League concentrated its efforts on unemployment and homeless relief, including the distribution of clothes and food, in addition to becoming chief benefactor of the Children’s Heart Hospital. The League headquarters relocated to the Warwick Hotel in 1937. During World War II, the League’s attention again shifted to war relief and hospital volunteering, which included a surgical dressing group that rolled bandages for the Red Cross, a League advisory group in the Civilian Defense Office, and a War Bond Committee that raised money to purchase a hospital plane and penicillin. Local social work also continued throughout the war. In 1945, the League established the Children’s Outgrown Shop which would evolve into the current Junior League Thrift Store, selling used clothing at affordable prices. The 1950s saw the establishment of the annual Follies, a performance event which provided funding to the Children’s Hospital. In 1965, the League moved its headquarters to the Free Quaker Meeting House, which it would occupy until 1997. In 1976, the League members volunteered their time to several Bicentennial initiatives throughout the city and published their first of three cookbooks. The Junior League of Philadelphia continues to operate as of 2014, promoting volunteerism, developing the potential of women, and improving the community. The League’s current initiative, Apple a Day Healthy Living, focuses on improving the health and wellness of adults and children in the Philadelphia region by increasing access to fresh produce.
The Junior League of Philadelphia records constitute the institutional records of the Junior League of Philadelphia, Inc., a women’s volunteer and charity organization that is part of a larger international network of Junior League organizations. Founded in 1912, the League focuses its efforts on promoting volunteerism through training, developing the potential of women, and improving the community. The collection dates from 1912-2009, with bulk dates of 1955-1998. The materials in this collection document the governance of the organization through board and committee minutes and administrative correspondence as well as highlighting the League’s activities and events through annual reports and newsletters.
The collection documents well the activities of a women’s organization in the field of volunteerism. It contains nearly a century’s worth of administrative papers from the organization. This collection is particularly rich in documenting the governance of the organization, in addition to providing a general overview of its activities and initiatives throughout the years. Although a few individual members are mentioned in the board and committee minutes or in newsletters, the collection generally lacks information on the members themselves. The materials in this collection may be of interest to social historians of women’s and volunteer organizations as well as those interested in elite social networks as several upper class women were among the League’s members.
Series I. Administrative
Subseries I.a. Minutes
Subseries I.b. Annual reports
Series II. Member materials
Gift of the Junior League of Philadelphia, 2013.
Accession number 2013.089.
- Women's History--Charitable Organizations--Philadelphia
- Women's History--Clubs and Organizations
- Women's History--Service organizations
- Women--Clubs and Associations--20th century
- Historical Society of Pennsylvania
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Megan Evans.
- Finding Aid Date
- ; 2015.
- Processing made possible by a generous donation from Maxine and Howard Lewis.
- Access Restrictions
The collection is open for research.
Series I. Administrative includes board and committee minutes, correspondence, financial information, strategic plans, by-laws, time lines and history fact sheets, and annual reports. This series provides a concise, if not in-depth, overview of the many activities of the League over nearly a century of their existence. Events, initiatives, and those involved are mentioned and briefly described as a matter of administrative procedure. This series best reveals the governance of the organization through the board minutes, correspondence, and annual reports. The series is divided into two subseries: Ia. Minutes and Ib. Annual reports.
Subseries Ia. Minutes includes the minutes of the Board of Managers (later the Board of Directors) as well as that of several committees such as Membership, Council, and Executive. The subseries also contains a limited amount of correspondence, consisting mostly of board member memoranda, as well as some financial documents such as budgets and tax forms. Also included are a number of strategic plan and by-laws drafts. The materials are arranged chronologically according to their original order.
Subseries Ib. Annual reports includes both bound and unbound reports, some drafts, and proofs. The materials in this subseries provide information on the League’s various initiatives through committee reports as well as membership lists and directories, financial information, policies, guidelines, procedures, and events descriptions. Several reports also contain hand-written notes and edits. This subseries provides a general overview of the League’s activities from internal governance to community initiatives. The subseries is arranged by format and then chronologically.
Series II. Member materials contains newsletters, magazines, and member directories, as well as some brochures and other promotional materials. The newsletters, which were published monthly and are most complete from 1960 to 1997, contain greater details about various committee activities, initiatives, and events. These materials provide more in-depth detail about event planning and day-to-day activities of the League. Some League members and officers are also mentioned in articles. Additionally, these newsletters and magazines reveal one source of the League’s funding since local businesses paid for advertising placement. The series is arranged chronologically.