Junior League of San Diego History

In 1901, Mary Harriman, a 19-year old New York City debutante with a social conscience, 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.  Mary Harriman's vision for improving communities by using the energy and commitment of trained volunteers inspired others around the country.  The second Junior League was started in Boston in 1907 and was soon followed by the founding of the Brooklyn, NY Junior League in 1910.

In 1921, the Association of Junior Leagues was formed to provide professional support to the Leagues.  Today, the Association of Junior Leagues International governs 296 Junior Leagues in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Great Britain.

In early 1927, Mrs. Lillian Bradley, in her capacity as Chairman of San Diego's 18th Annual Charity Ball, visited with the director of the highly-touted Junior League Ball of Pasadena. While there, she also met with the President of the Pasadena League and learned more about the goals of the extraordinary organization. She came away from her visit determined to establish a Junior League in San Diego.

Later that year, Mrs. Bradley and her friend Emily Clayton founded the Junior Committee for San Diego Charities with the express purpose of securing admission into the Association of Junior Leagues of America. Their first goal was to establish a Day Nursery to care for the children of working parents. In 1929, with sponsorship from the Junior Leagues in Santa Barbara and San Francisco, AJLA accepted the entry application from the Junior Committee. The Junior League of San Diego became the fifth League in the state of California, and the 105th member to join the Association of Junior Leagues.

A Brief History of our Historic Headquarters…


The Junior League of San Diego headquarters is located in the charming Banker’s Hill neighborhood next to Balboa Park. Affectionately referred to as “210 Maple”, the house is deeply connected to the history of San Diego. In 1916, Ralph Granger, a San Diego pioneer, commissioned Louis Gill of Gill & Gill as the architect for a house he later gave to his daughter, Rachel, and son-in-law, Dr. Harry Wegeforth, founder of the world-famous San Diego Zoo. The house is considered to be in the Irving Gill style and it is believed that Louis and his uncle Irving worked together on the design of the house.

When built, the house was “ahead of its time.” It had solar panels, a full in-house vacuum, trap doors for plumbing repairs and other sophisticated features. The cost of the structure, including the lot, was $1,600 in 1916. In 1940, Rachel Wegeforth sold the house to Rose Adele Palmer from whose estate the League purchased the house in 1982. JLSD is embarking on a multi-year project to restore its treasured headquarters. Please click here to learn more about our efforts and opportunities to support this important initiative.