The First Junior League
In 1901, Mary Harriman, a socially conscious 19-year old New York City debutante, 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. 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 chapter 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 291 Junior Leagues in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Great Britain.
Junior League of San Diego
In early 1927, 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 Junior League and learned more about the goals of this 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 (AJLA). 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.