The Junior League After World War II
After World War II, the Association of Junior Leagues International (AJLI) began working harder than ever for child welfare, an issue that has been at the forefront of league activities for the past 60 years. AJLI opened remedial reading centers during the 1950s, and Junior League-led advocacy groups were some of the earliest promoters of educational programming for children. In the 1960s the AJLI also turned its attention to environmentalism, producing and distributing a film called "Fate of a River" to raise awareness about water pollution.
Other projects since then include Woman to Woman, a support program for women with alcoholism; the Comité Internacional Pro Ciegos, a school in Mexico City for the blind; and the Don't Wait to Vaccinate campaign for early childhood immunizations. During the 1970s and 1980s, the Junior League also helped pass legislation to improve child welfare programs and to confront domestic violence. In 2006, 225 Junior League chapters launched the Kids in the Kitchen initiative, a program designed to fight the growing epidemic of childhood obesity.
The AJLI's work hasn't gone unnoticed. The women were awarded the U.S. President's Volunteer Action Award in 1989 and the American Legion Auxiliary Award in 1995, as well as dozens of other honors for a diverse range of programs from civic magazine publication to supporting Hospital Hospitality Houses. Famous members of the last half of the 20th century include former first ladies Betty Ford, Nancy Reagan and Barbara and Laura Bush, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Eudora Welty.
The makeup of today's AJLI is also changing. Lately, the AJLI has been aggressively recruiting a more diverse group of women for membership. High-society refinement remains a trademark of the organization, but as the group becomes more diverse, the tightly knit social aspects of the Junior League are transforming into a powerful networking tool, one that will become increasingly useful in the league's future.
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