History

In 1901, Mary Harriman convened the very first Junior League in New York City. The New York Junior league members volunteered in settlement houses to improve the lives of the city's poorest immigrants.

These very first Junior Leaguers set an historical precedent, the tradition of trained volunteers joining together to tackle society’s toughest and most urgent problems.

Milwaukee soon followed in this tradition. On October 2, 1915, Mrs. William Chester interested ten women in joining her as charter members of the Junior League of Milwaukee. For over 95 years, the Junior League of Milwaukee has grown and is well-known throughout the city as a non-profit which continues to make a difference.

We currently have over 600 members. These women are trained by the Junior League of Milwaukee to be the most effective volunteers ready to respond to the ever-changing needs of this community. We are proud of our many projects that have impacted the community, from our founding participation in the Children’s health education center and the Curative rehabilitation Center, to our founding sponsorship of Gilda’s Club of Southeastern Wisconsin.

 

1915-1954 1955-1984 1985-2005 2006-Today

2006-Today

  • Celebrating our 100th Anniversary during the 2015-2016 membership year.
  • Launched the Teen Transition program with Kid's Matter, Inc.  This program provided workshops and guidance for teens aging out of the foster care system.
  • Conducts yearly Kids in the Kitchen program, which empowers youth to make heathy lifestyle choices.

1995-2005

  • Launched Gilda’s Club of Southeastern Wisconsin. Provided $100,000 over four years as the founding sponsor.
  • Began Care Kits project, initially working with Milwaukee County Courthouse and later adding the Task Force on Family Violence as another distribution partner. EVOCO, a subsidiary of Second Harvest, has been a significant resource for kit materials.
  • Additional community projects included Car Seat Safety Check and Milwaukee Mentoring.
  • Announced three year, $90,000 90th Anniversary Signature Project with Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), a program of In Their Best Interest.
  • Established JLM endowment fund.
  • Published An Occasion to Gathering cookbook.

1985-1995

  • Moved the JLM office to the Isabel Miller residence, home of JLM founder Alice Miller Chester.
  • Turned over the Early Screening Project to the Children’s Hospital and Today’s Girls/Tomorrow’s Women to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Milwaukee.
  • Published Gatherings cookbook, which won the IACP/Seagram’s Award for Best Community Cookbook of 1987.
  • Launched 75th Anniversary Project, the Health Education Center of Wisconsin, with Milwaukee Rotary Club. Exceeded $250,000 fundraising goal for this primary JLM program until 1998.
  • Additional community projects supported included La Causa Crisis Nursery, 53rd Street School and Penfield Family Support Program.

1975-1984

  • Established a Public Affairs Committee and first State Public Affairs Committee with JL of Racine.
  • Began Advocates for Battered Women project along with Today’s Girls/Tomorrow’s Women, Citizen Foster Care Review Board, Child Sexual Abuse Prevention and Parents Anonymous (now The Parenting Network).
  • Released JLM film “Domestic Violence: The All American Crime.”
  • Started several health-related projects including Heart Saver/CPR in cooperation with Columbia Hospital, Improving Medical Services to Milwaukee Inner City Residents, Penfield Children’s Center and Early Screening Project.
  • Published Be Our Guest cookbook.

1965-1975

  • Initiated Volunteer Services project that expanded into eight projects that were honored by the National HUD award, featured in AJL Magazine and featured on first League sponsored TV special.
  • Additional new projects supported included: Riveredge Nature Center Education Program, Historic Walker’s Point, St Michael’s Drug Program, Outreach Detention, Experiencing the Art, and Venereal Disease Education.
  • Published Be Wisconsin’s Guest cookbook.
  • Started JL Singers.

1955-1965

  • Added symphony to the Children’s Art Program (now Music Symphony Youth Orchestra) and turned it over to the Milwaukee Art Center.
  • Started the “Happy Ticker,” a magazine for homebound children, which was adopted by the Alpha Phi Sorority Alumnae.
  • Began School for Research on Language Disorders as a cooperative project with UWM, its eventual adopter.
  • Opened PennyWise Resale Shop.
  • Published Be Milwaukee’s Guest cookbook.

1945-1954

  •  Funded, organized and opened the Blood Center. Additional highlights:
    • Supported new building construction.
    • The Blood Center became financially self-supporting prior to turning it over to the community within this ten-year period.
  • Sponsored first Wisconsin Exhibition of Art and co-sponsored the Children’s Art Program with Milwaukee Art Center.

1935-1945

  • Continued involvement with Curative Workshop (now Curative Care Network). Highlights included:
    • Began Sheltered Workshop for adults and children with special needs.
    • Raised $137,636 for a new building.
    • Workshop first in the United States to be accepted by the American Hospital Association.
    • Workshop participated in Federal Rehabilitation Program and started speech clinic.
  • Started Garden Club which evolved into Garden and Conservation and later the Environment Committee.

1925-1935

  • JLM Welfare Exhibit won first prize at AJLA Regional Conference held in Milwaukee.
  • Started News sheet and developed it from a three-page brochure into a magazine by 1935.
  • Made three year funding commitment to the Visiting Nurse Association for its Occupational Therapy Department.
  • Funded Bethany Home for psychiatric care of delinquent children.
  • Began Children’s Theater, a community activity until 1975.

1915-1925

  • First Junior League of Milwaukee (JLM) project was Confidential Exchange, which was later turned over to a forerunner of the United Way of Greater Milwaukee.
  • Wartime required all members to work for the Red Cross.
  • Opened Workshop for Occupational Therapy, which became Junior League Curative Workshop at Columbia Hospital with the League financing and directing its operation.
  • Opened Junior League Paint Shop to sell toys made by handicapped children at the Curative Workshop, which lasted until 1937.