Spring is almost here! Daffodils are popping up around downtown Winston-Salem. It is time for March’s collection spotlight, written for you this month by our digitization intern Amy. She has been evaluating materials in the Junior League of Winston-Salem Archives (JLWS) collection for digitization. Read on for an overview of the Junior League activities that have created the collection over the years.

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Headline from a 1936 news article says it all. For years the Junior League worked to avoid references to the social standing of its members and focus on their good works. Unfortunately when most people thought “Junior League” they imaged fashionably dressed women hosting tea parties and fancy dinners. Of course the Junior League hosted quite a few galas and lavish fundraisers but behind all the fancy trappings was a group of extremely hardworking, dedicated women.

Formed  in 1923, the Winston-Salem Junior League was the first of its kind in North Carolina. Their focus was and still is service to their community. Over the years these industrious women changed the face of Winston-Salem. Since its founding, the Junior League has focused on improving healthcare, childcare, education and of course the arts. At the same time they worked to develop and strengthen leadership skills among their members.

1963 Newsletter Cover

1963 Newsletter Cover

Junior Leaguers were an extremely organized group. New members spent a year as a provisional member learning about the organization. Once they became full members they were placed in volunteer positions and served on committees. Members received monthly newsletters. Here they were updated on league activities, offered household tips, recipes and even ideas on what to get your model husband. Leaguers also received an annual report which covered the business of the league for the year. The collection also includes numerous scrapbooks containing newsworthy items involving the league.

One of those newsworthy items was the annual Junior League rummage sale. For 60 years people in Winston-Salem looked forward to this event. According to JLWS newsletters, it was all hands on deck. Everyone was expected to pitch in, including spouses (those model husbands).

Duke advertisement from Junior League News, April 1942

Duke advertisement from Junior League News, April 1942

In the years before the rummage sale  the Junior League operated the rag shop, a gift shop, a thrift store and a beauty parlor. They organized Follies (variety shows), dances and designer home tours to raise money for their projects. The funds and countless hours of volunteer work enabled the Junior League to sponsor a wide variety of services to the community. The list of activities these women were involved in is extensive. Here are just a few highlights.

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In 1928 the JLWS raised money (60,000 dollars in 10 days) and built the Junior League Hospital for Incurables. Here they provided extended care to the elderly,handicapped and terminally ill of Winston-Salem. The doors were opened in 1929 and closed in 1937 when Forsyth County opened their hospital and home for the aged and infirm. In 1946 the old hospital building was leased to Wake Forest College and became the home of Bowman Gray School of Medicine.

Junior League Hospital for the Incurables.

Junior League Hospital for the Incurables.

The Junior League operated a Prenatal Clinic the first of its kind in North Carolina. They also sponsored the Visiting Housekeeper program which offered classes in household management to lower income families and a Child Guidance Center to help children with emotional and psychological issues.   

The 1920’s saw the  start of  their Children’s Play committee.  The committee made it their mission to bring theatre to the school aged children of Winston-Salem.   Some of the plays produced were classics but many were written by the ladies of the Junior League.

Program from 1930’s play for children.

Program from 1930’s play for children.

This gave rise to the Scribblers Club where group members were encourage to write original works for production by the JLWS.   The Radio Council’s  “Story time” series produced by the Junior League won national recognition in 1948 for it’s creativity in art and language.  Members recorded stories which were then broadcast over the radio to preschool and primary school aged children.

Reading story for radio broadcast.

Reading story for radio broadcast.

The Visiting Teacher program, started in 1937 was yet another way in which the Junior League reached out to the community. Volunteers worked with teachers visiting families of children struggling with school. In the 1970’s the JLWS opened a residential home for severely handicapped children. The home is located  on the grounds of the former Memorial Industrial School, another collection being digitized for the NC Room.

Horizons Residential Care Center brochure.

Horizons Residential Care Center brochure.

These items plus many more can be found in the Junior League of Winston-Salem collection in the North Carolina Room and will soon be a part of the North Carolina Memory online collection at the Digital Heritage Center.  Stay tuned, more to come!!

 

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This publication was supported by grant funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services a division of the Department of Cultural Resources.

 

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