Junior League of Dallas archive, 1929
The Junior League of Dallas members recording a radio program in 1944.
Ten years ago, I attended my first meeting s a provisional member of the Junior League of Dallas. Walking through the doors of the residential-looking headquarters on Inwood Road, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I scanned the room looking for an empty seat. Quite a few women were dressed in scrubs, having just finished their shifts as doctors or nurses; some were in workout clothes; and some, like me, had come straight from the office. Some were catching up with friends, while others glanced over the precisely typed and printed agendas — something I learned is standard practice; conducting meetings productively and efficiently is League 101.
Throughout that year, I got to know many of the women in that room as we embarked on our provisional year, a requirement of becoming an active member of the JLD.
The curriculum included attending meetings that outlined each of the League’s service areas: Arts & Culture, Education, Family Preservation, Health, Poverty Intervention, and Violence Intervention. At these meetings, we would hear from representatives of the agencies supported by the JLD — each one independently evaluated and selected annually by an internal committee. Support from the JLD means a monetary contribution in addition to hundreds of unpaid service hours from its trained volunteers. After these meetings, I left feeling impassioned about the issue area and utterly convinced that I would select one of its agencies for my community volunteer placement the following year.
In addition to such meetings, a provisional-specific community service project, and a community bus tour of partner agencies (I’ll never forget touring Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center and Children’s Health), we were required to attend monthly small-group meetings led by experienced League members to socialize and answer questions. I look back on this year with tremendous gratitude, for both the civic education I received and the sense of connection — things I was missing, having recently graduated from college.
Throughout that year, I developed a profound sense of pride in what the JLD has been able to accomplish. While it’s part of the Association of Junior Leagues International, a massive network with over 295 Leagues in four countries, each one has its own personality. Founded in 1922, the JLD is one of the largest Junior Leagues in the world and is the oldest and largest training organization for women in Dallas. Besides providing 130,000 hours in volunteer service and about $1 million in funding to area nonprofits each year, it facilitates 26,000-plus hours of training and leadership opportunities for more than 5,000 women, emphasizing women’s leadership development as one of its core objectives.
As former First Lady Laura Bush — who will receive the JLD’s Lifetime Achievement Award at its Milestones Luncheon this month — has said: “A good future in our world depends on women.”