The very first Junior League in the United States was founded in 1901 in New York by a 19 year-old named Mary Harriman who was dedicated to using her life of privilege as a platform for social reform.  

Mary came of age at a time of great change in New York. Thousands of immigrants were arriving every day at Ellis Island, coming to America to find work in the often unsafe and spirit-crushing conditions of Industrial Revolution factories and sweatshops. These new Americans were arriving so quickly and in numbers so great that tenement housing in immigrant neighborhoods was crowded far beyond capacity.

Eighty young women joined the first year, eager to enrich their own lives by becoming involved in improving social conditions in their city.  Just two years later, in 1903, Mary Harriman’s friend, Eleanor Roosevelt, joined the organization.  Her involvement in settlement work was her first introduction to public life in New York City.

Eleanor Roosevelt was the first of many notable women to join the Junior League.  Other notable members include:

  • Shirley Temple Black – Child Actress ; delegate to the United Nations; and U.S. Ambassador to Ghana and the Czech and Slovak Republics (Junior League of Palo Alto)
  • Barbara Bush– Former First Lady & Literacy Activist (Junior League of Houston)
  • Laura Bush- Former First Lady & Literacy Activist(Junior League of Dallas)
  • Julia Child– Chef; Author of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Junior League of Pasadena)
  • Betty Ford– Former First Lady & Substance Abuse Prevention Activist (Junior League of Grand Rapids)
  • Margaret Hamilton– Actress, children’s and animal welfare advocate; “The Wicked Witch of the West” began her professional career in children’s theatre as a Junior League member. (Junior League of Cleveland)
  • Katharine Hepburn– Actress & Women’s Issues Activist(Junior League of Hartford)
  • Sandra Day O’Connor– First Female Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (Junior League of Phoenix)
  • Nancy Reagan– Former First Lady & Substance Abuse Prevention Activist (Junior League of Los Angeles)
  • Eudora Welty– Author; won a Pulitzer Prize for The Optimist’s Daughter, 1972 (Junior League of Jackson, MS)

Bringing the Junior League to Boise

In March of 1928, the energetic Boise Junior Charity League, with its 28 charter members, was formally accepted into the Association of Junior Leagues of America.

With the Depression gripping the country, the first order of business for the Junior League of Boise was to help the women and children in the Treasure Valley by hosting summer camps for underprivileged children, holding nutrition classes and well-baby clinics. These efforts provided the women and their families with nourishing food and improved the health of the babies, children and mothers.

Since it’s founding in 1928, the Junior League has consistently and systematically continued to improve the lives of the residents in the Treasure Valley.

Did you know that the Junior League of Boise has started, coordinated, or contributed to many the Treasure Valley’s most notable organizations? 

The Junior League furnished Boise’s first Nursing School with vital equipment, helped with the founding of the Ronald McDonald House, the Learning Lab, The Discovery Center of Idaho, the The Guardians ad Litem/Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program, and the list goes on. Click here to see our projects over the past 88 Years.

The Junior League of Boise boasts an impressive list of members who are recognized by their peers and the community for their commitment to the community.  Numerous members have been recognized by the Idaho Business Review as Women of the Year and Accomplished Under 40 in addition to receiving other civic and community awards.

Some notable Junior League of Boise Members are:

  • Carolyn Terteling-Payne– First and Only Female Mayor of Boise

In 2013, the Junior League of Boise celebrated its 85th anniversary. The League has come a long way since its inception in 1928, however we have not forgotten the League’s beginnings and we continue to celebrate the members who contributed to the League’s tremendous success.

As times have changed for women, the League has also evolved. The Junior League of Boise welcomes women of all races, religions, and national origins who demonstrate an interest in and a commitment to volunteerism and to the community. Our members include executives, community leaders, entrepreneurs, stay-at-home mothers, and professional women who share a common vision: to improve our community in a positive way.

The Junior League of Boise’s legacy is deeply rooted in the Treasure Valley and is poised to continue to leave a lasting legacy by developing the potential of its members through training, mentoring and volunteering.