In 1927, the Junior Aid League of Morristown was founded. During this decade, women gained the right to vote, prohibition was legislated, and the Stock Market crashed. The Junior League was ready to start a long journey of leadership and volunteerism.
The 1930’s brought the Great Depression, which lead the League to focus on human services. The Junior League of Morristown, Inc. (JLM) was established in 1936. During this decade, the largest JLM project was the Social Service Exchange. The JLM also gave time and effort to the Neighborhood House, Madison Settlement House, the Church Mission of Help, Morristown Memorial Hospital, Visiting Nurses, Girl Scouts, The Woman’s Exchange, and began working on a Children’s Theater project.
Times continue to change in the 1940’s with World War II. War Production pulled the country out of the Depression and we saw the first great exodus of women from the home to the workplace. With community agencies short on help, the JLM helped fill their manpower shortages. League women assisted the Red Cross with war emergencies, they financed and staffed the Planning Council of Morristown and donated funds to the Morris County War Chest and to the Station Hospital at Camp Kilmer.
American industry expands in the 1950’s to meet the peacetime needs of thousands of young servicemen with new families, jobs and homes. In 1954 with the Supreme Court decision, “separate but equal” educational opportunities came about and integration began across America. After a short hiatus, due to war time efforts, The Junior League of Morristown reactivated their Children’s Theater Project. During this decade the League took on its largest project, Neighborhood House. Due to their work with Neighborhood House, the JLM received the Eleanor Roosevelt Community Service Citation and an award from the Urban League of Morris County.
The 1960’s ushered in the Civil Rights Movement. In 1962, the JLM opened The Nearly New Shop, a consignment shop, to serve the community. During this decade, the Men’s Advisory Board, later known as the Community Advisory board, was formed. The League’s Visiting Homemaker Service was cited in Ladies Home Journal. The League initiated a Cultural Arts Project for Children and the singing group, the Larks, started touring the community.
With the Women’s Lib Movement in full force and the economy in its worst recession in forty years, changes continue for the JLM in the 1970’s. During this decade, the League took a different perspective towards women’s and children’s issues, a new awareness on the problem of drugs, and heightened consciousness about environmental issues. The Junior League donated generously to the Arts Council and assisted in presenting Spectrum 76. They helped with restoration projects at Vail House, Speedwell Village, Macculloch Hall, and with “Art, Time Through the Ages”, at the Morris Museum.
Additionally, the Junior League of Morristown published a New Directory of Community Resources, co sponsored with the United Way and the Voluntary Action Center of Morris County. They formed an environmental committee and worked with the NJ Conservation foundation, helping to make Patriot’s Path a reality. For their work with these projects, the League received the Voluntary Action Center’s Annual Citation and the Speedwell Village’s Annual Recognition Award.
In 1979, the League sponsored a public meeting on violence in our society and they helped fund the establishment of the Jersey Battered Women’s shelter that same year.
In the 80’s, while Regan declared a “War on Drugs” and Aids emerged as a health crisis, volunteerism and charitable contributions reached an all time high - $115 billion. Sandra Day O’Connor, a Junior League member, became the first woman on the Supreme Court.
The Junior League continues its volunteer efforts thru the 80’s with various projects such as, Chemocare, CAPE (Child Abuse Parenting Project), WHO (We Help Ourselves), Friend Advocate, The Home Alone Project, The Woman to Woman Project on alcohol abuse and they led a conference on the homeless. The Friend Advocate was recognized as a model project at the Association of Junior Leagues International’s annual conference in 1987. In 1989, the Junior League of Morristown’s cookbook, A Matter of Taste, was introduced as another way to raise funds for the League’s efforts.
The 1990’s brought us the World Wide Web, the American’s with Disabilities Act, the gun control bill, and welfare reform. The JLM adopted a focus area of women and children at risk and developed many new projects around this new focal point. These projects included the Deirdre O’Brien Advocacy Center, Born to Read, Rainbows, Christmas In April, I Like Me, Jersey Battered Women’s Service, Daytop and the Marrow Donor Project, in which 3,000 people were typed and added to the National Bone Marrow Registry. The League’s Born to Read project was recognized as a model project at the Association of Junior Leagues International’s annual conference in 1993.
The new Millennium brought the Y2K scare, a long presidential election and September 11th. The Junior League of Morristown was ready to enter this new century with dedicated and trained volunteers. League members responded to September 11th and held a carnival fun day for families affected by the tragedy. The JLM continued to focus on women and children at risk with projects such as, Project Acorn, Dollars and Sense, Homeless Solutions, Daytop, Done In a Day, Juniors for Seniors, and Power In You. Home for the Holidays, a gift boutique held in November, emerged as one of the League’s largest fundraisers supporting their various projects.
In 2005, the League was awarded the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Outstanding Community Organization Award for their work with Homeless Solutions. The Somerset Valley YMCA also recognized the League and presented them with the YMCA’s Community Service Award for their “I Like Me” project.
Since 2000, the Junior League of Morristown has been able to assist various community agencies thru its Community Grants Program. In 2000, the JLM awarded a $25,000 grant to El Primer Paso and a $5000 grant to KO Boxing Club. A Community Grant of $30, 000 was split between The Morristown Neighborhood House and The Women’s Health and Counseling Center of Somerville. Roots and Wings received a $15,000 grant in 2003 and the Angel Connection, St. Clare’s Foundation, and the Mount Kemble Home all received a $5000 grant in 2004.
In addition to the Community Grants Program, the League also awards mini-grants and scholarships. A total of $5000 in mini-grants is awarded each year to other community agencies and five $2,500 scholarships are awarded to local high school seniors who exemplify the heart of a volunteer.
The JLM recently celebrated its 70th year, and to commemorate this milestone, members executed 70 projects throughout the community starting in June 2006. There were a wide variety of projects, from serving food at the soup kitchen to walking in a candlelight vigil for battered women. Members also had monthly collections during meetings for items which were donated to various organizations. A multitude of items was collected, from toiletries and coats for homeless women to Halloween candy for children. One of the biggest events was the renovation of several rooms for the Interfaith Council for Homeless Families. Members worked tirelessly to clean, repaint, and redecorate several rooms of this facility, including a children's room. Finally, members participated in events run by other organizations throughout the year. They participated in several other walkathons, including the March of Dimes Walkathon, the Girl Scout 1000 Woman Hike and the hike for Great Expectations. They ran a craft table at the Goryeb Children’s Hospital picnic and in December they helped out with a children's brunch organized by the American Cancer Society.
This is the Junior League of Morristown, then and now. It has changed thru the decades but will always remain an organization of women committed to promoting volunteerism, developing the potential of women, and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. For more information on the Junior League of Morristown, Inc., please visit or website at www.jlmnj.org or call (973) 539-2266.