The Junior League of Winnipeg

The Junior League of Winnipeg (JLW) began in 1928 with 56 members and although there were changes over the years to meet the needs of women in society, today it still has a presence in the community by continuing to fund community groups through the Junior League of Winnipeg Legacy Fund at the Winnipeg Foundation. The JLW surveyed the needs of the community and determined that a skilled volunteer group could make a difference. Its inaugural project was volunteer work at the Winnipeg General Hospital where members staffed a free canteen for outpatients and raised funds from food prepared for the staff. These funds grew to the point that they could purchase equipment for the hospital, the first being a radium bomb.

JLW members were instructed in organizational skills, parliamentary procedures and the rudiments of Robert’s Rules of Order so as to have a knowledge of leadership skills to help build organizations and assist community groups in their endeavors. The League was then able to partner with members of community organizations and became volunteers to assist in the work of that organization and provide support funds for projects and sustainability. As early as 1930, the members volunteered 8,800 hours.

Throughout the years the work of the League focused on many different projects. Development and sustenance of community organizations; commitment to the health of the community; development and sustenance of the arts; support of educational activities in the community; contributions to the well-being of the community’s children; and activities for the benefit of all women in the community.

The major source of funds to the JLW was the Thrift Shop that opened in 1930. Not only did it serve the community with affordable goods, but these earnings provided needed funding dollars to develop and sustain community organizations until 1995. As well, the Festival of Trees and Lights gave great pleasure to children and families. In 1952, Logan Neighborhood House was established, and the League members taught dancing, sewing, dramatics, held sing songs, led Guides and Brownies, called on shut-ins and cooked Christmas dinner along with providing funds for its operation.

Advocacy was an underlying action call. In 1934, a conference was held with discussions on social conditions such as “Strategies on Environmental Control” and “Child Advocacy.” In July 1980, the JLW was a delegate to the U.N. Mid-Decade Conference for Women in Copenhagen, one of 18 Canadian organizations. In 1986, the JLW co-chaired and facilitated a conference called “Winning Women: A Political Skills Workshop,” with leading women in all parties who gave non-partisan information to help women develop the necessary skills to run for public office. Two hundred women attended from 59 women’s organizations in Manitoba. The success of the conference prompted the Globe and Mail to describe it as “a milestone of the 80’s. “

As Nellie McClung said in 1917, “The country is yours, ladies. Politics is simply a public affair: yours and mine and everyone’s.”

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Founding Members of the Women’s Auxiliary of the Winnipeg Art Gallery