Local View: Founded in 1920, Junior League of Duluth has had major impacts

From the column: "Those of us involved with today’s Junior League are proud of the many roles generations of women who came before us played in making Duluth what it is today."

2010 News Tribune file photo / Duluth siblings Clara Kramer (left), then 8, and Eli Kramer (center), then 6, play on the monkey bars at Playfront Park at Bayfront Festival Park shortly after it reopened with new equipment. The 2010 upgrade was led by the Junior League of Duluth
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Duluth is fortunate to have dozens of civic organizations comprised of dedicated citizens who put in long hours — and many decades — to make our community better. Their names are familiar to us all: Kiwanis, Lions, NAACP, Rotary, United Way, and more. And let’s not forget the generous foundations and community clubs. The men and women involved with these organizations do great things.

There’s one organization that’s a bit different, though, in that its members are all women. The Junior League of Duluth — founded in 1920 to promote voluntarism, develop the potential of women, and improve the community — just celebrated its 100-year anniversary on July 12. (Yes, we’re 102 now, but COVID-19 precautions pushed our celebration back two years!)

What role have Junior League members played in our community over all those decades? The list is long. Our organization has led or assisted the Boys & Girls Clubs, Lighthouse for the Blind, Polinsky Rehabilitation Center, First Witness, the Depot, the Tweed Museum of Art, and WDSE Public Television. That’s just a start.

During that century-plus, more than 7,000 dedicated Junior League members of all ages also helped address food insecurity, child abuse, mental wellness, and other challenges. We created the JLD Endowment Fund, which has provided grants to the Safe Haven Family Justice Center, Hartley Nature Center, CHUM, and others. We twice led construction of the popular Playfront Park in Bayfront Festival Park and continue to hold the Festival of Trees holiday market annually.

Back in the 1920s, Junior League members supported and staffed a Day Nursery that provided child care for the children of working women. They also volunteered with the Red Cross during World War I. Things just kept growing from there.


Those of us involved with today’s Junior League are proud of the many roles generations of women who came before us played in making Duluth what it is today. Over the years, they got involved in more and more good works, never letting anything prevent them from accomplishing remarkable things.

Yet it feels as though we’ve just begun. That’s partially due to the unfortunate realities surrounding food insecurity, education, mental wellness, and other issues. We feel compelled to do whatever is necessary to help with these challenges. The work can be difficult and, at times, heartbreaking, but it’s also extremely rewarding.

If this sounds like your kind of organization, we always have room for additional women who want to make a difference while developing their own potential as leaders. We currently have about 100 active and sustaining members, all here to support the Twin Ports while having some fun.

When you get this many dedicated women focused on a goal, you get a lot accomplished. There’s no doubt the Junior League of Duluth benefits from strong leaders. It also helps develop them. Many of our members have gone on to lead area businesses, nonprofits, and other organizations.

We have a lot more to do in the next 100 years, so please join us.

Elizabeth Hanson is president of the Junior League of Duluth ( ). She wrote this for the News Tribune.

Elizabeth Hanson.jpg
Elizabeth Hanson

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