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College of Humanities & Sciences

Department of History

My Internship with the Junior League of Richmond

March 23, 2021Desiree Johnson [View Image]

By Desiree Johnson

To preface, the Junior League of Richmond is a chapter of a national organization that strives to provide opportunities for women to become active volunteers in the community. During my internship, I created a timeline and infographics compiling the organization's history. The Junior League had not previously had one central document of its history, so I went through all of the documents in their archives, compiling all of the information that I found. I then juxtaposed this information with a timeline showing the history outside of the organization (incorporating global and local histories). I was able to find many connections between this volunteer organization and its impact on the community and global affairs. For example, I was able to connect information that showed that the Junior League was involved with the World War II effort by sending members to work with the American Red Cross. During the Baby Boom, the Junior League redirected its efforts to work with Richmond Public Schools and local museums to provide increased educational supports. Click here to see the infographic I created for the 1930's timeline (PDF). 

One thing I noticed in the course of my internship was that most early documentation made by the Junior League of Richmond referred to women by their husband's names. It seems that as times changed, they realized that this was outdated and eventually addressed members by their own names. I noticed that in most of the early (1920s-40s) newsletters and documents made by the organization, only the single women are referred to by their own names. I was also told that the reason why these past names haven't been updated to no longer be "Mrs. [husband's name]" is due to a lack of documentation as to what these women's real names are. It really shows how different things are today.

I believe that the importance of Women's History Month is to acknowledge the women that paved the way before us. On a local level, we often overlook the women that changed our community for the better. The Junior League of Richmond is full of these types of women -- women who want to make a difference in the lives of others. Women's History Month is about appreciating these women for their contributions and the many ways in which they worked through adversity. I hope that we can use this month to reflect on the local heroes that strived to make Richmond a better place and that we continue to work to keep the legacies of these women thriving.

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