Building Capacity Through Training for 100 Years
by Cara T. Snow, VP-Elect Training & Development, Junior League of Atlanta
“We are a training organization,” is an oft repeated phrase around the Junior League of Atlanta. In fact, the mission of the JLA explicitly states the organization is committed to “improving the community through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers.” Our members volunteering with community partners like Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta or Kate’s Club learn about the unique clients these organizations serve. Those serving inside the League gain key management skills like developing a line budget, managing volunteers, advocating for important issues, fundraising and effectively running a meeting. For a century, the constant question has been what more can we do to train the next generation of women leaders?
JLA’s centennial and reflection on a legacy of proven leadership lends us an opportunity to look back a century ago to see what training looked like when the JLA was founded. When Isoline Campbell and a group of 45 women started the JLA in 1916, America was about to enter World War I. Many of the organization’s first activities involved supporting the troops and war efforts at home.
When the war ended, the JLA shifted focus to a broader array of civic improvement efforts. In the 1921 annual report, JLA President Ann Ryman shared her thoughts on the League’s ‘decision to establish a legislative committee to better inform the membership of state and federal actions affecting women and children.’ Keeping in mind that the 19th Amendment was only ratified in 1919, this was an extremely bold move to educate women on policy issues. Ryman noted, “…we should not be indifferent citizens” and concluded that women who’d received more opportunities by circumstance of birth needed to “realize their responsibility to those less fortunate.”
To that end, training within the JLA became focused on developing women civic leaders to tackle tough issues affecting the Atlanta community. In the early 1920s, for instance, the JLA partnered with the Atlanta Associated Charities to offer a social service course including lectures on family living, community health, the care of disabled children and education, with those completing the course receiving a social service certificate. Simultaneously, the League’s recently established Legislative committee provided a series of talks on local government, children’s legislation, the role of women’s organizations and women in industry.
The JLA continues to partner with community agencies to develop relevant training much like we did a century ago. “In 2015, the JLA developed a partnership with the National Center for Civil and Human Rights to provide Issue Based Community Impact (IBCI) training for members,” said Stacey Chavis, VP of Training and Development, who coordinated with the Advocacy and Initiatives Council to create the curriculum. “The new membership training began in January 2016 and challenged the JLA to be bold in discussing the intersection of race, diversity and our focus areas of early childhood education, human trafficking and generational poverty.”
One hundred years of unqualified success built on a foundation of developing women to be leaders in the community outside their League membership. No matter what role they play in Atlanta, the knowledge JLA members bring in advocacy, education, community and leadership will certainly leave a legacy for the next 100 years.
- Barry M. Franklin, Women’s voluntarism, special education, and the Junior League: ‘social motherhood’ in Atlanta, 1916 – 1968 (History of Education; Sept. 2000)
- Franklin, Women’s voluntarism, special education, and the Junior League: ‘social motherhood’ in Atlanta, 1916 – 1968