This Memorial Day, Sacrifices of the Past Serve As Inspiration for the Future
By Cara Hergenroether, 2015-16 Vice President of Marketing & Communications
Memorial Day marks the day Americans stop their busy lives and remember those men and women who died fighting for our country and its freedoms. Women like Cornelia Fort, a Junior League of Nashville member, who not only witnessed the first Japanese planes to attack Pearl Harbor but also was the first American woman to die on active military duty while ferrying BT-13s to Dallas, Texas in March 1943.
Looking back on the Junior League of Atlanta’s 100-year history, one cannot help but notice the tremendous amount of work JLA volunteers did in service of our military. Isoline Campbell, JLA’s founder, was on her grand tour of Europe in 1914 during the German invasion of Belgium. This experience coupled with her introduction to the New York Junior League inspired her to demand more of herself and her fellow debutantes in service to their community and to found the Junior League of Atlanta.
The JLA was a fledgling 6-month-old organization when the U.S. entered World War I in April 1917. Not satisfied to stay home, Campbell, the sitting JLA president, and five fellow JLA members traveled to France to assist with the war effort as part of the Junior League Unit of the YMCA Canteen Service in 1917.
At home, the League leapt into war efforts. Members volunteered at Fort McPherson, working in the canteen and serving as hostesses to the troops stationed there.
Earlier in 1917, JLA had founded the Domestic Science Institute at 90 ½ Luckie Street. The institute’s purpose was to train women in household skills such as sewing, cooking, nutrition and household management. Soon, the institute began providing Red Cross courses essential for war relief to women and became the first Red Cross Diet Kitchen in the south, which provided special food for patients at area military hospitals.
After the war ended, the League continued its work with veterans, including working with the patients at Veterans Hospital No. 48 located on Peachtree Road.
The onset of World War II brought a new generation of JLA volunteers into war efforts. League members staffed a war bond booth, selling over $3 million in bonds over two years. In 1941, members helped establish the Civilian Defense Volunteer Office in Atlanta, which recruited men and women to volunteer for local civil defense programs or community agencies that needed to be expanded for the war efforts. JLA would continue its civilian defense volunteer work during the Korean War.
Memorial Day reminds us all of the hard sacrifices that war demands of us – money, comfort items, years away from home, and, for many, their lives. The war efforts by our founding and early members serve as a reminder that the Junior League is more than a social club or networking organization. JLA was founded by women intent on making a real impact on their community and stretching themselves to be more than society expected them to be. As JLA begins its second century of service, let’s remember these women and be inspired to stretch ourselves beyond what we believe we’re capable of and make a real and lasting impact on Atlanta.