Back in July, Ashley Stiltner and Jan Detrick had the opportunity to thank the Bristol Tennessee City Council in person for the community grant that has allowed JLB to sponsor more Little Free Libraries in Bristol. We're so thankful that we get to make reading more accessible for our community members, especially for the children in our community!
We started the year with a focus on the importance of blending community service with fellowship. Our meetings this year have been filled with good food and conversation -- and this initiative has only helped our ideas grow even more!
At Bristol's Rhythm & Roots Reunion in September, JLB volunteers hosted a Little Free Library Book Drive! Thanks to all of the donations, both at Children's Day and otherwise, children in Bristol have no shortage of books to read. We hope that these Libraries will become a cornerstone for Bristol's reading community and bolster an emerging generation of readers.
Our provisional class this year has jumped right in and contributed to our organization in a significant way. We couldn't be more proud of them or excited to see the impact that they are going to make on the JLB and in our Bristol community!
Thanks to a generous donation by Bristol's new McAlister's Deli, many more families were served through the Thanksgiving Baskets food drive. Our community partners make such a difference not only for our organization's mission, but also for the breadth of people whom we are able to serve.
This fall brought the return of a beloved past JLB tradition, Bargain Bonanza! Not only did the sale help us to fund our signature project, but it also offered Bristol a fabulous shopping spree just in time for the holidays.
Thanks to the hard work of our members, we were able to quickly pack our Thanksgiving Baskets for distribution at the general meeting in November. We thank our members and their community partners for their donations of time, food, and funds, and a big thanks to those who gave so much of their passion and energy in organizing our Thanksgiving Baskets drive!
This issue’s Notable Leaguer is a woman you probably don’t know about (but you should) – Mary Harriman, the founder of the Junior League. She was a high-society New York debutante in turn-of-the-twentieth-century New York City, but her story adds a unique complement to the portrait your mind may have already painted for New York debutantes.
In the year 1900, New York City was diversifying at a rate unlike any other in history. Ellis Island was welcoming its peak number of new New Yorkers, tenements were becoming unbearably overcrowded, and factory working conditions were oppressive and brutal. Seemingly more than ever, the people of New York needed to come together in service of others.
The daughter of wealthy New York railroad “titan” and financier E. H. Harriman, Mary Harriman grew up in a life of privilege; however, she recognized that her privilege required her to use it for the benefit of others. As an 18-year-old debutante in 1900, Mary realized that she and the other 85 New York debutantes that year had all of the promise, intelligence, connections, and youthful dedication needed to do great things in the NYC community. She saw in her peers an unlimited sea of assets, and so she set about to learn from other women who had worked to serve and empower their city communities in other parts of the country. After learning more about settlement programs in other cities (and the Hull House of Jane Addams’ work in Chicago), Mary began her work. She recognized that with the debutante system already in place, it would be simple to turn the “end” of the debut process into the “beginning” of a woman’s community service. In other words, once a woman “entered society,” she would really enter it through volunteer and philanthropic work. Her first class of young women totaled 10, and together they set forth their charter mission: “to enrich members’ lives by improving the living conditions” of New York’s tenement neighborhoods.
These NYC efforts into the settlement movement took off quickly, of course, and in 1903, the Junior League gained one of its most famous members, Eleanor Roosevelt; Mrs. Roosevelt was bored of the social niceties expected of women during this time, and she found the vocation of serving her community to be the best place for her time and talents.
As the settlement movement grew, Mary’s work within her community continued. At the age of 47, she joined the Democratic Party, an unusual move for women at the time (this move was so unusual, in fact, that the New York Times wrote a story about it). Six years later, at the age of 53, Mary became “one of the highest ranking women” in the Roosevelt administration when she was appointed Chair of the Consumer Advisory Board of the National Recovery Administration.
Months later, she died tragically in a horse-riding accident, but the organization she founded continues her ingenuity, her dedication, her boldness, and her heart for community service today.
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