Our History

In 1910, Gretchen Corbett convinced her sewing group and other friends to join her in founding the Junior League of Portland (JLP). As an original member of the first Junior League in New York City in 1901, Gretchen knew the rapidly growing Portland community would also need a group of trained women volunteers to address issues in the community as they arose.

Since that time, JLP has provided countless volunteer hours to improving the community, launched much needed programs and initiatives to protect the underserved, and prepared generations of local women for a lifetime of civic leadership. Today, the Junior League of Portland is the fourth oldest League in the Association of Junior Leagues International (AJLI) and the first on the West Coast.

Social and Family Services

A brief history of JLP community welfare projects includes:

  • Casework for Associated Charities in 1911
  • Establishing a sewing room for jobless women in 1915
  • Assisting in the Visiting Nurse Well-Baby Clinics from 1930-1957.
  • A cooperative venture with the University of Oregon Medical School from 1922 with the Children’s Orthopedic Clinic through 1939 at Doernbecher Hospital’s Out-Patient Service
  • Providing trained volunteers to organizations such as Medical Schools Crippled Children’s Clinics, Portland Center for Hearing and Speech, Parry Center, Recording Braille for the Blind, Planned Parenthood, Jewish Community Center Pre-School, Portland Children’s Center, Albina Day Care Center, Belmont Drop-In Center, Juvenile Court Case Aides, Christie School, Impact, the Volunteer Bureau, Career Exploring, Oregon Community Foundation, Parenting, Hospice, Registry of Newborns at Risk for Hearing Loss, Marquam Hill Docents, Alzheimer’s Community Outreach, West Women’s Hotel, and Habitat for Humanity

Children Services

The wellbeing of children, especially those from disadvantaged circumstances, has always been a top priority for the Junior League of Portland. A few examples of our work include:

  • Partnering with Waverly Children’s Home from 1973-1985
  • Emanuel Hospital’s Pre-Surgery Puppets and Child Life Projects from 1980-1987
  • The Resource Center for Child Abuse Prevention from 1985-1988
  • The Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) project from 1986-1989 and again in 1993-1994
  • Providing trained volunteers to organizations such as Ronald McDonald House, Boys and Girls Clubs, North Portland Community Health Clinic, the YMCA Transitional School for the Homeless, Portland Impact Kids’ Club, Free Arts for Abused Children
  • Bring Me a Book
  • Providing life and parenting skills training for homeless women at area shelters including The Rose Apartments, Neighborhood house, the Volunteers of America Shelter, Keltzer Hall, Bradley Angle, Andrea Lee, West Women’s and My Father’s House.
  • Providing training and education about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Currently, JLP provides trained volunteers to a variety of community partners serving children, operates the highly acclaimed literacy program Between the Lines, provides health and wellness events through Healthy Habits Healthy Kids, and actively works to end the sex trafficking of minors through their Stop Human Trafficking program.

Community Arts and Enrichment

The Junior League of Portland believes that access to the arts and arts education is an important part of any thriving community as evidenced by our many creative projects, including:

  • Establishing the Children’s Theater project in 1930
  • The Saturday Morning Series, produced and performed entirely by League members, and the “Reading is Fun” weekly radio program broadcast from 1939 – 1952
  • The docent programs at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (“OMSI”) and the Portland Art Museum
  • Kids on the Block disability awareness puppet show performed for thousands of elementary school children between 1986 and 1993
  • Creating a publication listing handicapped access to buildings throughout Portland
  • Providing volunteers to the Community Music Center, the Oregon Historical Society
  • The Puppet Troupe and the Opera In-School Project, Musically Speaking, Bridge to the Arts, Guide to Downtown art Galleries, OMSI Discovery Room, Leach Botanical Garden Outdoor Classroom, Circling the City
  • Community education programs including zoo programs for the deaf and educational television programming
  • Coordinating programs such as drug abuse education, puppet workshops and learning disabilities center for school children during the 1970’s
  • Providing volunteers to Portland Center Stage,the World Forestry Center, Artsource, Children’s Cultural Center, and Holocaust Resource Center
  • Through Our Breast Health project, the Junior League of Portland brought the Race for the Cure to Portland, organizing a 5K all-women’s race to generate funds for breast cancer research and education, and establishing a no- or low-cost mammography program at various centers in the Portland area

Historic Preservation

As women with an impressive history of civic engagement, the Junior League of Portland knows the value of protecting and educating future generations about our shared history. Our activities include:

  • Providing a grant to the Oregon Historical Society in 1954 to purchase the “Narcissa Whitman Letters”
  • Providing trained volunteers to the Oregon Historical Society to research and catalogue museum collections and restore manuscripts from 1964-1975
  • Researching, cataloguing, and conducting oral history interviews for the restoration of Timberline Lodge
  • Organizing and promoting the first preservation week celebration
  • Designing and implementing urban and historical walking tours of Portland
  •  Researching, designing, and promoting exhibits at the Architectural Preservation Gallery that were viewed by more than 40,000 visitors from 1977-1983
  • Funding the Oregon Preservation Resource Center in coalition with the Historic Preservation League of Oregon1982-1986
  • Opening and operating the Pittock Mansion Gate Lodge as a tearoom and historic companion building to the Pittock Mansion from 1984-1987 marking the first public use of the Gate Lodge and earning the Junior League of Portland the American Institute of Architects Presidential Award for years of effective efforts on behalf of historic preservation in 1987

Today, the Junior League of Portland’s archives are kept on display at Portland State University where they provide a treasure trove of research material for students and the community.