No image better symbolizes the Roaring Twenties than the flapper, recognized by her bobbed hair, scarlet lips, and fringed skirt barely covering rouged knees. Equipped with a ready-to-party attitude, she smoked, drank, and necked with handsome young men driving roadsters. She created a language and style all her own and changed forever how women acted, thought, and dressed.
If the flapper appeared giddy, so did the times. F. Scott Fitzgerald estimated that “the whole upper tenth of a nation was living with the insouciance of a grand duc and the casualness of chorus girls.” A growing middle class enjoyed the materialistic rewards of Model Ts, refrigerators, and radios. The Great War was over and a revolution was underway in the U.S. as well as the Soviet Union. “The war tore away our spiritual foundations and challenged our faith. We are struggling to regain our equilibrium,” a self-confessed flapper wrote in OUTLOOK magazine in 1922.
“In accepting membership in the Junior League a woman steps forthwith into the wider citizenship of her city…It is only as we add our contributions of service that we can be rightly said to have won our final citizenship papers.”
-Dorothy Whitney Straight
Catherine Burge Helm, a Junior League of Louisville Founding Member recalls:
“The world of our youth was not as full of problems as the world today; our lives were much more sheltered, and comparatively few of us were college graduates. However, there was a need for volunteer service in our city, and the Louisville Junior League was formed when I returned from visiting boarding school friends in Poughkeepsie where a Junior League had just been organized. A group of about ten of us met at my mother’s house in the early summer of 1921 and made up a list of nearly a hundred members which included my sister-in-law, Mrs. Joseph D. Burge, who had been a member of the New York League, and Mrs. Elliot Callahan from the Milwaukee League. Two members from two other leagues was a requirement to procure a Charter. Mrs. Elliot Callahan was our first president and Mrs. Joseph D. Burge assumed the office several years later.”
The Junior League of Louisville’s legacy comes from this small group of 50 women who in 1921 strategically linked vision, social capital and trained action to address needs and challenges in the Louisville Community. These women did not set out to change the world, only to improve the lives of women and children in Louisville by tackling issues that faced our community.
We have come a long way since 1921 but the same fact remains…the Junior League of Louisville is a catalyst for change. #IamJLL