Our History

In 1901, Mary Harriman, a 19-year-old New York City debutante with a social conscience, founded the first Junior League.  Moved by the suffering she saw around her, Harriman mobilized a group of 80 other young women—hence the name “Junior” League—to work to improve the squalid conditions in which immigrants were living on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.  Mary Harriman’s vision for improving communities by using the energy and commitment of trained volunteers caught on.  The second Junior League was started in Boston, MA in 1907 and was soon followed by the founding of the Brooklyn, NY Junior League in 1910.

In 1921, a public health nurse in Toronto was desperately in need of extra help in staffing well baby clinics in the city. Volunteers were enlisted and soon founded the Junior Organization, which later sought membership in the Association of Junior Leagues of America. On January 5, 1926, with a membership of 176, the Junior League of Toronto was incorporated as the 2nd League in Canada, sponsored by the Junior Leagues of Montreal and Buffalo.

The first President, in 1926 was Miss Elsie Watt.

The JLT has been an integral member of the community for over 90 years. Junior League members have contributed millions of volunteer hours in expertise, enthusiasm and hard work and over $4 million to support or initiate over 400 community projects. The JLT is a non-profit, charitable organization.

Click here to read more about our history over the decades.