Friday, March 30, 2018

Julia Child: Chef Extraordinaire, Spy, Washingtonian, and Junior Leaguer!

Guest post by Suzanne Doud Galli

In the 1940s, Julia Child was a Washington, DC, resident of Georgetown’s Olive Street – just a stone’s throw from the Junior League of Washington’s (JLW) Loughborough House headquarters. After spending time abroad, she returned to Washington in the 1950s, giving cooking classes in the neighborhood, and her custom designed kitchen has taken up permanent residence at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

Child became a household name by bringing French cuisine into the living rooms of America with her cooking shows in the 1960s. Her cookbooks, recipes and persona continue to be celebrated though books, movies, special menus, and foodie events.

Born to a prominent family in San Francisco, Child graduated from Smith College in 1934, and then worked in advertising in New York City. When she moved back to California a few years later, she joined the Junior League of Pasadena (JLP). She was very active in League and civic projects and starred in many of the JLP opera productions.

Child had intended to be a writer; however, a change of plans brought her to Washington at the start of World War II. She was an imposing figure at 6’2”, but her height prevented her from joining the Women’s Army Corps. She found a position as a research assistant for the Office of Strategic Services, the government intelligence agency. She held posts in Washington, DC, China, and Sri Lanka, where she met her husband Paul Child, another intelligence officer.

When they moved to France for Paul’s new posting, Child developed a love of French cuisine. She enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu and then formed the cooking school L'Ecole de Trois Gourmandes with some fellow students. Best-selling cookbooks and popular cooking shows followed. Her show The French Chef was syndicated to 96 stations throughout America.

Like many Junior League women, Child was a trailblazer; she was able to hook mainstream Americans onto sophisticated French cuisine by teaching techniques and recipes, using the ingredients available in American supermarkets. She received many accolades including the Legion d'Honneur, France's highest honor. She was the first woman named to the Culinary Institute Hall of Fame. She has received multiple Emmy awards and multiple honorary degrees.

Despite all these honors, Child subscribed to the view that “The measure of achievement is not winning awards. It’s doing something that you appreciate, something you believe is worthwhile.” She has a place among the world’s most famous chefs and the most notable members of the Junior League.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Evolution of the Junior League of Washington, Part 2

Guest post by Bonnie Louque
To learn more about JLW from its founding through WWII, please click here.

After emerging from the war era, the 1950s brought successful and prosperous years for JLW. Women who entered the workforce during the previous decade now faced a balance between their careers and volunteer commitments. Fundraising and public relations events supporting the Junior League’s community investments flourished in this period, to include the first “Christmas Shop” (later renamed “A Capital Collection of Holiday Shops”).

The League also continued its investment in children’s health, with substantial funds contributed to the psychiatric clinic at Children’s Hospital, among other recipients. JLW also sought to reach children during the after-school period by writing, producing, and airing its own educational television program. It is in the 1950s that JLW also expanded its focus on children’s educational needs to include art, with a new partnership with the Corcoran Gallery of Art and tours by JLW docents at the National Gallery of Art.

This interest in exploring the world of art with children continued into the 1960s, when JLW’s most popular placement was the docent program at the National Gallery of Art. Theater arts also continued to grow in popularity among volunteers and young audiences. JLW was gifted the beautiful and historic Loughborough House in the early 1960s, which has since served as the headquarters of the Washington chapter.

The late 1960s brought social upheaval in the United States and riots in 1968 that shook the nation’s capital. The League was unwavering in its support for District Mayor Walter Washington, and granted the city $5,000 – its first ever check for emergency relief. JLW at this time also expanded its role in social work by supporting the DC Juvenile Courts through a paid volunteer coordinator. In addition, JLW funding brought preschool care, recreation, and counseling to the first social services agency located onsite at a public housing project.

The 1970s brought focus to women’s rights, and JLW members became active community leaders in advocating Congress on equal pay, maternity leave, day care, and other key issues. JLW ultimately endorsed the Equal Rights Amendment, and an estimated 50 percent of JLW members were working outside the home at this time. The group also sought to take a more “hands-on approach” to voluntarism by bringing in new placements with the Gonzaga Higher Achievement Program, National Museum of African Art, restoration of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, the City Hall Complaint Center, and the Columbia Hospital for Women. JLW volunteers also expanded training and volunteer efforts to assist women who were victims of domestic violence and abuse.

JLW continued this focus into the 1980s by granting over $15,000 to the DC women’s shelter My Sister’s Place to develop a children’s program, and a subsequent $10,000 grant to develop a training program.

In the early 1980s, JLW leaders initiated a community needs assessment with a five-year strategic plan aimed at better preparing the League to meet the needs of its growing and diverse group of volunteers. By this time, more than 70 percent of members were employed and membership had grown substantially. The assessment culminated in 1986-1987, with JLW members voting to shift the League’s focus from health and education to women in crisis and youth at risk. Members continued to support involvement in the arts by also voting to fund the National Museum of Women in the Arts that was under development, granting them $43,290 and establishing a volunteer program. JLW itself was given $200,000 by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to undertake a developmental daycare for homeless children and their families. This effort resulted in the creation of Bright Beginnings, Inc., which is a Head Start program that continues to thrive as a facility and remains a JLW community partner to this day.

Although work continued to expand support of at-risk youth and women, in 1999, the membership voted to shift its focus to literacy moving forward. The composition of the League has also continued its decades-long progression towards a diverse group of women of all professional backgrounds. Literacy remains the focus of JLW today, and the League continues every year to broaden its impact across the DC community through new and innovative programs and partnerships.

The first National Book Festival with the Library of Congress took place in 2001 with support from a small group of JLW volunteers, but now, JLW serves as the primary provider of volunteers to the festival. Other literacy programs – such as tutoring for the Higher Achievement Program, or donating books through Resolution Read, to name only a few of the many community partners JLW volunteers support – provide countless opportunities for members to positively impact the community.

Internally, JLW also works determinedly to strengthen its corps of volunteers – in training and professional development, networking and social events, and building relationships and connectedness between Active and Sustaining Members.

Looking back over the past 105 years as an organization, the priorities and focus areas of JLW may have shifted to reflect current events or the driving needs of the community at the time, but the remarkable and positive impact of JLW volunteers has remained the same. To discover the many ways JLW members are serving the community today, check our 105 Acts of Service campaign.