JLSJ History


Through the excellent leadership and effective impact of our trained volunteers, the Junior League of San Jose (JLSJ) has been meeting the needs of our community for more than 55 years.

Since our founding in 1967, JLSJ has:

  • supported more than 75 community service projects
  • awarded more than $5.5 million in cash grants to local nonprofit organizations 
  • contributed hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours to our community
  • trained generations of San Jose and Santa Clara County women
  • raised millions of dollars to support its mission and community programs

We have tackled some of the most difficult social issues, such as societal violence, literacy and education,  drug addiction, homelessness, unemployment, environmental issues, women’s issues, and at-risk youth.





  • 1901

    Nineteen-year-old Mary Harriman established the first Junior League in New York City intending to enable women to give back to their communities via volunteer work, skills development, and professional growth.

    TODAY, Junior Leagues in over 295 communities throughout Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States continue to provide opportunities for women committed to advancing their leadership skills by tackling the issues confronting their community.

  • 1947

    On September 27, 1947, seven women founded the Service League of San Jose, intending to become affiliated with AJLA, now AJLI.

    1949: The Service League established the Voluntary Action Center (VAC), which later became the Volunteer Bureau of Santa Clara County. From 1972-1983, VAC and JLSJ co-sponsored a luncheon honoring volunteers in Santa Clara County. JLSJ took over the Volunteer Recognition Luncheon in 1983, which continued through 2020.

    1951:  Service League of San Jose submitted its first application to AJLA, but the response indicated further growth was needed, and a second application in 1957 received the same answer.

    1964: AJLA consultants aligned Service League procedures with policies, followed by a second visit in 1965, resulting in intensive revision, orientation, newsletter initiation, and community impact strengthening.

  • 1967

    On May 10, 1967, The San Jose Service League became the Junior League of San Jose and the 213th League to join the Association.

    In 1969, the League held its first Rummage Sale at the County Fairgrounds, generating over $17,000 in revenue.

  • 1970

    1970-1973: The League provided funding and volunteers to the Alum Rock School District for three years to establish two “Community School Pilot Programs” at Linda Vista Elementary and Lee Matheson Middle School, opening schools to the entire community year-round, using the Mott Community School Program model. This was California’s first community school program using this model.

  • 1975

    JLSJ provides three-year start-up funding, and League members serve on outreach committees and the Board of Directors for Outreach for Women, Inc. This non-profit offered a no-fee informational and referral service to women seeking to enter or re-enter the job market, advance in their existing careers, or change careers.

    1976: JLSJ initiates The Peralta Adobe Project, which aims to create an educational program and provide volunteer docents in the historic Peralta Adobe, the oldest landmark in California’s first civil settlement which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  In 1978, the project was turned over to the San Jose Historical Museum, now called History San Jose.

  • 1978

    1978: On the 100th anniversary of San Jose’s historic landmark, the Kirk-Farrington House, JLSJ moves its offices into the spacious 19th-century house.

    1978: The Grantsmanship Resource Center, established by JLSJ, was a library of funding sources for nonprofit agencies. It expanded services to include workshops like “Proposal Writing.” After 12 years, it became the Nonprofit Development Center, which closed in 1989. CompassPoint Nonprofit Services now manages some programs.

    1978-1980:The Volunteer Career Development project, funded by a $95,000 Kellogg Foundation grant, offered two adult and youth courses promoting voluntarism through self-assessment through AJLI regional training. JLSJ transitioned this program to YWCA.

  • 1980

    1980-1983: The League supported the establishment of Hospice of the Valley, a non-profit, non-sectarian, home-based hospice care program in West Santa Clara County. The project involved hiring a patient care coordinator, developing a PR program, recruiting volunteers, and providing financial support. In 2015, they merged with Sutter Care at Home – the name remains Hospice of the Valley.

    1982: JLSJ’s Fashion Show Fundraiser debuts, netting $54,600.

  • 1984

    1984-1988: Adopted as a project in 1984, the committee designed an exhibit, planned a fundraising event, and partnered with volunteers for the Museum’s outreach programs. They also designed the Museum’s newsletter, assisted with public relations, and created “Discovery Kits,” focusing on community cultural festivals and celebrations. The Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose (CDM) opened in 1990.

    1987-1990: JLSJ volunteers, trained as Court Designated Child Advocates aided abused, neglected, and abandoned children through the Juvenile Court System. They represented the child’s interests with social workers, psychologists, and court personnel. The program continues through Child Advocates of Silicon Valley, an independent nonprofit agency.

  • 1992

    JLSJ becomes one of the first Leagues to establish an Endowment Fund, seeded with $25,000 from the League’s General Fund in honor of JLSJ’s 25th Anniversary.


  • 1996

    JLSJ took on an unprecedented fundraising and volunteer opportunity to co-host the 1996 State Farm US Figure Skating Championships with the Peninsula Figure Skating Club. The League was instrumental in the event’s corporate underwriting, public relations, marketing, and volunteer coordination. With the final payment in 1999, JLSJ raised $572,908

  • 1999

    1999-2000:  In collaboration with Bill Wilson Center, Safe Place Community Outreach trained 100 12-17-year-olds in leadership, gang prevention, public speaking, self-esteem building, organizational skills, and volunteerism, enhancing their school and neighborhood life through community service projects. These students then moved into community service work, improving their school and neighborhood life.

    2001-2002: The Junior League and Arts Council collaborated on the Youth to You program, educating disadvantaged students about artists’ livelihoods through interaction with local artists, artwork creation, and business practices, incorporating lesson plans and art product business plans. In 2013, a new agency was created called Silicon Valley Creates.

  • 2005

    2005-2009: The League, First 5 Santa Clara County, and United Way of Silicon Valley Success by 6 were visionary partners of the Wonder Cabinet at the Children’s Discovery Museum. In the art, literacy, and infant areas of The Wonder Cabinet exhibit space, JLSJ volunteers facilitated play and learning. To increase the reach of the exhibit and draw in new audiences to the early childhood program happening in the Children’s Museum and Wonder Cabinet space, League members also created the traveling Wonder Quilt.


  • 2011

    2011-2017: Kids in the Kitchen (KITK) is an AJLI initiative aimed at empowering children and parents to make healthy lifestyle choices and reduce childhood obesity. It partners with local agencies and organizes programs, projects, and events, such as training with Kaiser Permanente and the “Eat the Rainbow” campaign with Sunday Friends.

    2013-2017: The League and Resource Area for Teachers (RAFT) collaborated on Make, Build, Play!, a business and community engagement plan involving hands-on science, technology, engineering, art, and math activities. Workshops and professional training were provided for community partners. This approach enhances subject comprehension and fosters a lifelong love for learning.

  • 2017

    The League changes from a Project-based Community Impact model to an Issue-Based Community Impact Model (IBCI) and announces a new community focus: Helping Transitional Age Foster Youth (TAY) transition out of the foster system successfully.

    JLSJ Celebrates its 50th anniversary.