In 1938, through contacts with relatives and friends, news about the Philadelphia Jack and Jill club that Marion Thomas started for her children and their friends spread throughout the east coast. Elinor McGuire, Lillian Howard Huffman and former Philadelphia Club member, Lillian Baugh Perry, were all personal friends of Marion's. So with her encouragement, ten mothers met at the home of Elinor McGuire for the purpose of initiating a Jack and Jill club in Washington, DC. Our "founding trio" -- Elinor, Lillian Bailey and Lillian Perry, previously met to lay the groundwork and formulate club plans. In 1940, they completed their plans. They were dedicated to carrying out the philosophy set forth by Mrs. Stubbs — the idea of having children meet socially for play and activity. The mothers agreed to the idea and officers were elected with Elinor McGuire serving as the first president.
On March 16, 1940, Washington, DC became the third Jack and Jill club following Philadelphia and New York. Elinor was elected as the first president; Lillian B. Perry, elected as vice president and chair of the Mother's Program Committee; and Lillian C. Bailey secretary. Other elected officers were Doris Gregory, treasurer, and Angela T. Hayes chair of the Children's Activities Committee. Under the leadership of Elinor McGuire, interesting mother's meetings and delightful children's activities were held. In 1938, Elinor McGuire wrote in a letter to the members of the Washington, DC Jack and Jill Club, which stated in part:
"Our purpose was to bring together children of our friends, giving them the opportunity not only to form friendship, but to play together, to learn together through cultural activities and to grow and develop into good citizens."
The first year was a success as the chapter grew in strength and purpose. Interesting and stimulating children's activities were planned. For many years, the meetings were combined with activities at the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA where youngsters shared toys from a large box made by mothers. By the end of June 1941, the first Mother's Banquet and Family Picnic were held. Our first charitable contributions were made to the Behavior Clinic at Freedman's Hospital (Howard University Hospital); and in 1941, the mothers sent a deserving child from the community to Camp Clarissa Scott. The chapter also donated oxygen tents to Freedman's Hospital. In 1942, the archives compiled and the chapter presented our first scrapbook with pictures of all the chapter families. Our first constitution was written and adopted and dues were set at 25 cents per child. Charter member, Burma Whitted, recalled in 1988, "We used ideas from Parents Magazine for discussion groups."
From the beginning, the group focused on the children — forging friendships and fashioning cultural, civic and service activities when options were limited by the segregated society. After four successful years in Philadelphia, New York and Washington, enthusiasm and interest in Jack and Jill spread westward. In 1946, Mrs. Dorothy Wright, president of the Philadelphia club, felt that Jack and Jill had reached a point when consideration of organizing groups into a national organization was indicated. The national organization was born on June 1, 1946, when representatives of eight of the ten former clubs — Philadelphia, New York, Washington, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Columbus, Baltimore and Boston -- met to lay plans for the national organization. In August 1947, Jack and Jill was incorporated.
The Washington, DC Chapter flourished during World War II, and by 1942 had 60 members. In 1952, dues were up to $8.50 per member and there continued to be many successful social and service activities. The chapter eagerly planned for the Teen Conference scheduled for June 1953 on the campus of Howard University.
Years 20 through 70
In 1960, the chapter celebrated its 20th birthday with a reunion and a play performed by the children. All the age groups had exciting events and the teen dance was very successful. Our chapter continued through the 1970's and 1980's to produce imaginative and successful programs for children. The annual fundraisers were spectacular events, generating media publicity and raising record funds for the benefit of local charities. One very successful event in 1974 was the world premier at the Kennedy Center of the opera Til Victory is Won.
In 1974, in an effort to give back to the community, the chapter raised funds to contribute to many organizations serving children and seniors. The chapter raised $17,000 in 1974 at the "Christmas Shoppe" fundraiser. The proceeds went to furnish the pediatric playroom at Howard University Hospital. The chapter also allied with Africare and the Jack and Jill Foundation to build a birthing clinic and safe drinking wells in Mali, West Africa. Washington, DC Chapter mothers ably served as regional and national officers of Jack and Jill Incorporated.
In 1990, the chapter commemorated its 50th Anniversary with a luncheon at the Blackburne Center at Howard University. It was truly memorable in that Jack and Jill Founder, Marion Stubbs Thomas, then National President Nellie Thornton, and most of the surviving chapter presidents and officers were in attendance.
In 2000, the chapter celebrated its 60th Anniversary with a formal dinner and dance that included a historical video for chapter members, coordinated by Stacey Reddick and Sheryl Lucas. Many past presidents were interviewed on tape for this video. In 2005 we celebrated our 65th anniversary with a candle lighting ceremony and reception honoring our founders. The same year, the Chapter hosted the Eastern Regional Mothers Conference, which included an evening cruise on the Potomac River.
On March 13, 2010, the chapter celebrated its 70th Anniversary with a black tie affair at the Pentagon City Ritz Carlton attended by approximately 370 adults and children. The event, chaired by Lori Soto, was also the chapter's annual fundraiser. More than $46,000 was raised and donated to Jack and Jill's National Foundation, Horizon's Greater Washington and Extra-Ordinary Life.
75 Years of Legacy
Today, more than 150 mothers and more than 230 children make up the Washington, DC Chapter of Jack and Jill of America. In many cases, they represent up to three generations of Jack and Jill from chapters around the nation. We are chapter steeped in tradition, history, pride and diversity, and 75 years after our beginning, we remain focused on promoting the aims of our founders through sound programming, meaningful service, generous support of our community organizations and the Jack and Jill of America Foundation, and a robust collective spirit of family.
Each February, the chapter sponsors "JUMOKE" to increase awareness of African culture to our children and children in the community. "JUMOKE" is a Yoruba term meaning "one who loves the child." The program was conceived in 1989, when Jack and Jill of America, Inc. and Africare collaborated to sponsor "JUMOKE," a program designed to help our children gain a broader view of the world; increase the knowledge, appreciation and enthusiasm of Africa among African American families; and heighten awareness among adults and youth to potential careers in international development, diplomacy and business.
February 22, 2014, marked the 25th anniversary of Jumoke. The event took place at THEARC and included remarks from Mayor Vincent Gray and performances by the Ballou High School Marching Band, the Washington Ballet at the THEARC, the Washington Performing Arts Choir, and new R&B singer Algebra, who sung her hit Nobody But You. The programming activities included a social awareness discussion on the pros and cons of legalizing marijuana and the Group 5 oratorical contest.
As part of Jack and Jill's National Programming Thrust/Healthy Living Initiative, the Chapter hosted Family Fitness Day in April 2012, 2013, and 2014. At this event, moms, dads and children participated in activities like Zumba, flag football, soccer, relay races, stepping, boot camp, and tug-o-war to promote a fun and active lifestyle.
In 2013, the Chapter's age group activities expanded to include a Group 5 oratorical contest. The theme for the 2013 contest was Change the World Tomorrow. The winners were: Evan Moses (first place) and Alex Leonard and Shira Nash (second place). The theme for the 2014 contest was Standing at the Crossroads, Where Will You Go? The winners were: Alex Leonard (first place), Layla Sana (second place) and Miles Reid (third place). The themes mirrored the themes at Teen Conference for the respective years.
Fundraising & Community Service
New Community for Children (NCFC) was selected as the Chapter's fundraising beneficiary for 2012. The chapter donated $10,000 to the organization, which provides before and after school care for underserved children and families in DC's Shaw neighborhood. Our Senior Teens also gave a donation of $1100. NCFC was also a community service partner for the 2012-13 program year. The Chapter painted and made other improvements to the NCFC facilities on the 2013 MLK Day of Service, and teens from the Chapter volunteered to read books to the young people at NCFC throughout the program year.
The Washington Tennis & Education Foundation (WTEF) was selected as the Chapter's 2013 Fundraising Beneficiary. WTEF is a premier educational and tennis organization aimed at improving the life prospects of low-income and underserved children through athletics and academic enrichment. The Chapter presented its donation of $10,000 to WTEF at an outdoor reception and tennis party on June 2, 2013.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) was selected as the Chapter's 2014 fundraising beneficiary. The Chapter donated $10,000 to the organization in honor of one of our young alumnae, Paul R. Webber, V. The chapter hosted a panel discussion on the topic of teen anxiety and depression at Howard University on June 22, 2014. The panelists included representatives from ADAA, the mental health industry, and the Webber family.
Recent chapter-wide community service projects include:
● Project Giveback, where our families went to the Bell Multicultural Center High School on 16th Street to pack boxes of food to be distributed to needy families for the Thanksgiving holiday.
● The Cookie Bake for the Homeless and Hungry on the 2013 National Day of Service. Children and moms from every age grouped baked more than 1000 cookies and delivered them to So Others Might Each, Thrive DC, Martha's Table and New Community for Children.
● Support for the Shepherd Elementary School Library. On the 2014 MLK Day of Service, approximately 125 moms, dads and children went to the school to make improvements to the library space. The chapter also made a substantial donation of new books from the school's "wish list".
Of course, we are most proud of our children and regularly update the chapter website to showcase their many accomplishments. Many of their achievements have also been recognized by Jack and Jill. At the 2012 Eastern Region Teen Conference, Taylor Williamson, daughter of Shelley Brazier, won third place in the Academic Award and 26 Washington, DC Chapter teens were invited to attend the 2012 Jacqueline Moore Bowles Teen Leadership Summit, which kicked off the 40th National Convention in Philadelphia. They received the invitation for completing three leadership modules and three financial literacy modules during the 2011-12 program year. At the 2013 Teen Conference in Boston, Mackenzie Adelberg, daughter of Blanche Bruce, was the winner of the Graduating Senior Academic Award; Sarah Marion, daughter of Tanya Lumpkins Marion, received the Teen Academic Award; and Gloria Walker, daughter of Gloria Lawlah-Walker, won the Distinguished Teen Award.
In 2012, Victor Leonard, son of Kim Jeffries Leonard, was elected as the Eastern Region Teen Treasurer. The following year, he was elected Senior Teen Regional Vice President. Victor was the first teen from the Washington, DC Chapter to hold elected office at the regional level since the 1982-83 program year, when Nate Brown was elected as the Eastern Region Senior Teen President. Nate was the first Eastern Region Teen Officer from the chapter.
National Organization and Foundation
The Washington DC proudly supports efforts of Jack and Jill of America's National Executive Board and the Jack and Jill of America Foundation.
The Thompson Quintuplets
The Chapter hosted a small dinner party for the Thompson Quintuplets' 16th birthday on May 8, 2013. Senior Teens Sabrina Ford, Victor Leonard, and Jamar Nash joined Chapter Mom Monique Lenoir Pittman and President Leila Batties and the Quints -- Stella, Octavia, Emily, Richard and Anna Marie for dinner at Carmine's near Gallery Place. On June 2nd, the National Executive Board attended the Chapter's reception and tennis party with the Washington Tennis and Education Founded where they were able to meet the Thompson Quintuplets and give them birthday gifts from Jack and Jill chapters from around the county. With Monique Lenoir Pittman serving as the liaison, the Chapter and National continue to actively support the Thompson Quintuplets in numerous ways.
2012 Inaugural Celebration
The Chapter played a significant role in the 2012 Inaugural activities hosted by Jack and Jill's National Executive Board to celebrate the re-election of President Barack Obama. Specifically, the Chapter helped to coordinate the Jack & Jill Pink, White & Blue Ball (January 18th and 19th) and the Inaugural Church Service at Metropolitan AME Church (January 20th). Senior Teen President Gloria Walker and Senior Teen Vice President, Adam Reid, made a presentation to Metropolitan AME on behalf of the National Executive Board.
On the Hill Legislative Summit
The Chapter hosted 300 Jack and Jill high schoolers from area chapters and chapters around the country for the A-List Party. The party took place at the Capital Hilton Hotel on September 14, 2013, as part of the National On the Hill Legislative Summit. Our senior teens raised more than $1500 for charity from the event. Earlier in the evening, the Chapter hosted a pizza and Wii party at the Capital Hilton for the middle school children participating in the legislative summit.
Awards and Recognitions
The chapter has received numerous recognitions for its efforts on behalf of our children, community and organization. Recently, at the 2013 Eastern Region Conference in Bermuda, the Chapter received the following awards:
● Chapter of the year / Chapter Excellence Award.
● Award for best programming activity for the Middle School Civil Rights Tour in June 2013. Twenty-five teens, "tweens" and parents spent three days in Selma, Montgomery, Birmingham, Tuskegee and Atlanta where they visited sites such as the Sixteenth Baptist Church, the gravesite of Carole Robertson, the site of Bloody Sunday, the Martin Luther King National Historic Site and Spelman and Morehouse College. The tour was loosely modeled on the travels in the children's novel, The Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis, which our Jack and Jillers read before their trip.
● Top award for Foundation Giving for the largest per capita contribution to Foundation and the largest contribution in excess of $10,000.
● Trophy for Outstanding Community Service for a donation in excess of 1550 pounds of food and $600 cash to a food bank/shelter in support of the Eastern Region community service initiative to address hunger.
At the 2014 Eastern Region Breakfast at the 41st National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, the Chapter received the following awards:
● Programming award for Group 5's STEAM activity at Howard University Hospital.
● Outstanding Community Service Award for donating in excess of 28,000 pounds of food to persons/families in need in support of the Eastern Region's community service initiative to address hunger.
The Washington, DC Chapter has a wonderful heritage as women of dedication to our children and our community, as women of outstanding talent and resources, and as women of vision and promise. We are challenged and inspired by our history. Jack and Jill was founded 75 years ago by mothers concerned about the impact of segregation and opportunities not afforded their children. They came together as friends who literally worked together, lived together and played together. Today, our children, families and social circles are diverse and opportunities are available; yet we reflect upon our past and envision our future to develop ways to ensure our Jack and Jill village flourishes despite our multi-faceted lives.