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As we celebrate our centennial, Junior League of Nashville President Jenny Barker takes us on a journey through the League’s history of community leadership and devotion to Nashville by highlighting a decade each month, starting with the 1920s to the present day.



As we look back on the next decade of JLN’s history, you may find the uncertainty associated with 1930s feels strangely familiar.

When the stock market crashed on Oct. 29, 1929, triggering the Great Depression, President Hoover assured Americans it would be over in 60 days. By 1933, 15 million people were unemployed and nearly half the banks had failed. The Depression would last until 1939.

Meanwhile, a mysterious disease that paralyzed children wasn’t showing any signs of letting up. It would be 1955 before the polio vaccine was developed.

JLN members didn’t let the uncertainty bog them down and responded with unstoppable energy to address community needs. Let me share a few highlights:

      • On January 1, 1930, they convinced the Tennessee governor to attend the opening of their new, state-of-the-art Home for Crippled Children on five acres on White Avenue (near Franklin Road).
      • Members evolved the Palm Sunday Paper Sale (a fundraiser for the Home) by partnering with the Shriners of Al Menah Temple. With their help, League members were able to fan out across 41 counties selling the paper door-to-door and triple the revenue.
      • Members channeled their creativity into providing hope and education through exposure to the arts. Nashville Children’s Theatre, begun by JLN in 1931, remains the oldest established continuing children’s theatre in the United States. JLN introduced theatre to children who otherwise would have never seen live performances.

Junior League member Eleanor Roosevelt is known to have said, “A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.”

How true that is! No one knows when the COVID-19 pandemic will be over, but JLN members have what it takes to respond to the needs of Nashville with the same tenacity of those who came before us.

Jenny Barker
President, 2021-2022

Dig deeper into the 1930s:

Originally published in the August 3, 2021 Tuesday News