Jack and Jill of America, Inc. was established in 1938 in Philadelphia by 21 founding mothers. The idea for these mothers, who were such good friends growing up in South Philly but were now dispersed all over the city, was for their children to know each other the way they did. The idea was brought back to Philadelphia by Louise Truitt Dench who attended a party in New York where the children of friends were getting together at Christmas. Louise wanted thatChristmas-type friendly gathering to last all year long, so she discussed the idea of the club with Marion Stubbs, who executed the idea and had the first meeting at her home on January 21, 1938.
On Friday evening, January 21, 1938, a body of vigilant mothers braved the loveliest weather ever designed primarily for ducks, doctors, and druggist, to attend a meeting at the home of Mrs. F. Douglass Stubbs- erstwhile Marion Virginia Turner-called Marion, for the purpose of organizing a kiddies club. Said club to be comprised of youngsters of friends and acquaintances of the more or less privileged group,who would not have the opportunity, possibly to meet and mingle very often, because of the fact that they are by no means concentrated in any one given locality, but ….widely dispersed over the entire area of Philadelphia and its immediate environs.
It was, therefore, decided at this initial meeting that the children shall range in age from 1 to 10 years, and shall meet regularly once a month (preferably the second Saturday) from 3 to 5, to romp and play under the personal supervision of a committee of twelve (12) mothers who will be henceforth known as the supervising committee; dividing said group: 1 to 5, and 6 to 10; said committee itself dividing into twosub-supervising committees of six each to plan programs and direct the activities of those tots during their social hour. The personnel of above mentioned supervising committee shall be changed every six months, it was voted; thus giving each mother of the club a chance to personally conduct the Children’s Hour, and thereby, likewise, become better acquainted with her offsprings’ playmates.
The club itself shall be called Jack and Jill Club, it was unanimously agreed, and dues shall be twenty-five cents a month for each mother – irrespective of the number of children in that one family eligible for membership and admitted to the club.
The body proper (of mothers’ group) shall be known as the governing body of the Jack and Jill Club, having offices of director, assistant director, secretary and treasurer. So, without pursuing any special parliamentary procedure, as all were quite eager to get the movement into immediate operation, the following officers were unanimously elected: Mrs. Marion Turner Stubbs, Director; Mrs. Lela Warrick Jones, Assistant Director; Mrs. Bernice Dutrieulle Shelton, Secretary; Mrs. Louise Truitt-Jackson (Dench), Treasurer.
It might be added that several names were submitted as suitable for this young club, such as “Rug Cutters”, “Tramps” and the like, but because some mothers, such as your humble servant and secretary, and a few others, might otherwise have been hoodwinked by their dimpled darlings into believing they were heavenly bundles “in the flesh”, a compromise was readily agreed upon, and the name “Jack and Jill Club” adopted; whereas, Little Imps” might have been decidedly more appropriate, we all must have secretly admitted to ourselves, upon closer observation of their mischievous twinkle and roguish laughter. Mrs. Bernice Shelton suggested “Jack and Jill”.
Because the number of proposed additional members in this little club threatened to make it unwieldy in size, a limit of members was agreed upon, and the surplus number to be added to a waiting list or retained as invitation list to be consulted upon the occasion of special events, such as parties, plays, and holiday celebrations.
Several places were duly considered as possible headquarters for this group, among them, the Essie Marie Studio and the Southwest-Belmont Branch of the Y.W.C.A., 1605 Catherine Street. The latter place was finally decided upon because of the space, additional privileges, such as a swimming pool and gymnasium, and equipment it afforded. Moreover, because for the fee of $1.00 a year, as members of the Y, the mothers could avail themselves of said privileges for their young. It was therefore voted that each mother not yet a member of the Y should join soon as the forthcoming meeting of the governing body, on Friday evening, February 4, in the Jack and Jill Headquarters to be established in the building, the meeting to be called at 9:00 PM sharp. Mrs. Blanche Baxter Wright was appointed a committee-of-one in charge of this arrangement.
The initial meeting of said governing body adjourned following announcement of a meeting of the supervising committee to be held the following Monday evening, January 24, at the home of the assistant director, Mrs. Cogley Jones, 1214 North 57th Street.
Here again, you have a noble-spirited group braving elements that only the dauntless souls of fisherman welcome, to assemble and plan a widely diversified program for their program. The program was settled upon and was to cover such interest groups as small choral groups, handcraft, story telling, dramatics, and nursery games. Toys for the tots and toddlers, it was thought, shall be supplied by the mothers – preferably discarded ones of their own children. The club theme song, “Jack and Jill”, will be taught to the entire group by Mrs. Lela Jones, to be used as their closing number at each meeting.
Respectfully submitted by
Bernice Dutrieulle Shelton, Secretary
This is Philadelphia‘s Jack and Jill story. The Philadelphia chapter is proud to have descendents of Charter mothers still active and involved with the chapter. To those Founding and Charter mothers we are eternally grateful for your courage to brave a stormy evening in the winter of 1938 to put in motion an organization committed to providing the best for our children and our community. We stand on your shoulders and carry forth in your names.