University League

“It has been over 75 years since eight young women, daughters of University of Virginia professors, bound themselves together during a luncheon at Farmington and declared themselves the University League. The service club concept they borrowed from the Association of Junior Leagues would serve them until now as the vehicle for group identity and as a means for chasing away ennui. They hoped to convert female spare time into volunteer time for the benefit of the Charlottesville community. Thank you to Mrs. Edmund Berkely, then Dorothy Smith, who organized this initial luncheon and proposed the Junior League prototype, with community service as a respectable goal” — excerpt from Albemarle Magazine, written by Yates Noble (current JLC sustainer) in honor of the JLC’s 50th anniversary.

The Opportunity Shop, a downtown thrift store, was founded in 1946.The University League was organized in September 1932 during the Great Depression. During the 1940’s all League time was devoted to the war effort. The league developed and staffed a motor corps for the Albemarle Chapter of the National Defense, trained as ambulance drivers, and organized and staffed a 24-hour benefit canteen with sandwiches and coffee provided to troop trains traveling though Charlottesville.

The University League’s fundraising efforts included the Black-out Ball at Fry Springs in 1940, biennial Follies/Cabaret from 1946-1983, Opportunity Shop (downtown thrift store) started in 1946, and the Charlottesville Cooks for Compliments cookbook in the 1970s. With the funds they raised they were able to financially support so many community organizations:

  • St Anne’s Preventorium (later called Bloomfield)
  • the Speech and Hearing Clinic League members coordinate the Bookmobile visiting the Children’s Ward at UVa Hospital in 1950.
  • CAARC = Now known as Cville Arc of the Piedmont
  • Children’s Theatre
  • Children’s Rehabilitation Center
  • Children’s Room of Gordon Ave & the Main Library
  • Community Attention Home for Adolescents
  • Camp Holiday Trails
  • Garrett-Barrett Day Care Center
  • Agency Council to Prevent Mental Retardation and Birth Defects
  • Hearthstone Children’s House
  • Refurbishment of the children’s wing at Martha Jefferson Hospital
  • Recording for the Blind
  • Shelter for Help in Emergency
  • Hospice, Workshop V (for those with intellectual disabilities). The Cabaret (1962) was an annual event raising money for the League’s many community outreach programs. Left to right – Mrs. Bernard Caperton, Mrs. Josh Kegley, and Mrs, J Cauthen.
  • Seed funding for the Visiting Nurses Assoc
  • Purchased a new station wagon for use by Girl Scouts
  • Researched, funded, planned and manned the Senior Center until it became independent in 1965
  • They created and funded the Opportunity School at Venable School to provide special education instruction to up to 15 mentally disabled students until the school board included the teacher’s salary in their annual budget
  • Launched the Children’s Museum at UVA Primary Care Center and formed the Children’s Museum Coalition Committee to help with research and build exhibits. This same committee evolved into the Virginia Discovery Museum

Much like the current Junior League, the University League members also provided countless service hours directly to the community. To name just a few:

  • Making puppets for the League puppet show at UVa Hospital with the Senior Center members in 1961. Delivered 50 lb sacks of flour and sugar to mountain families during the Depression
  • They self-taught to be volunteer occupational therapists at UVa hospital when the hospital could not afford these workers
  • They manned booths for the Red Cross and Joint Welfare Reform
  • They provided labor and materials for the Children’s Home redecoration children’s baskets for Christmas and Easter
  • They introduced school children to the arts with children’s theatre and puppet shows

It took several attempts at membership, but eventually the University League was accepted as a Junior League by the Association of Junior Leagues International (AJLI) in 1981. JLC members are forever indebted to the vision and inspiration provided by the University League.