How We Started
History of NAJA
In 1935, two doctors in Greenville, MS, Dr. Montgomery and Dr. Gamble, contacted the society editor of the Delta Democrat Times, Louise Crump, for help. These doctors saw daily the plight of Greenville’s underprivileged children that were living in back alleys and on shanty boats on the river. They asked Ms. Crump to solicit the aid of her friends in providing food, clothing, and toys, along with transportation to the doctors’ and dentists’ offices. She contacted nine women who met with her in her home. As it has been written….they laid down their bridge cards and golf clubs and hugged their own well-fed and well-cared- for children…went to meetings and began to go about the business of deciding how to best help these people. They assessed themselves $5 each to begin their work. They got businesses and other individuals in Greenville to provide services and goods. Local dentist and doctors donated their time. Membership grew…and most of the time the members were chosen because of what they had to offer…so doctor’s wives were many of the earliest members. And as the membership grew, more services could be provided. Members made clothes for children, took them to the doctor…and as one story goes, one of the members stayed overnight on a shanty boat…maybe to take care of a child while the parents worked…and repapered the walls while she was there. Now this is where NAJA history begins.
The Greenville women began to realize that there were other groups of women similar to theirs in other towns….and by 1940 they began to meet with some of them around the Mississippi and Arkansas Delta. They decided to join forces…and using the Junior League (which had already been started) as a model, they drew up a constitution on November 14, 1941 with Mrs. Crump as the first President of NAJA. The Charter Chapters were: McComb, Greenville, Greenwood, Leland, Laurel, Meridian, Vicksburg and West Point, MS and Pine Bluff and Russellville, AR. During its first year of life, NAJA met the full force of World War II; and, necessarily, emphasis was shifted for a time from care of children to home defense measures and war work. Members contributed many tireless hours to help save democracy for their own and their Junior Auxiliary children. In the face of total war, the slogan of the Second Annual Convention in 1942 was “Children, The Last Line of Defense.” During that second year of existence, they managed to add two new Chapters and secured the services of a Field Secretary. The bank balance reached the astronomical figure of $721.91 in 1943; and by pooling ration coupons, the Third Annual Convention was held in Laurel, MS with the determined convention slogan “There Must Be No Idle Women”. By the end of the war, total membership had increased to 640. With renewed determination, the organization returned its energies and talents once more to work with children, selecting for the 1945 convention slogan “The Way of Peace.” Clinics were established, handicapped children were given special care, nursery schools and hospital wards were supported and children were fed and clothed and cared for. Today there are 94 Chapters with over 15,000 members in six states in the South. Chapters find needs that are not being met in their communities and develop projects to meet those needs. Because the welfare of children is why Junior Auxiliary started, every Chapter is required to have at least one Child Welfare Project. This project must provide one of the basic necessities of life and there must be an ongoing relationship between the chapter and the recipient. However the objective is always to help break the cycle of dependency, whether physical or emotional.