TROUBLE IN JUNIOR LEAGUELAND For decades, young women in North Dallas and the Park Cities have hoped for a knock at the door one evening in mid-February from a uniformed messenger who comes bearing the coveted entrée into society-a bid to join the Junior League of Dallas. The secretivfe, sorority-ish admissions process has long been a hallmark of this stylish organization of community volunteers.

But times are a-changing. Last November (“Confessions of a Closet Junior Leaguer”) we reported that there was a movement within the league, albeit a small one, to update the longstanding never-let-another-soul -know-but-I’ll-just-tell -you-that-I’m-sponsoring-so-and-so method of selecting members. Now, whether the majority of the league’s membership likes it or not, the Association of Junior Leagues (AJL), the national organization that sets policy for all junior leeagues, is insisting that reform is in order.

At its national conference in late April, the AJL will make four recommendations concerning the membership process to the 271 junior leagues. The first concerns the abolition of all secret deliberative membership selection committees. Approximately eighteen junior leagues in the country, including the Dallas league, still use the secret selection process, so the rec-ommendation is all but assured of passing.

The Dallas league is not planning to oppose this change. However, it does plan to work against the other three recommendations, which seek to standardize the junior league selection process across the nation. The Dallas league is not interested in being bullied into a new admissions process just because they do it some other way in San Francisco. Members are concerned, says league president Sally McPherson, that an “open” membership process would lead to a league with a less committed-not to mention less exclusive-membership.

Basically, the AJL’s recommendations are for a “sponsorship” process whereby new league members would need either no sponsors, one sponsor, or two sponsors to join. The zero-sponsor option, of course, would create an “open” process whereby any old body could join the league. A two-sponsor system would retain more selectivity but still herald a radical change from the way the Dallas junior league currently chooses its members.

“Achieving autonomy” is very important, McPherson says, adding that the league might possibly secede from the AJL to preserve its admissions traditions. Pulling out would simply require changing the group’s name. Of course there is always the fear that any one hundred people could get together, form a new “Junior League of Dallas” and join the AJL.


Keep me up to date on the latest happenings and all that D Magazine has to offer.