The First Decades


The League’s initial project, inaugurated in 1923, was making layettes for Japanese earthquake victims.  This was followed by a nutrition improvement program for children in the Free Kindergartens. This program received the Award for the Finest Nutrition Work in the United States in 1928. Other early projects included occupational therapy at Shriner’s Children’s Hospital, a motor corps to transport crippled children to centers for treatment, a follow-up clinic at Queen’s Medical Center and a sewing committee that provided items for hospitals and other institutions.

The story of projects is never fully told without the story of the fundraisers that supported them, and the Twenties were notable for their colorful money raising events. In 1923, there was a Rag Ball, and in 1925, an original musical, “Tropic Topics,” written and directed by Don Blanding, with music by Alex Anderson. It was so successful that a similar production, “Hula Moon,” was presented in 1928. Also that year, the Junior League Shop specializing in children’s clothes and novelty items opened. During the depression years, the Shop became an outlet for Hawaiian handicrafts made by the unemployed and the institutionalized. In 1929, the League produced a movie, “The Kamaaina,” featuring a “real Hawaii plot.”


The League continued to operate many of its already initiated projects. The nutrition program continued until 1938 when it was turned over to the Community Chest and the Free Kindergarten Association. Plays and puppet shows had an important role in League programs in the early years. These efforts were capped by the creation of Children’s Theater in 1938. Since its inception and for more than thirty years, this ongoing project brought live theater to Hawaii’s children, playing to a combined total audience of over 180,000. One of the most remembered fundraisers of the Thirties was the Liberty House “Dollar Day” in 1934. League members worked at the store and sold dollar items. A percentage of the day’s proceeds benefited the League’s Community Trust Fund. In 1937, the Junior League Shop was sold for a final profit of $3,000.


During World War II, formal League activities were suspended and the office was closed. League members used their volunteer training to support the war effort. Reactivating after the War, an office was opened in space donated by the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and served as the League’s base of operation for 25 years. The first post-war project was sponsorship of a radio program, “Books Bring Adventure.” Projects with the Oahu Health Council the Volunteer Service Bureau and the Council of Social Agencies followed. Children’s Theater was augmented by the creation of the Red Feather Marionettes, a group who told the Community Chest story through the use of puppets. The League resurrected its balls and fashion shows.