Jack & Jill of America, Inc. was founded January 24, 1938 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from a meeting of 20 mothers by the leadership of Marion Stubbs Thomas with the idea of bringing together children in a social and cultural environment. In 1964, as more groups became active, bylaws were drawn up and incorporated under the laws of Delaware. The organization was a nonprofit family organization by mothers of children between the ages of 2 and 19 holding membership. Jack & Jill celebrated its 50th Golden Anniversary in January 1988. The organization continues on, dedicating its resources to improving the quality of life, particularly African-American children.
In the first issue of Up the Hill, National Founder Marion Stubbs Thomas reflected on Jack and Jill’s first ten years.
“…When the first little group of us organized in January 1938, in Philadelphia, we were seeking to stimulate a social and cultural relationship between our children. When I contacted the mothers and suggested a meeting to discuss plans for (the) new club, they were all enthusiastic and responded in a manner, which was heartwarming. Little did we dream at the time that this idea, which was so important and inspiring, would grow to such proportions. As new members were welcomed, and then new chapters formed, the aims and ideals of Jack and Jill were strengthened, always with our children as the focal point. To us as mothers, it has become a means of furthering an inherent and natural desire – the desire to bestow upon our children all the opportunities possible for a normal and graceful approach to beautiful adulthood. It is intensely satisfying to predict a nationwide group of mothers and children bound together by similar interests and ideals. As we grow in numbers and achievements, may we always keep before us the lofty principles upon which Jack and Jill of America was founded.”
After that rainy Friday night meeting in Philadelphia on January 24, 1938, the idea of those 20 mothers to bring together children in a social and cultural relationship spread first to New York City then to Washington, D.C. Thus, Jack and Jill became an inter-city association. Between 1944 and 1946, the group expanded to ten. On June 1, 1946, representatives of eight of the ten groups met in Philadelphia to consider organizing into a national organization. The purpose and aims were set forth, committees established, and new officers were elected and installed.
At the Second National Convention in Columbus, Ohio in 1947, five new Chapters were granted membership. Up the Hill, the first official publication was published in May 1948. The Constitution and Bylaws were drawn up and set forth these objectives: to create a medium of contact for the children and to provide a constructive educational, recreational, and social program for the children and their parents. Jack and Jill of America was incorporated under the laws of the State of Delaware on August 28, 1947. At the Third National Convention in Washington, D.C. in 1948, the observance of Jack and Jill Day by all Chapters was instituted; the National Meeting was extended to two days; and all past presidents were made members of the Advisory Council.
At the Fourth National Convention in New York in 1949, a Regional Committee was formed to study the needs of the National organization and to submit a plan for future operation. In June 1951, the Philadelphia mothers and teenagers invited the teenagers of other chapters within driving distance to Philadelphia to attend the first Regional Teen Conference. The second meeting of teenagers in the eastern Chapters was held in New York in 1952. The Teenage Committee on Regional Boundaries for Annual Teenage Conferences agreed that the boundaries should include these seven areas: Central, Eastern, Mid-Atlantic, Midwestern, South Central, Southeastern, and Southwestern. These were to be subject to change as the teenage population increased and more Chapters were added. (Currently, the seven Regional designations are: Central, Eastern, Far West, Mid-Atlantic, Midwestern, South Central, and Southeastern.)
The First Mothers’ Regional Conferences were held in 1959. Regional meetings, in accordance with the Revised Plan of 1957, were “…to allow fuller, closer participation by Chapters in all geographical areas, thus making for a stronger program.” The Mothers’ Regional Conferences were to be held in June or July on alternate years with the National Conclave.
At the Fifteenth National Convention in Minneapolis in 1962, the Bylaws were amended to elect not more than one National Officer from a given Region. This was to permit equal representation of all Chapters on the Executive Committee, one from each of the seven Regions.
Jack and Jill of America, Incorporated was granted 501-C-4 tax exemption status by the Internal Revenue Service of the United States in 1964. The annual observance of Black Family day by all Chapters was instituted in 1986. For the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Jack and Jill of America, Incorporated in 1988, Jack and Jill father Samuel J. Brown III (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Chapter) was commissioned to write the Jack and Jill Hymn.
The organization’s National Emblem was officially registered as its trademark in 1993. The emblem was designed by Jack and Jill father Edward S. Richards (Chattanooga, Tennessee Chapter).
Since establishing its first national service project, “The Research for Rheumatic Fever,” in 1947, Jack and Jill has contributed to an array of nonprofit organizations and causes including The Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, which was designated the official National Project form 1952 - 1957; the National Association of Mental Health; the NAACP Freedom Fund, Life Memberships, and Legal Defense; the Urban League; the United Negro College Fund, etc. At the 1956 National Convention in San Francisco, one of the recommendations of the National Service Project Committee that was adopted established a committee to study plans for a National Project that would be exclusively Jack and Jill and would have no affiliation with any other group, organization, or corporation. At the Seventeenth National Convention in 1966, the following resolution was passed:
“We resolve that within two years Jack and Jill establish a charitable foundation with the National Service Project assets, and that the Executive Committee be empowered to appoint the personnel of said foundation to delineate the scope and perform all the necessary acts to create the foundation.”
Jack and Jill of America Foundation became a reality and was incorporated in 1968 in Chicago, Illinois.
Jack and Jill also has a long history of cooperative relationships with other organizations working to improve the quality of life for children, particularly Black children. Included among those organizations are the Children’s Defense Fund; the National Black Child Development Institute; A Better Chance; AFRICARE; the National Association of Black Organizations (NABO); and the National Alliance for Nonviolent Programming. Additionally, a Disaster Fund allows the organization to respond to Jack and Jill victims of natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, etc. The organization established a trust fund of $25,000 for the Thompson Family sextuplets.
At the 28th National Convention in Memphis, Tennessee in 1990, the delegates voted to raise the necessary revenue to purchase a site for the National Headquarters Building in the Washington, D.C. area. Funding for the purchase was to accrue from a one-time fee imposed on all existing members and on all new members upon entrance into the organization. A National Headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia was purchased in 1994 and later sold in 1998. The National Office is located in Washington, D.C.
Today, Jack and Jill of America, Inc. has a membership base of over 9,500 families and it is the oldest and largest African American family organization in the United States. Jack and Jill of America, Inc. is committed to ensuring that all children have the same opportunities in life.