When Marion Stubbs Thomas shared her intention to develop a club that would bring their children together in a close social and cultural relationship, it was met with great enthusiasm from her famlily and friends. Since there were more children than a home could comfortably accommodate, the children met once a month at the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA). It soon became necessary to make special plans for each gathering; therefore, the mothers deemed it wise to have a “Mothers” Meeting for this purpose. Such was the humble beginning in East-Philadelphia.
1939-1940, 1944 (New York and Washington, D.C.) The second Jack and Jill group to organize was the New York Chapter in 1939. The Washington, DC Chapter was started by Marguerite Green in March 1940. Four years later, the success of Jack and Jill programs in Washington, Philadelphia, and New York picked up momentum. The enthusiasm and interest in the concept of such an organization began to spread.
1944 (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) Toki Schalk Johnson, presented to a group of Pittsburgh mothers the idea of forming a similar club. Marjorie Butler became Pittsburgh’s first president. Under her capable guidance began one of the most successful chapters of Jack and Jill.
1945 (Buffalo, New York) Following the shadows of Pittsburgh, a group of mothers of Buffalo, New York were nurturing the same idea. The first group of prospective Jack and Jill members met in September 1945 to organize. The charter membership of twelve elected Edna Seay as their first Chapter President.
1944-1946 The Eastern Region tentacles were in a continuous growth pattern during this three year period with the chartering of chapters in Baltimore, Maryland and Boston, Massachusetts. A national organization committee was mobilized representing these seven Eastern Region chapters and three additional chapters in the Mid-Atlantic, Central and Mid-Western Regions. The committee met in Philadelphia on June, 1946 to make plans for bringing these groups together as one body.
1948 The Eastern Region expansion had been phenomenal from the beginning and now Atlantic City, New Jersey and Springfield, Massachusetts were being added to the roster. Nathalie Johnson initiated the move to organize the North Jersey Chapter. The North Jersey Chapter officially joined the National Organization in June 1950. Because of the rural aspects of North Jersey, it was impossible to limit membership to a particular town; instead it was limited to a mileage radius.
1951 The Eastern region resurfaced with the addition of the Lincoln University, Pennsylvania Chapter. To Dorothy Wright of Philadelphia, the first National President, we owe our appreciation for guiding us through the difficult period of organization. Further, under the leadership of Emile Pickens of New York, Second National President, marked progress was made toward the realization of Jack and Jill objectives. Edna Seay of Buffalo, our Third National President served in the capacity of national officer since its inception and guided and directed the group wisely and efficiently to the place we assume in our communities today. The Eastern Region owes gratitude to Ida Murphy Smith of Baltimore for her high standards as Editor of the first edition of UP THE HILL; Helen Prattis of Pittsburgh and Vernice Wynn of Baltimore for the wonderful and difficult job they performed in the capacity of Secretary/ Treasurer. It was necessary for all of the chapters to seek advice and grateful thanks were echoed for the guidance given by Sara Scott of Philadelphia, Program Chairman.
The idea of a regional plan for the National Organization was first advanced at the 3rd annual meeting of Jack and Jill of America Inc., held in Washington, D.C. in 1948. It was suggested that three regions (East, Midwest and West) be established to (1) shorten the travel time to annual meetings; (2) allow more time for discussions and (3) allow the inclusion of children at the meetings. For several years, a regional organizational plan was discussed during annual national conventions. These discussions were fueled by a hugely successful Teen regional conference organized and hosted by the Philadelphia Chapter in June 1951 around the year’s program year of study and research on Haiti.
At the 1957 National Convention held in San Francisco, the Regional Plan of the Organization was finally adopted and Regional Directors were appointed or elected. The first Regional meetings were held in 1959, and the decision was made to alternate years between the Regional and National conventions. Hence, each is held every two years. Currently, the organization is divided into seven regions—Central, Eastern, Far West, Mid-Atlantic, Mid-Western, South Central and Southeastern. Each of the seven regions has four officers—Regional Director, Regional Treasurer, Regional Secretary, and Foundation Member-At-Large, who are responsible for providing continuity between the National Executive Board and the chapters in the respective regions. The Regional Officers are elected during the Biennial Regional Conferences, which convene on the odd numbered years following the National Convention
Regional teen conferences are held annually. The first teen conference was held in Philadelphia, PA, in June 1951. Each Region has teen officers who are elected annually at the teen conferences.
The Eastern Region has continued to grow in membership and chapters. The Eastern region is the largest in the country with 56 chapters. In the new millennium, the Eastern Region continues to provide innovative programming. In recognition of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. national holiday, Teens have participated in a regional Teen Leadership Summit on the campus of Howard University designed to catapult youth to new levels and conduct community service. The region is proud to have launched in 2006 mandatory certification training for teen conference chaperones to assure clear expectations and a safe experience for our teens.
In 2011 and 2013, the Regional Mothers Conference was held on a cruise to Bermuda. In 2015, the Regional Mothers Conference was held at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas and had record attendance. The On the Hill Summit was held in the Eastern Region in 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015. In 2012, the region was the host of the 40th Biennial National Convention in Philadelphia, PA, which marked the beginning celebration of the 75th Anniversary of Jack and Jill of America, Inc. Over 350 members of the Eastern region commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington in August 2013. Our children proudly carried our banner and marched for education, healthcare, gun control, voting rights, and Trayvon Martin. At the 2014 41st National Convention, the body approved the Western Maryland Chapter and also elected Tammy King, from the Eastern Region’s Bergen Passiac, NJ chapter as National President. Through our strong commitment to community service and philanthropy, Eastern Region chapters provided over 500,000 meals to families in need in 2014-2015.
Our Regional theme for 2015-2017 is “Empowering Families for SUCCESS!” We held a Regional Voter Registration Drive that registered thousands of voters, held a Virtual Townhall on “Race, Civil Liberties and Law Enforcement”, launched the Junior Gazette (a bi-monthly publication for children and teens), introduced a Regional Racial Identity Kit, held a Regional MLK Day of Service in which chapters across the Region worked together, collected over 3000 books for children in need, and had record attendance at Mothers Clusters, Children’s Cluster and Teen Conference in 2015-2016.