Montgomery Maryland Chapter History
Separate drinking fountains for Whites and Blacks. “Colored” balconies in movie theaters. Seats in the back of the bus. Soldiers called out to protect little children trying to go to school. It’s hard to believe these were examples of conditions in America less than 40 years ago. In 1960 when Henrietta Franklin came up with the idea to form a chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc. in Montgomery County the area looked a lot different. Back then, Blacks accounted for 5 percent of the county’s population of 341,000 (today African Americans make up 15 percent of the county’s population).
The county’s African American Mothers, including Mrs. Franklin, were caught up in events happening across the country. That year, four Black college students began sit-ins at lunch counter of a Greensboro, N.C., restaurant where Black patrons are not served. Congress approved a watered-down voting rights act after a filibuster by Southern senators. The Freedom Rides, from Washington to Southern states, began.
Foremost on their minds, however, was the well-being of their children. Times were changing, but in the early 1960s, African Americans in the county were still barred from social and cultural activities that integrated them with whites. It would be another three years before the Maryland legislature passed an open accommodations law. And even then, change was slow to come.
But Mrs. Franklin wanted her children to have cultural opportunities, develop leadership skills, and form social networks even in the midst of segregation. In the late winter of 1960, she called Carolyn French, President of the Washington, D. C. chapter, to ask how to make application to start a Montgomery County Chapter of Jack and Jill. In April 1960, Mrs. Franklin wrote to Ruth B. Howard of San Francisco, National President, who answered promptly, stating, “If you can readily get together 15 mothers who are congenial and who have the same aims for their children, you should write at once to Mrs. Osbeth Adams of Chicago, National Vice President in charge of forms and information.”
Mrs. Franklin then told the five other wives in a small couples club, which she had started previously, that she was interested in establishing a Montgomery County Chapter of Jack and Jill. She asked whether they would join; they said they probably would, and told her to go ahead with her plans. In May, Mrs. Franklin sent a letter to Osbeth Adams, the National Vice-President, asking for forms. By then, the Washington chapter had agreed to sponsor our chapter, following our organizer's request through Carolyn French, its president.
Thirteen mothers met at Mrs. Franklin’s home, with Carolyn French and Juanita Fletcher of D.C., for orientation of the group.
In June, with no reply from Mrs. Adams, and with the 1960 National Convention only two weeks away, Mrs. Franklin wrote again to Dr. Howard and again to Mrs. Adams, since no provisional charter from the 1960 convention would mean a wait of another two years! While waiting for answers, she sent out SOS's through other friends in D.C., and suddenly had, through Ruth B. Spencer, the cooperation of Burma Whitted, National Program Director, who agreed to take a petition from Montgomery County, in lieu of forms, to the National Executive Committee which would meet just before the convention.
Mrs. Franklin quickly prepared a petition, hand-delivered copies for signatures, gathered bits of necessary information on all families, and delivered the packet to Mrs. Whitted as she headed for the airport. Montgomery County was granted provisional status at that 1960 convention and permanent status in 1962.
For the two-year provisional period our group was called “The Children’s Hour.” Mrs. Franklin was a staunch advocate of literacy. Each time the children met, they would start by reading a story. Mrs. Franklin chaired the group during its first two years and was re-elected President for the first two years after chartering - a truly challenging four-year task.
Installation took place at Mrs. Franklin’s home in October 1962, with Eastern Regional Director, ViCurtis Hinton as installing officer and Burma Whitted, Carolyn French and Juanita Fletcher standing close by as proud, honored guests. Our thanks for encouragement and assistance went not only to them but also to the Washington chapter, our official sponsors, whose guidance and encouragement continued for many years as we worked with a small and fluctuating membership. Our thanks went also to friends of the organizer from the J&J chapter in Baltimore, her hometown, who also had assisted her.
In 1964, the Montgomery County Maryland Chapter initiated six additional families. Tremendous credit for building the flourishing chapter which exists in Montgomery County today must go to numerous charter and post-charter members who worked diligently, and to the many officers who have contributed to its development, especially the Presidents:
First Chapter President (1960-1962)
Second Chapter President (1962-1964)
Dr. Loretta Webb
Third Chapter President (1964-1966)
Fourth Chapter President (1966-1968)
Fifth Chapter President (1968-1970)
Eastern Region Regional Director (1973-1974)
Sixth Chapter President (1970-1972)
Seventh Chapter President (1972-1974)
Eighth Chapter President (1974-1976)
Ninth Chapter President (1976-1978)
Tenth Chapter President (1978-1980)
Eleventh Chapter President (1980-1982)
Barbara J. Ward
Twelfth Chapter President (1982-1986)
Dr. Maxine Jenkins
Fourteenth Chapter President (1986-1990)
Eastern Region Regional Director (1996-1997)
Sixteenth Chapter President (1990-1994)
Eighteenth Chapter President (1994-1998)
Leslye M. Fraser, Esq.
Twentieth Chapter President (1998-2000)
Twenty-First Chapter President (2000-2002)
Dr. Lorraine Bassette
Twenty-Second Chapter President (2002-2004)
Twenty-Third Chapter President (2004-2006)
Patricia Hureston Lee, Esq.
Twenty-Fourth Chapter President (2006-2008)
Brenda Baldwin White, Esq.
Twenty-Fifth Chapter President (2008-2010)
Paulette Walker Campbell
Twenty-Sixth Chapter President (2010-2012)
Twenty-Seventh Chapter President (2012-2014)
Doreen C. Hope, Esq.
Twenty-Eighth Chapter President (2014-2016)
Twenty-Ninth Chapter President (2016-2018)