Friday, 22 February 2013


In addition to Black sororities, many African-American sorors, including my mother, belong to one or both social/civic organizations, called The Girl Friends, Inc. and The Links Inc., with The Girl Friends being founded almost 20 years before The Links, as well as one of the oldest clubs of its kind, in the United States.


In the summer of August 1927, at the height of The Harlem Renaissance, Eunice Shreeves had the vision to invite four, close friends to her home to form a social club, for the purpose of maintaining and continuing the friendships they had established that year. Henri Younge, Lillie Mae Riddick, Elnorist Younge, Thelma Whittaker and Eunice knew that they would be away at college for a good part of the year, but felt that their club in their home city would reinforce their friendship. The historic meeting was held over the now-famous "Pot of Stew;" and the young women quickly determined the direction of their group. Lillie Mae suggested the name "Girl Friends" in honor of the Richard Rogers/George Olsen Broadway Musical hit of the era, The Girl Friend (click here to listen to the title song from the musical). They also selected club colors of apple and emerald green; a club flower, the Marshall Neal Rose (now the yellow Tea Rose) and the names of other friends they would invite to join them.

Modern Pot of Stew event

Yellow Tea Rose

Those who were originally invited and remained in the group to see it grow into a national organization included: Ruth Byrd, Constance (Connye) Cottrell, Helen Hayes, Rae Dudley, Anna Murphy and Dorothy Spraggins Roarke and Dottie Townes, who founded the Philadelphia chapter. The group chose Bessie Bearden as their chaperone and advisor. Mrs. Bearden was a prominent newspaper columnist; and it was her son, the celebrated artist, Romare, who designed the 1952 Chatterbox cover, which was dedicated to the New York Chapter's 25th Anniversary.

Bearden Family

Romare Bearden

The Baltimore, Boston, New Jersey and New Haven, Connecticut chapters, were soon thereafter added by 1932. The New York chapter hosted the first Conclave (national meeting of chapters) in 1933, held in the home of Connye Cotterell.

New Haven Chapter, today

Brooklyn, NY Chapter, 1934

In 1938, Girl Friend, Vivien ‘Buster’ Marshall, wife of attorney (and eventual Supreme Court Justice) Thurgood Marshall, helped to incorporate The Girl Friends, under her husband’s legal guidance.

The Girl Friends Fund, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that The Girl Friends established in February 1988 to help young African-American men and women realize their dream of an equal opportunity to a college education. The Girl Friends Fund sponsors a fundraising luncheon as part of the Annual Conclave, and has funded scholarships for thousands of young, African-American students.

There are, currently, 45 chapters across the country, and over 1,400 women of prominence in membership. In 2004, the Chicago Chapter hosted the 50th anniversary celebration.  Click here for the video tribute during the 50th anniversary celebration.

Since those formative years, the arms of friendship have grown to embrace a continent. Girl Friends have founded schools, headed colleges, earned all manners of academic and professional degrees, written books, been successful entrepreneurs, saved lives, been elected to Congress and named to the cabinet of the US President. They have also been devoted wives, mothers, sisters, aunts, Godmothers and friends, as well as involved members of their communities.



In 1945, African-American socialites, Margaret Rosell Hawkins and Sarah Strickland-Scott, conceived the idea of a group of clubs composed of friends along the Eastern Seaboard. The two women envisioned an organization that would combine friendship and community service. It was their intent the club would have a threefold aim: civic, educational, and cultural.  Based on these aims, the club would implement programs, which its founders hoped would foster cultural appreciation through the arts; develop richer inter-group relations; and help women who participated to understand and accept their social and civic responsibilities. 

Margaret Hawkins had incredible, artistic talent. However, she is probably best remembered for leading her African-American high school classmates in a determined effort to attend the annual and, at that time, all-White senior prom. Rather than yield to the pressure for an integrated prom, school officers cancelled the prom.  Margaret won a four-year scholarship to the Women’s School of Design, later known as the Moore Institute of Art. After graduating in 1931, she was appointed to teach art in the Camden, New Jersey schools. There, she soon became one of the city’s demonstration teachers in art techniques.  Margaret not only served as the first president of the founding Links chapter, and the second, national president, but she also designed the Links's bracelet logo.
Women's School of Design

Sarah Strickland-Scott was the first, national president of The Links. She was the daughter of a prominent doctor and majored in English at the University of Pennsylvania, earned a Master’s degree from Columbia University and began her career as a teacher in the Philadelphia high schools. Sarah was active in African-American family organization, Jack andJill of America, and served a term as national president of that organization, as well. She married a doctor; and their daughter was the first Black student to attend the exclusive, Friends Select School in Philadelphia.

One evening, in November 1946, Margaret and Sarah invited some of their friends to join them in organizing a new type of club, which was originally called The Philadelphia Club.
Besides the two founders, the original members of The Philadelphia Club were Frances Atkinson, Katie Green, Marion Minton, Lillian Stanford, Myrtle Manigault Stratton, Lillian Wall and Dorothy Wright. The club elected Margaret as president, Sarah as vice president, Myrtle as recording secretary, Frances as corresponding secretary, and Dorothy as treasurer.

During its early years, monthly meetings were held in members' homes, with that member serving as hostess.  The rules were rather strict, with membership being limited to fourteen members; and if a member missed a meeting, her membership would be revoked.    Most of the Links members were also members of African-American family organization, Jack and Jill of America, and other Black organizations, such as: the National Medical Association, the National Dental Association, the Urban League and the NAACP.

Before the incorporation of The Philadelphia Club, to become The Links, Incorporated, several, new chapters were established between 1947 and 1949: Atlantic City, New Jersey; Washington DC; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; St. Louis, Missouri; Petersburg, Virginia; Wilmington, Delaware; Baltimore, Maryland; Rocky Mount, North Carolina; Princeton, New Jersey; Dayton, Ohio; Harlem, New York City; North, New Jersey and Raleigh, North Carolina.

San Francisco Links, 1950

By 1953, The Links had become recognized as the “fastest growing, most interesting group of Black women in the country.” (Pittsburgh Courier, June 1953). 

The Links, Incorporated, requires that each of its members accumulate a substantial number of volunteer hours, and is also known for its numerous annual social activities including debutante cotillions, fashion show luncheons, auctions and balls.  Click here to see a 2-minute video of a fundraiser in Washington DC.  Membership is extended to candidates nominated and approved by currently active, Links members.  Most members are philanthropists, college presidents, judges, doctors, bankers, lawyers, executives, educators or the wives of well-known public figures. 

Links members contribute more than 500,000 documented hours of community service, each year – strengthening their communities and enhancing the nation. The organization is the recipient of awards from the UN Association of New York and the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation for its premier programs.

The Links, Incorporated focuses primarily on five strategic areas of interest ("facets"):
National Trends and Services: Currently, The Links sponsor Linkages to Life: Organ Tissue and Bone Marrow Donation Awareness Program.  In addition, in October 2006, The Links, donated $1 million to the National Civil Rights Museum, in Memphis, Tennessee, which was used to create The Links Incorporated Educational and Cultural Center, promoting social and civil progress in America

Services for Youth:  Programs such as "Just Say 'No'!" in order to educate youth about the perils of drug and substance abuse

International Trends and Services: such as building schools in South Africa and Nigeria

The Links African Schoolchildren

The Arts: Active involvement in promoting African and African-American art, in order to educate youth and adults about the artwork's significance

Health and Human Services:  Addressing chronic health disparities that persist in the Black community and result in the decreased life expectancy of African-Americans.

Currently, The Links, Incorporated, has over 12,000 members, and 276 chapters nationally and one chapter in the Bahamas. The Links celebrated their sixtieth anniversary on November 9, 2006. In honor of the achievement, commemorative medals were issued to celebrate the organization's achievements.

What is so admirable about The Girl Friends and The Links is that not only do they foster lifelong friendships and throw great parties; but they have also worked very strategically and successfully to strengthen the African-American community, which will have an impact on generations to come.

Sources:  Wikipedia, The Links, Inc., The Girl Friends, Inc., The History Makers, Google Images, YouTube

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