Florence Crittenton Home and the Junior League – Thoughts from Dr. Gary BakerCrittenton was one of the first major projects taken on by the Junior League after it formed In the 1970s a major fundraising campaign took place to build a new center and almost all of the major board members were also members of the Junior League Thanks to the Junior League’s support of Crittenton countless mothers, children, and families have been helped The new Crittenton Center would not be here today with the leadership and support provided by the Junior League The Junior League is welded deep into the fabric of our community Junior League does amazing work that really helps the community and is full of women with amazing leadership skills
Martha Belle Aikins Smith was very involved with our theatrical productions in the early years. Shown here she was the choreographer for the 1930’s Children’s Theater production of Cinderella. Martha Belle had a dancing school for many years in Kansas City and would not only choreograph for the Children’s Theater, but she would often have a solo dance in another popular Junior League Production…
The Junior League Follies. The Follies, one of our earliest fundraisers, were Broadway like - song and dance reviews featuring League Members.
Interviewed during the 75th Anniversary, Martha Belle, with a special sparkle in her eyes said, “Way back when I was young, they had the most marvelous shows every year.
Capacity audiences would fill the theaters of Kansas City for these Annual Performances. With ticket prices as low as $1, one record breaking show brought in more than $19,000.
The debut of the Junior League Follies was a show titled “Campus Mouser” performed at the Garden Theater February of 1916. Campus Mouser brought in a net profit of $2,500.
Being in the follies cast was serious business. Local newspapers praised the show and the members performing in the show. Performers were equated to lady artists in coming grand ballets. The Independent said it was a waste of opportunity that the Junior League did not rent the theater for several more performances.
Season two brought the first outside director, Dinnie McDonald who had staged a Junior League of Chicago Production. Dinnie also had a dance in the show featured here on the cover of the Independent.
The 1916 show featured ladies in a wedding themed number titled “The Wedding Fox-Trot.” complete with flapper dressed flower girls.
The Follies were the fashion of the age. Members starring in the production would grace the pages of the Independent in elegant Strauss-Peyton portraits, and local boutiques would feature advertisements geared toward Follies audiences.
The Roaring 20’s were a great time for the Follies, but the productions did cause some dissent among members who thought the Follies “detracted from the League’s image, while others felt the shows were half the fun of League membership.”
Proceeds from the 1920s Follies benefitted a project known as the Convalescent Home for Sick and Crippled Children, which has developed into today’s Cardiac Center at Children’s Mercy Hospital.
The Follies “maintained the high spirits of its members” the fundraisers provided “Ample opportunity for young women, as well as Kansas City society, to participate in hot dancing and heavy drinking – the later despite prohibition.”
Much was expected of the performers. Past president, Mrs. McGreevy, recalled that the director of the Follies asked young women to do cartwheels down the aisles. She informed the director that League members were not professional gymnasts, and that doing cartwheels was not a dignified activity.
League members would travel to New York to plan productions and meet with paid New York directors who staged the follies. One of these directors was Ned Wayburn, who had directed the Ziegfeld Follies.
Martha Belle once said “the Rehearsals were strenuous, but, oh boy, it was fun”. She said the shows were knockouts.
The Follies weren’t all work and no play. Several members can be seen here at a luncheon recess during Follies rehearsals for the 1927 show. Members would also pose for advertisements that appeared within the programs.
The follies were important, not-to-be missed activities in Kansas City and were also known throughout the years by other names including the Cabaret, which was held in conjunction with Horse shows, and American Royal Festivities.
Later shows were also known as the Junior League Nightclub. One Follies star, Gertrude Boyle Ridenour, took the stage name Marion Mansfield and went on to Hollywood to star with Bing Crosby in the movie “Here is my Heart.”
The follies ran strong from 1916 through 1934.
The popular shows were revived in 1962 for the first full scale production since 1934 with a cast including 150 members. Another revival was presented in 1978.
Transcript of "Junior League of Kansas City, Missouri 100th Anniversary Spotlight 1914-1932"
”The Junior League has now
passed the years of infancy
and inexperience. The Ladies
bountiful of the past,
scattering funds as their
sympathies guided, have
become service women of
the present, supervised by
trained social workers and
building up from this
experience and by volunteer
and the efficient League of
Florence Crittenton Home
Home, 1890 Florence Crittenton
Crittenton Children’s Center,
FLORENCE CRITTENTON HOME
SPOTLIGHT ON THE COMMUNITY
Partnership with Florence Crittenton Home
•1914 - Volunteers began sewing and cooking classes
•1921 to1929 – Took over full management of Crittenton
• Members taught parenting technique classes and staffed the
daycare and nursery
•1978 – Grant for $50,000 to build a new school
Countless hours and over $100,000 to the
Florence Crittenton Home/Crittenton Children’s Center
Countless mothers, children, and families helped