The Links: Women's Organization Celebrates 50th Anniversary
THE year was 1946. In the wake of World War II, Philadelphia matrons Margaret Hawkins and Sarah Scott called together seven friends in hopes of starting a chain of women's clubs, a new new of type of organization composed of friends along the Eastern seabord that would respond to the needs and aspirations of Black women. There were other groups in existence, but the two women envisioned a service-oriented organization that would have a three-fold purpose--to promote civic, educational and cultural concerns--and to lead Black women into postwar America.
That founding meeting 50 years ago launched the Links Incorporated, an international women's service organization that is among the most prestigious associations of Black women in the country. From that modest first meeting of nine women, the organization born in the wake of World War II has expanded and refined its mission and membership, endured social and racial upheavals, and today has a membership of 9,600 Black women in 267 chapters in 40 states, Washington, D.C., the Bahamas and Frankfurt, Germany.
The members of the Links celebrate their 50th anniversary in July in New Orleans at the 30th national assembly, which focuses on the theme "Empowering the African-American Family for the 21st Century." Links National President Patricia Russell-McCloud, an attorney and public speaker, says the goal of the organization during the convention and throughout the golden anniversary year is "to be cognizant of our mission, to revisit our purpose and to celebrate and observe our job well done." That mission, she emphasizes, focuses not only on friendship, but also on service to the community. "The mission of the Links is to reach people at their point of need, men and women, boys and girls, domestically and internationally," she says. "Our mission is to discern the need and fulfill it, whether that is tutoring young children in middle school or visiting the elderly at nursing homes or putting water wells in villages in Africa. We must reserve the culture of the African-American experience and the Diaspora."
From the very beginning, the Links has been an organization of civic- and community-minded women. Over the years, the organization has implemented programs with the purpose of fostering cultural appreciation through the arts, developing richer intergroup relations and helping women who participate understand and accept their social and civic responsibilities. Margaret Hawkins, who was the first president of the Links founding chapter in Philadelphia and later national president, is remembered as "stunning, artistic, sensitive and capable." Sarah Scott, who was vice president of that founding chapter and the first national president, is described as "charming, friendly, full of ideas and possessing a deep sense of responsibility to her associates." Both were young mothers active in Jack and Jill of America, and both were educators. (Even today, most Links are married women who are mothers, and many work in the field of education.)
Soon after the Philadelphia Links was established, Hawkins and Scott set about contacting family and friends in other cities who might be interested in starting chapters. Many of the women who became charter or early members of the first chapters were already acquainted through memberships in other groups, such as college sororities, Jack and Jill, auxiliary organizations related to the National Medical Association and the National Dental Association, and through local chapters of the National Urban League and the NAACP. In June 1949, the Links became a national organization when 40 members met at the first national assembly held in Philadelphia. Fourteen chapters were represented, including those in Atlantic City, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Petersburg, Pittsburgh, Wilmington, St. Louis, Raleigh, Wilson-Rocky Mount-Tarboro, New York, Dayton and two others in New Jersey.
In the early years, a special bond was established with the NAACP. …