On January 24, 1938, Marion Turner Stubbs Thomas – a concert pianist and mother – invited 20 women friends to a meeting in her Philadelphia home. According to sources, she envisioned a social club that would connect her children with others from local Black families at a time when cultural opportunities were limited for most young African-Americans during the Great Depression and because of Jim Crow laws. In his book Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper Class, author Lawrence Otis Graham mentioned Marion was the daughter of Dr. John P. Turner, a surgeon who was the first black on Philadelphia’s board of education. She was born in Philadelphia and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1930.
Marion Stubbs Thomas
Marion also attended the Sorbonne, then returned to the United States and married a thoracic surgeon, Frederick Douglas Stubbs in 1934. After Stubbs died, Marion married Detroit physician Alf Thomas. They raised three daughters in Jack and Jill, and the daughters went on to raise their own children in the organization as well.
Philadelphia Chapter Mothers, 1947
From Marion’s idea and the support of several others, the first chapter of Jack and Jill of America was organized. It has since grown into 230 chapters in the United States and Germany and has become “one of the country's most prestigious service organizations of Black families.”
The following statement was taken from an article by Mrs. Thomas, which appeared in the first issue of the official Jack and Jill of America publication Up The Hill. She describes the “start and rapid growth of Jack and Jill.”
“It is with deep and, I hope pardonable pride that I look back over the first ten years in the life of Jack and Jill. When the first little group of us organized in January 1939 in Philadelphia, we were seeking to stimulate a social and cultural relationship between our children.
When I contacted the mothers and suggested a meeting to discuss plans for our new club, they were all enthusiastic and responded in a manner which was heart-warming. Little did we dream at the time that this idea, which was so important and inspiring to us, would grow to such proportions.
As new members were welcomed, and then new chapters formed, the aims and ideals of Jack and Jill were strengthened, always with our children as the focal point. To us as mothers it has become a means of furthering an inherent and natural desire – the desire to bestow upon our children all the opportunities possible for a normal and graceful approach to a beautiful adulthood.
Philadelphia Chapter Children, 1938
It is intensely satisfying to predict a nationwide group of mothers and children bound together by similar interests and ideals. As we grow in numbers and achievements, may we always keep before us the lofty principle upon which Jack and Jill of America was founded.”
For more information about the National Organization, visit jackandjillinc.org.