Founding of the Links, Incorporated
The Links, Incorporated, founded in 1946, is an international organization of over 12,000 civic-minded women. It is a public service, non-partisan volunteer organization that includes 274 chapters in 42 states; the District of Columbia; Nassau, Bahamas; Frankfurt, Germany; and South Africa. The name “LINKS” symbolizes a chain of women, connected in friendship, purpose and service. The mission of the organization is to promote and engage in educational, civic, and intercultural activities to enrich the lives of members and the larger community, and to work together toward achieving community goals.
On the evening of November 9, 1946, Margaret Hawkins and Sarah Scott, two young Philadelphia matrons, invited seven of their friends to join them in organizing a new type of inter-city club. This organizing meeting of The Links was not a spontaneous action. In 1945, Link Hawkins had conceived the idea of a group of clubs composed of friends along the eastern seaboard and had spent many hours with Link Scott in thinking, planning and discussing the possibilities of such an endeavor.
The two women envisioned an organization that would respond to the needs and aspirations of Black women in ways that existing clubs did not. It was their intent that 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.
Besides the two founders, the original members of the Philadelphia club were Links Frances Atkinson, Katie Green, Marion Minton, Lillian Stanford, Myrtle Manigault Stratton, Lillian Wall, and Dorothy Wright. The club elected Margaret Hawkins as president, Sarah Scott as Vice President, Myrtle Manigault Stratton as Recording Secretary, Frances Atkinson as Corresponding Secretary, and Dorothy Wright as Treasurer.
Detroit Chapter The Links, Incorporated
The Detroit Chapter of The Links, Incorporated was chartered on March 10, 1951, the first of the ten Links chapters in Michigan. From its earliest years, when members made stuffed toys for patients at Children’s Hospital and cancer pads for the Michigan Cancer Foundation, the Detroit Chapter has been united in friendship and service. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Chapter’s luncheon fashion show was a highlight of Detroit’s spring social season. Proceeds supported the United Foundation, UNCF, Urban League, DABO and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
Youth, arts and culture have long been important focus areas for the Chapter. For more than 20 years, the Detroit Chapter funded scholarships that enabled disadvantaged children to attend summer camp and participate in summer arts and enrichment programs. Members also opened their homes to showcase the creative talents of Detroit Public School (DPS) students. When the exhibit became too large for their homes, the Chapter partnered with DPS to move the show to the Detroit Institute of Arts.
Benefit parties in the 1980s enabled the Chapter to provide significant funding to the Detroit Historical Museum and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. At the time, the Chapter’s gift of $25,000 was the largest donation the Charles H. Wright Museum had received from a local African American organization.
From the early 2000s through the present, the Chapter set a priority for involvement with adolescent students. Through its Umbrella Project, Linking Adolescent Students to Success (LASS), members mentored students at the Detroit International Academy, the only all-girls public school in Detroit. LASS was recognized with excellence in programming awards at the Links National Assemblies in 2002 and 2010.
The Chapter’s relationship with the DIA has deepened over the years. To provide uniforms for needy students, the Chapter provides annual funding for Velma’s Closet, a service dedicated in memory of former Chapter president Velma Mobley. The Chapter also purchased and installed an industrial-size washer and dryer at the school to allow students access to laundry facilities to keep their uniforms clean and neat. DIA students also look forward to the Detroit Chapter’s annual Community Hat Strut that raises awareness about issues related to breast cancer in October, and have participated in a myriad of activities and programs developed and presented by each of the chapter’s facets.
In 2015, the Chapter began to focus its attention on the DIA’s class of 2018–almost exclusively, starting with the students in the ninth grade and moving along with them through their high school years through graduation. Working with the school principal and a designated liaison, each facet planned programs designed to engage the students and offer a range of useful information, while building relationships that will be sustained through each of the students’ remaining three years in high school.
In addition to the Chapter’s concentration on the Detroit International Academy, numerous organizations have also benefited from the Chapter’s philanthropy over its six decades of service to this community, including the Cass Technical High School Harp and Vocal Ensemble, Detroit Public Library, Rosa and Raymond Parks Foundation, St. Clare School for Girls in Kenya, Simon House, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Your Heritage House. The Detroit Chapter has 39 members and 15 alumnae members today, women distinguished in their professional roles and community service. Collectively, Chapter members unite to strengthen the chain of Links throughout the state and across the country.