Community Services League Records
The records of the Community Services League consist of journal and ledger entries, minutes of meetings, newspaper clippings, correspondence, memorabilia, and other materials documenting the charitable activities of the League and its predecessor organization, the Community Welfare League, in Independence and eastern Jackson County, Missouri; the membership of Bess Wallace Truman in the organization; and the history of Independence.
Size: One linear foot (about 2,000 pages).
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The Community Welfare League (later renamed the Community Services League) was organized around 1916. Inspired by the revival activities of the evangelist Billy Sunday, a group of young women in Independence decided to seek out and assist the poor and sick in their community. Their group, initially called the Junior Service League, formed the nucleus of what became the Community Welfare League. Bess Wallace, the future wife of Harry S. Truman, was one of the founding members of the organization.
The Community Services League is still in operation today, providing assistance to people in need in Independence and eastern Jackson County, Missouri.
The records of the Community Services League include journal and ledger entries, minutes of meetings, newspaper clippings, memorabilia, correspondence, handwritten notes, financial records, and other documents relating to the activities of the Community Welfare League, a charitable organization that provided assistance to the poor in Independence and eastern Jackson County, Missouri. The Community Welfare League was later renamed the Community Services League.
The records are arranged in two series, a Journal and Ledger File and a Subject File. Most of the collection consists of handwritten entries in two journals and a ledger that document the activities of the Community Welfare League from October 1918 to October 1919, and from July 1930 to January 1932. The entries record daily telephone calls and visits received by the League, as well as visits made and relief provided by its representatives. In addition, the collection includes minutes of meetings of the League’s board of directors from January 1936 to March 1957, along with correspondence and financial records relating to the League.
The collection also contains many clippings of newspaper articles on such topics as the history and activities of the League, poverty and relief efforts during the Great Depression, and efforts at historic renovation and commemoration in the Independence area. Also included are copies of plaques and other memorabilia paying tribute to the League and its founders.
It appears from the records that the Community Welfare League was a typical welfare organization of its time and place: religious in motivation, led by socially-conscious women in the community, and applying the principles of local and voluntary relief. The records include an early handbill boasting that the League would help to destroy “pauperism” in the community “by exposing frauds and professional beggars” and “running out tramps and loafers,” while providing “adequate relief” to the “worthy poor.” The catastrophic impact of the Depression is reflected in the ledger and journal entries for 1930-32, which document thousands of pleas for assistance from the hungry and the unemployed. According to one newspaper article, in March 1931 the League dispensed over $2,800 in money and commodities to more than two hundred families while receiving only about $1,400 in donations. In effect, as the article reported, the League was “broke”—but it carried on as best it could, while the state and federal governments assumed more and more responsibility for relief during the 1930s.
Bess Wallace was one of the founding members of the Community Welfare League, and her involvement with the organization continued in the years following her marriage to Harry S. Truman in 1919. For the convenience of researchers, photocopies of documents from the collection that refer to Mrs. Truman—journal and ledger entries, membership lists, and other items—have been filed under her name at the end of the Subject File. One such document is a resolution honoring Mrs. Truman, adopted by the Community Welfare League on April 26, 1945, two weeks after she became First Lady. Mrs. Truman sent the League a letter of thanks from the White House on May 1.
Other manuscript collections at the Truman Library that contain information on relief efforts during the Great Depression include the papers of Dean A. Snyder, Robert C. Goodwin, and David K. Niles, as well as the papers of Harry S. Truman as Presiding Judge of the Jackson County (Missouri) Court.
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