America’s largest veterans service organization, The American Legion, will turn 100 years old in 2019.
The American Legion was founded after the end of World War I. During March 15-17, 1919 in Paris, France, the first caucus under the name American Expeditionary Force was held. Two months later, a caucus was held in St. Louis, Mo., where the name The American Legion was officially adopted. The Preamble and the Constitution of The American Legion was approved, and on Sept. 16, 1919, the United States Congress chartered The American Legion.
After its formation in 1919, several existing women’s organizations wanted to become the official affiliate of the Legion. A committee decided to create a new organization made up of the women most closely associated with the men of the Legion. During The American Legion’s first convention Nov. 10, 1919, members and officials “birthed” the American Legion Auxiliary.
Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1918, in Minneapolis.
Photo: Minnesota Historical Society
This Auxiliary would perform those portions of Legion activities that were more suitably performed by women. In less than one year, 1,342 local units in 45 states of the Women’s Auxiliary to the American Legion had been organized.
At the Legion’s second convention in September 1920, the Legion sanctioned the Auxiliary. The Legion’s Committee on Women’s Auxiliary presented some recommendations to the Legion, one being that the women decide upon their name. And the women did just that at the Auxiliary’s first convention in 1921, omitting the word “women’s” – thus becoming the American Legion Auxiliary.
From the beginning, both organizations’ main goals were to help veterans and their families. Today, there are over 2 million veterans in over 12,000 posts worldwide.
The American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) has three-quarters of a million members in over 8,000 communities. The American Legion Auxiliary has come a long way from “doing the activities more suitable for women” – in 2018, the organization’s volunteer hours had an impact of over $1 billion through services to servicemembers, veterans and their families, and our communities.
Also in 2018: over 4,000 scholarships were awarded; $18 million was raised and spent on the ALA Girls State program; over $82 million was raised/spent to benefit children; and 5.5 million poppies were distributed with nearly $4.4 million raised. Over 3 million veterans were assisted, 356,000 military families were served, and $189 million was spent on community service projects alone.
The American Legion Auxiliary has advocated for veterans rights, including the GI Bill and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs benefits, and ending homelessness among veterans.
The American Legion Auxiliary can still be seen baking pies and serving dinners to our many veterans as well as sending care packages to deployed troops and writing notes to wounded veterans in hospitals. Our membership makes a difference.
See the ALA in action: www.ALAforVeterans.org.
This was originally published as an eBulletin.