The Links, Incorporated is an international women’s service organization with 273 chapters in the United States, Germany, South Africa and the Bahamas. It was co-founded in 1946 by Margaret Roselle Hawkins and Sarah Strickland Scott in Philadelphia, two friends with the vision of creating a “link” that would bring friends willing to serve the community by sharing their talents, abilities, and resources. All this would be accomplished by creating a “link” between friends willing to serve. From its inception, the organization’s members were required to be “active and conscientious about club duties,” as laid out in the organizations first constitution. Then and now, community service has as been the cornerstone of the organization’s outreach.
The Links never took for granted the opportunities afforded them because of their education, economic status or personal professional gains. Its membership still holds to the original mission of the organization: to create civic, educational and cultural experience designed to meet the needs and interests of their communities.
Many of the women who first joined the organizations were friends of the founding members. Through personal contacts, early clubs (as they were called) were established. Just four months after the Philadelphia club was formed, the second club, just a short drive from Philadelphia, was formed in Atlantic City, followed by the third club in Washington, D.C. By the end of 1949, there were fourteen clubs established. Raleigh, North Carolina was the last club organized before the nationalization of the organization – which took place in June of 1949, when members of The Links met in Philadelphia. At this meeting, representatives from the clubs consummated the creation of The Links as a national organization; with that, each “club” would now be called “chapter” and operate under the Philadelphia Club’s original constitution. Sarah Scott was elected the first National President.
The growth of the organization stretched coast-to-coast by 1950. In an effort to foster closer relationships among members and their respective chapters, The Links, Incorporated was divided into four geographical areas – Central, Eastern, Southern and Western. This step necessitated the creation of duly elected Area officers, and created emphasis on program goals across the country. Areas began to meet biennially to develop and promote the national programs in their regions.
By 1990 The Links, Incorporated was active in thirty-nine states and two foreign countries.
The organization’s National Assemblies are the legally constituted meetings and have been held since the first meeting in Philadelphia in 1949. Each chapter is responsible for sending a delegate and alternate to these meetings where the
governing business is executed. The first assembly was small and somewhat informal; fast forward to 2006 in Philadelphia; the 35th National Assembly marked the organization’s 60th Anniversary and hosted delegates from 273 chapters and approximately 5000 attendees.
Programs have been the mainstay of the organization, and are often referred to as the “heart of Linkdom.” Every element of the three-fold purpose of The Links, Inc. (educational, civic, and intercultural) is equated with one or more of the program facets; Services to Youth, the Arts, National Trends and Services, International Trends and Service, and Health and Human Services.
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 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.