The Links

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The Links, Incorporated
FormationNovember 9, 1946; 77 years ago (1946-11-09)
  • Sarah Strickland Scott
  • Margaret Roselle Hawkins
Founded atPhiladelphia
TypeSocial and service organization
HeadquartersWashington, D.C.
Membership (2022)
WebsiteOfficial website

The Links is an American invitation-only social and service organization of prominent Black women in the United States. Founded in 1946, it is the largest nationwide organization of Black women in the USA. Members include multiple prominent women, including Kamala Harris, Marian Wright Edelman, and the late Betty Shabazz.

As of 2021, there were 16,000 members in nearly 300 chapters. The organization was founded in Philadelphia, but since 2022, it is headquartered in Washington, D.C.


The Links, Incorporated, a nonprofit corporation,[1] was founded in 1946 in Philadelphia by seven prominent Black women.[2]: 102 [3] Sarah Strickland Scott and Margaret Roselle Hawkins[3][4] recruited Frances Atkinson, Katie Green, Marion Minton, Lillian Stanford, Myrtle Manigault Stratton, Lillian Wall, and Dorothy Wright. All of the women were members of prominent Black professional families of Philadelphia; six were the wives of physicians and the seventh the wife of a bank president.[2]: 103  All had bachelor's or master's degrees from elite schools and had been active in other elite Black social organizations such as Jack and Jill and Alpha Kappa Alpha and other prominent organizations such as the NAACP,[3] the League of Women Voters, and the Philadelphia Grand Opera Company.[2]: 104  Most were members of St. Thomas Episcopal Church.[2]: 104  The group's name was suggested by Wall as a symbol of enduring friendship.[5]

Other cities soon created chapters. By 1949, there were ten chapters and by 1952, there were 56 chapters.[3][2]: 105  As of 2008 there were approximately 12,000 members in 273 chapters in 42 states[6][2] Greater Detroit had four chapters in 2021.[7]

Over the decades the group transformed itself from "a group of women married to influential men to a group of women who became influential themselves", according to one member; the evolution caused "clear conflict between the old guard and the new guard", according to another.[2]: 108 


As of 2021, there were 16,000 members in 292 chapters.[7] As of 1999 each chapter membership was limited to no more than 55 women.[2]: 102  The headquarters has been located in Washington, D.C., since at least 1985.[8][5]


As of 2022, the organization has had seventeen national presidents.[9]

  • Sarah Strickland Scott, 1949–1953
  • Margaret Rosell Hawkins, 1953–1957
  • Pauline Weeden Maloney, 1957–1961
  • Vivian J. Beamon, 1962–1970
  • Helen Gray Edmonds, 1970–1974
  • Pauline Ellison, 1974–1978
  • Julia Brogdon Purnell, 1978–1982
  • Dolly Desselle Adams, 1982-1986
  • Regina Jollivette Frazier, 1986–1990
  • Marion Elizabeth Schultz Sutherland, 1990–1994
  • Patricia Russell-McCloud, 1994–1998
  • Barbara Dixon Simpkins, 1998–2002
  • Gladys Gary Vaughn, 2002–2006
  • Gwendolyn B. Lee, 2006–2010
  • Margot James Copeland, 2010–2014
  • Glenda Newell-Harris, 2014–2018
  • Kimberly Jefferies Leonard, 2018–2022


Women interested in joining any of the local chapters must be nominated by a current member;[2]: 109  if a chapter has 55 members, no more may be accepted until one leaves.[2]: 102  Admission is "extremely competitive", according to Lawrence Otis Graham, author of Our Kind of People (1999).[2]: 109  One member of a Washington D.C. chapter describes having spent "twelve years of strategizing, party-giving, and brownnosing to get into this group."[2]: 103  Most women do not get into Links until they are in their 40s or older, and most remain members until they die.[2]: 109 

Links has been criticized for its exclusivity; one member noted that while a woman could be nominated by any other member, for practical intents those admitted are "usually those who know at least half of the chapter's membership".[2]: 109  Social, professional, or economic prominence within a city's Black community also may help get a candidate admitted, as members with such backgrounds help add to the chapter's prestige.[2]: 109 


The organization requires each member to accumulate many volunteer hours.[2]: 103  The organization raises funds for a variety of charities and causes such as the United Negro College Fund and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.[2]: 102  The national core focuses include education, health, youth services, the arts, domestic legislation, and international welfare.[2]: 107 [3]

Chapters typically also hold multiple social events for a city's Black elites, such as debutante cotillions, fashion shows, gala fundraisers, balls, luncheons, and formal parties.[2]: 103, 107 


According to Graham, The Links is the "most elite organization" for prominent American Black women,[2]: 102  and is both the largest and the most influential.[2]: 102  Membership in the organization, he writes, signals to other prominent Blacks that "your social background, lifestyle, physical appearance, and family's academic and professional accomplishments passed muster".[2]: 102 

Los Angeles PBS station KCET called The Links "the most prominent" of the Black women's clubs.[10] Rolling Stone called it "one of the most influential and prestigious".[11]

John Lewis called The Links a “distinguished organization of outstanding community service and influence”.[7]

Notable members[edit]


Members include philanthropists, college presidents, politicians, activists, judges, doctors, bankers, lawyers, executives, educators, and the wives of well-known public figures.[12][2]: 105  Notable members include:


  1. ^ Griffin, Anne-Marea (February 17, 2022). "Black History Month and the Power of Remembrance". UNICEF USA. Retrieved 2022-02-23.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah Graham, Lawrence Otis (2014). Our kind of people. [Place of publication not identified]: HarperCollins e-Books. ISBN 978-0-06-187081-1. OCLC 877899803.
  3. ^ a b c d e "The Links, Incorporated | American organization | Britannica". Retrieved February 7, 2022.
  4. ^ "The Links, Incorporated Celebrates 75 Years Of Excellence". BET. November 9, 2021.
  5. ^ a b Organizing Black America : an encyclopedia of African American associations. Nina Mjagkij. New York: Garland. 2001. p. 308. ISBN 0-8153-2309-3. OCLC 44720533.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  6. ^ About the Links, Inc. Archived May 16, 2008, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved April 17, 2008, from The Links, Incorporated Web site.
  7. ^ a b c Talley, Scott (June 26, 2021). "The Links, Inc., 'committed to service in the community' in Detroit". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved February 7, 2022.
  8. ^ Farr, Stephanie (November 7, 2021). "Smith Memorial Playground gets $25,000 donation from The Links, Inc., a service organization founded in Philly". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved February 9, 2022.
  9. ^ a b admin. "Leadership". Links. Retrieved 2022-02-16.
  10. ^ Bythewood-Porter, Taylor (July 22, 2021). "The Links, Incorporated: How African American Debutantes Shaped a New Vision of Black Womanhood". KCET. Retrieved February 7, 2022.
  11. ^ McFadden, Syreeta (July 1, 2021). "Meet the Women Bringing Weed to the Deep South". Rolling Stone. Retrieved February 7, 2022.
  12. ^ a b "America's black upper class and Black Lives Matter". The Economist. August 22, 2020. Retrieved July 21, 2021.
  13. ^ "Hannah Atkins Obituary (2010) - Oklahoman". Retrieved 2021-01-20.
  14. ^ a b c d "Civil Rights Icon John Lewis Lauds The Links, Incorporated and Issues Voting Rights Call to Action". Congresswoman Joyce Beatty. April 20, 2019. Retrieved February 9, 2022.
  15. ^ "Keisha Lance Bottoms sworn in as Atlanta mayor". WTXL. 2018-01-03. Retrieved 2022-02-15.
  16. ^ "Houston Chapter of The Links Chapter Members".
  17. ^ a b Pitts, Myron B. "Myron B. Pitts: Sen. Kamala Harris, VP-elect, shines light on The Links". The Fayetteville Observer. Retrieved February 7, 2022.
  18. ^ "Collection: Papers of Mary Gibson Hundley, 1910-1985". Retrieved 2022-02-25.
  19. ^ "Many Lavish Social Events Highlight Links' Twelfth National Assembly". California Eagle. 1960-07-07. p. 7. Retrieved 2022-02-11 – via
  20. ^ "Meharry Medical College Ventures Names Dr. Veronica Mallett President and CEO". 2021-05-10. Retrieved 2023-08-22.
  21. ^ "Annette R. March-Grier's Worldwide Profile". Retrieved 2020-04-20.
  22. ^ "Charter Members" Parthenon (TN) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated.
  23. ^ "Protecting Public Safety with Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle M. Outlaw". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved February 7, 2022.
  24. ^ "Robinson, Jo Ann Gibson |". Retrieved February 9, 2022.
  25. ^ "About Angela Rye". Retrieved 2022-02-15.
  26. ^ "Public Policy". Tami Sawyer. Retrieved 2022-01-21.
  27. ^ Moore, Gina Ruffin (2007). Cincinnati. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7385-5144-9.
  28. ^ "Yvonne Walker Taylor, Educator born". African American Registry. Retrieved 2022-02-13.
  29. ^ "The Links, Incorporated, 30th National Assembly, July 1996: Celebrating 50 Years, 1946–1996". Thirtieth National Assembly of Links, Inc., 1996, New Orleans, Louisiana, United States. 1996. Retrieved February 9, 2022.
  30. ^ "Chapter History". Central New Jersey (NJ) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated. Retrieved February 9, 2022.