Archives from Assistance League inspire exhibit at Autry

| July 28, 2022 | 0 Comments

CO-FOUNDER of the Assistance League of Los Angeles, Anne Banning, poses for a picture in 1918.    Courtesy of Autry Museum

An online exhibit that honors the 100th anniversary of women winning the right to vote also tells the origin of modern-day thrift shops with the help of the extensive library of historic documents compiled by the Assistance League of Los Angeles (ALLA).

Visit “What’s Her Story: Women in the Archives” online at the Autry Museum of the American West. The exhibit started physically in the museum and was then moved online for the foreseeable future.

Two women from Hancock Park, Anne Banning and Ada Laughlin, founded ALLA in 1919. This women-run organization and its 100 years of history had an enormous amount of physical memorabilia to share with the public. ALLA was looking for a place to preserve its collection. The Autry has a long history of telling women’s stories. When leaders from these two organizations met in 2015, it seemed like a natural fit for ALLA to donate its archival collection to the Autry.

The collection of artifacts is the largest archival collection at the Autry, according to Liza Posas, head of research services and archives at the Autry. She says the Autry was honored to receive this gift from ALLA.

Peruse this online exhibit. It’s interesting to see old photographs, documents, Los Angeles buildings and fashions from decades past.
The most interesting takeaways for me were discovering the origin of thrift stores and how ALLA came into existence.

AN ADVERTISEMENT for a fundraising event at the Red Cross Shop circa 1917.       Courtesy of Autry Museum

In 1917, Banning created the Red Cross Shop and Tea Room (the Shop) at Eighth and Alvarado streets to help citizens affected by World War I. Local residents donated — and volunteers collected — clothing, jewelry, furniture and household goods. The items were deftly displayed and resold in the Shop.

You’re thinking “thrift store.” And yes, that is the idea, but it was novel a hundred years ago. Now thrift stores are commonly associated with charitable organizations, but in 1917, this was a new concept. The Shop was more similar to a modern-day department store and was extremely profitable.

The Shop also served as a community hub where primarily women volunteered and local residents learned how to make surgical gowns that were dispersed to hospitals to further help the war effort. Cups of tea were available at no cost to the customer.

After the success of the Shop, Banning and Laughlin co-founded the Assistance League. Within a few years, the duo started another very successful thrift store in Los Angeles to help support ALLA. It was extremely lucrative for many years until it closed in the early aughts.

View the exhibit at and find the interesting facts that appeal to you.

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Category: Entertainment

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