How often have you heard the comment I didn’t know women could join Rotary? Well I heard yet again only last week and was shocked to think despite all attempts to change the perceptions of Rotary and to fit it for 21 century it is still being seen by most people as a club for old white men.
So as you can imagine how delighted were to induct yet another woman into our club. Swindon Old Town Rotary now has five female members so still along way to go for equality of numbers as 50/50 membership is our ambition.
And it’s a great time to be pushing women power as this year we welcome Joan Goldsmith as our District Governor for District 1100 and also Debbie Hodge who is the RIBI President 2018-19
However it’s been a long journey and it all started in 1950 when a Rotary Club in India, made a proposal that the word “male” be deleted from the Standard Rotary Club Constitution.
The Council on Legislation for the Rotary International (RI) Convention voted for the proposal to be withdrawn, this would also be the outcome for the next two proposals, made in 1964, to allow women into the clubs.
By 1972, more women began reaching high positions in their professions, and more clubs began lobbying for female members. It was in this same year that a United States Rotary Club proposed admitting women into Rotary at the Council on Legislation.
In 1977, despite three more proposals being made, women were still not permitted to be members. However the Rotary Club of Duarte, California did admit women as members in violation of the RI Constitution and Standard Rotary Constitution and their charter was removed in March 1978. They continued to meet and do good deeds in their local community and called themselves the ex Rotary Club of Duarte.
Between 1980-1986, more and more clubs from all over the world began pushing to allow females to join their clubs, and the Duarte Club filed a lawsuit against Rotary International, who won the case.
In 1986, a breakthrough finally came for women wanting to join Rotary, when the California Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s decision.
The California Supreme Court refused to hear the case, and the appeal was moved to the United States Supreme Court, where the Duarte club was reinstated.
37 years after the first proposal to allow female members into Rotary, on May 4, 1987, the US Supreme Court ruled that Rotary Clubs could no longer exclude women from membership on the basis of gender.
That same year the Rotary Club of Duarte elected their first female club president.
By 1995, there were eight female Rotary District Governors, and by 2005, a female had been appointed as a trustee of The Rotary Foundation,
Today, there are well over 200,000 female Rotarians, working alongside their male club mates, to serve their community.
RIBI is still below the curve and disgracefully still turns a blind eye to ‘all male clubs’ who refuse to allow female members to join. In the UK only one in seven members of Rotary are female.
So let’s change that – as we welcome more women into Rotary to help in our communities it will become the norm and not the exception. Rotary is the organisation that welcomes all those willing to put Service above Self as their mantra.
My thanks to Rotary News for the history information on Women in Rotary