At the June 24th meeting, Joanne Lamoreaux introduced a program on women in Rotary,noting that this c lub has three women in the current line of succession to be President of this club.  It seemed like a good time to explain the history of women in Rotary and in our club.

From Rotary's' beginnings in 1905 until the 1980's; women were prohibited from becoming Rotarians.  Wives were allowed to participate in club events, but were not members.   In 1976 the Duarte Club in California attempted to admit 3 women but Rotary International revoked the club's charter. The club sued and won the case in California in 1986. The case went to US Supreme Court in 1987 where the Duarte club won again and women were allowed to become full members.  Women now represent 22% of all Rotary members. 

And in our club 33% of our members are women.  Four of our women members have served as club president..

Barb Caldwell joined the Ithaca Rotary club in 1987 and is still active.  She is the longest serving active female member of this club.  Barb spoke of joining Ithaca Rotary as part of a group of 6 women in 1987.  She said the women felt very welcome in this club and that they tried to work with all the members, rather than just working amongst themselves.    Visiting other clubs, however, was a different experience.  One club she visited refused to give her a makeup card because she was female. 

Barbara Thuesen spoke about visiting other clubs and the different responses she experienced.  She was in Copenhagen, Denmark, when the RI President announced he would be in Berlin for the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, and stated she would be representing the 10,000 members of Rotary who were women. A week later she attended another meeting where a gentleman made a scene because a woman was at the meeting. Barb explained to this gentleman that attendance was mandatory and that this, being Wednesday, this was the meeting day of her club. 

The gentleman reluctantly sat down and the other men in the club happily welcomed her.  There was also an experience at an event in a hotel where initially she wasn't welcomed, but that changed and she was actually asked where the club could find women to help with projects.  

Mary Berens spoke last about her experiences in the club since the 1980's.  She remembers attending a makeup session in Scotland where the men welcomed her but were surprised that she was the Rotary member and not her husband.  She learned at the Rotary Club of Oxford that things are done very differently in the UK.  Old clubs had to vote every two years on whether or not to allow female members while new clubs are required to allow membership to both sexes.