THE first Rotary club to do admit women, Duarte in California, was suspended because it violated the Rotary International constitution.
The struggle became so bitter, that this pioneering club, fought sexual discrimination through the California Superior Court, the California Court of Appeals, the California Supreme Court and finally the United States Supreme Court.
Past district governor Jon Simmons outlined the struggle at last Wednesday’s meeting of the Palm Beach Rotary Club. He quoted Frank J. Devlyn (who became RI president in 2000-01) as saying: “The 1989 council on legislation vote to admit women into Rotary clubs worldwide remains a watershed moment in the history of Rotary.
"My fellow delegates, I would like to remind you that the world of 1989 is very different to the world of 1905. I sincerely believe that Rotary has to adapt itself to a changing world.”
The vote followed the decades-long efforts of men and women from all over the Rotary
From PAGE 1 world to allow for the admission of women into Rotary clubs, and several close votes at previous council meetings. The response to the decision was overwhelming. By June 1990, the number of female Rotarians had skyrocketed to over 20,000. By 2010, the number of women was approaching 200,000.
1950 An enactment to delete the word “male” from the Standard Rotary Club Constitution is proposed by a Rotary club in India for the Council on Legislation meeting at the 1950 RI Convention.
1964 The Council on Legislation agenda contains an enactment proposed by a Rotary club in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to permit the admission of women into Rotary clubs. Delegates vote that it be withdrawn. Two other proposals to allow women to be eligible for honorary membership are also withdrawn.
1972 As more women begin reaching higher positions in their professions, more clubs begin lobbying for female members. A US Rotary club proposes admitting women into Rotary at the 1972 Council on Legislation
1977 Three separate proposals to admit women into membership are submitted to the council on legislation for consideration at the 1977 RI convention. A Brazilian club makes a different proposal to admit women as honorary members. The Rotary Club of Duarte, California, admits women as members in violation of the RI constitution and standard Rotary Club constitution. Because of this violation, the club’s Rotary International membership is terminated in March 1978. (The club was reinstated in September 1986.)
1980 The RI board of directors and Rotary clubs in India, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States propose an enactment to remove from the RI and club constitutions and bylaws all references to members as “male persons.”
1983-86 In a lawsuit filed by the Duarte club, the California Superior Court in 1983 rules in favour of Rotary International, upholding genderbased qualification for membership in California Rotary clubs. In 1986, the California Court of Appeals reverses the lower court's decision, preventing the enforcement of the provision in California. The California Supreme Court refuses to hear the case, and it is appealed to the US Supreme Court
1987 On May 4, the US Supreme Court rules that Rotary clubs may not exclude women from membership on the basis of gender. Rotary issues a policy statement that any Rotary club in the United States can admit qualified women into membership. The Rotary Club of Marin Sunrise, California (formerly Larkspur Landing), is chartered on May 28. It becomes the first club after the US Supreme Court ruling to have women as charter members. Sylvia Whitlock, of the Rotary Club of Duarte, California, becomes the first female Rotary club president.
1988 In November, the RI board of directors issues a policy statement recognising the right of Rotary clubs in Canada to admit female members based on a Canadian law similar to that upheld by the US Supreme Court.
1989 At its first meeting after the 1987 US Supreme Court decision, the council on legislation votes to eliminate the requirement in the RI constitution that membership in Rotary clubs be limited to men. Women are welcomed into Rotary clubs around the world.
1990 In June, there are 20,200 female Rotarians worldwide. The Rotarian runs a women in Rotary feature.
1995 In July, eight women become district governors:Mimi Altman, Gilda Chirafisi, Janet W. Holland, Reba F. Lovrien, Virginia B. Nordby, Donna J. Rapp, Anne Robertson, and Olive P. Scott.
2005 Carolyn E. Jones begins her term as the first woman appointed as trustee of The Rotary Foundation.
2008 Catherine NoyerRiveau begins her term as the first woman elected to the RI board of directors.
2010 More than 199,000 women are members of Rotary worldwide, with an increasing number serving as district governors.
2012 Elizabeth S. Demaray begins her term as treasurer, the first woman to serve in this position
2013 Anne L. Matthews begins her term as the first woman to serve as RI vice-president.