History of Women in Rotary

District 7570 Rotary History Moment
History of Women in Rotary
Jane Crawford - ableprinter@yahoo.com


Did you know that until 1989, the Constitution and Bylaws of Rotary International stated that Rotary club membership was for males only?
In 1978, the Rotary Club of Duarte, California, USA, invited three women to become members. The RI Board withdrew the charter of that club for violation of the RI constitution. The club brought a suit against RI claiming a violation of a state civil rights law that prevents discrimination of any form in business establishments or public accommodations. The appeals court and the California Supreme Court supported the Duarte position that Rotary could not remove the club's charter merely for inducting women into the club. The United States Supreme Court upheld the California court indicating that Rotary clubs do have a "business purpose" and are in some ways public-type organizations. This action in 1987 allowed women to become Rotarians in any jurisdiction having similar "public accommodation" statutes.
In 1988-89 District 7570 was under the leadership of PDG Charlie Seay from my home club, Rotary Club of Kingsport. The International theme was “Put Life into Rotary-Your Life”. This was the theme of RI President Royce Abbey of Australia, he also visited our district that year. I believe our District re-enforced this when the two new clubs were chartered during PDG Seay’s year. They were Scott County Virginia and Danville-Riverview. These clubs were among the first clubs in the District who had women as charter mem-bers following the decision of the US Supreme Court, the RI Board and 1989 Council on Legislation that women were to be accepted as members of Rotary.
The first female president of a District Club was Gladys Duran of Greeneville TN Noon Club. Elected in 1988 to serve 1989-90.
The RI constitutional change was made at the 1989 Council on Legislation, with a vote to eliminate the "male only" provision for all of Rotary. Since that time, women have become members and leaders of clubs and districts throughout the world.
In celebration of women in Rotary, I am encouraging you to send me a copy of who that individual was that we may be able to document for history in our District. Plans are tentatively in process for recognizing those ladies at District Conference this year.