Women in Rotary

From 1905 until the 1980s, women were not allowed membership in Rotary clubs. They were allowed in “Inner Wheel” clubs – created by some clubs for spouses of Rotarians. There were many service organizations for women in the United States when Rotary was formed, so there wasn’t much of a push to include women in Rotary. Women did play a role, however. Paul Harris’ wife made quite a few speeches and it was noted in 1963 that including wives in club activities had “helped to break down female seclusion in some countries.”

The gender equity issue came to the forefront, however, in 1976, when the Rotary Club of Duarte in California admitted three women as members. When the club refused to remove them, Rotary International revoked the club’s charter. The club filed suit in California, claiming that Rotary rules discriminated based on gender, which violated California’s Civil Rights Act. The court battle went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987, which ruled FOR the Rotary Club of Duarte. That club elected its first female president, Sylvia Whitlock, that same year. Since 1987, most clubs around the world have opted to include women as members. Women currently account for over 15% of international Rotary membership (23% in North America) and many women serve as club presidents, district governors, and even RI directors.

In 2022 Jennifer Jones began her term as the first female president of Rotary International.

For more details visit https://www.rotary.org/en/history-women-rotary#:~:text=The%20response%20to%20the%20decision,2020%20(about%2023%25%20).

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