The First 25 Years

A post-a-note with the following message “Rotary women make good role models for girls” was handed to me at a session I was giving on Reasons to Celebrate Rotary.  How topical and how true I thought.  Women of spirit, women who fight for what’s right, women who do what needs to be done – many of them are Rotary Women.

This year we celebrate twenty-five years of women in Rotary.  Founded in 1905, the organization, both here in the US and globally, was an all male organization although in 1912 there were two women’s Rotary clubs in Duluth and Minneapolis.  There were also  fits and starts at others including one in Belfast, Ireland but it wasn’t until 1977 that women took their place in Rotary history.  That’s when the Rotary Club of Duarte, CA inducted women members and the Seattle International Rotary Club brought in 15 women .  That started a conflict that ended in the United States Supreme Court in 1987.  But this is not about the old days and the old ways. (for more information please see The Rotary Global History Fellowship)

It’s about what women bring to their Rotary Clubs and to the world.  And why they are good role models for the younger women of today. From the early days we learn that a number of these women were first timers in their careers; attorneys, business owners, legislators.  Some had families, some did not.  But what we all have in common is a commitment to service above self, compassion, a deep resolve and the ability to recognize an opportunity and do something about it.  Fearless??  Maybe so or maybe just the strength to look fear in the face and do it anyway.  And through Rotary we have the resources to make a difference.

I’d also like to honor the first Rotary women who achieved the status of district governor.  There were eight of them in Rotary year 1995-1996, all from the United States.  Dr. Olive Scott from the Cobleskill, NY Rotary Club was among those women.  I am honored to know Olive, having joined Rotary the year she was governor.  She continues to be a role model to all of us and to many more around the world.

This wouldn’t be a celebration of women if I didn’t give a big tip of the hat to the families and to those men in those first clubs that stood tall in the face of adversity.  Thank you.

Helen Austin is a song writer and folk singer and Vancouver Rotarian.  She’s penned this song to celebrate the first 15 year.s  Please enjoy it and pass it along.


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