Seattle-International District

Seattle-International  District
Pioneered Women and Rotary
People everywhere have heard of “Skid Row.” Pioneer Square in Seattle was the home of the original "Skid Road," the original term, born when timber was slid down Yesler Way to a steam-powered mill on the waterfront.

Seattle's oldest neighborhood, historic Pioneer Square gets its character from the sturdy red brick buildings that have endured boom, bust, renewal and renovation. Through it all, the area has maintained the grace that hints of upper class regency England.

Today, the area is home and neighborhood to many of Seattle's art galleries, eateries and web development companies. It is also the entertainment district of Seattle, and it comes alive when the sun sets across the peninsula in the Pacific Ocean. The historic district becomes entertainment district, with one of the city's liveliest collections of nightspots, from sports bars to hard rock taverns to romantic eateries. Just south of Pioneer Square is the International District, where many former immigrants from the Pacific Rim own thriving businesses that proudly proclaim their multi-cultural heritages.

In 1984, Carl E. Swenson, Governor of District 5030, wanted to start a club in the Pioneer Square-International District area. He asked Lloyd Hara, a member of Seattle4, to be his Special Representative to the new club.

Hara began immediately. He talked to people in the area, and quickly assembled a possible profile. He felt that the club could be highly diversified and multi-ethnic in membership, if it fairly represented the business people in the International District and Pioneer Square.

The chartering members agreed with most all of the provisions from Rotary International to charter a new club except a major one. They voted to change the club charter application, from the standard Rotary charter, by crossing out any reference to membership by males or men.

The Secretariat of Rotary International returned the application unapproved because of the deletion of the male gender clause, and a few other minor elements that were changed to comply with the interests and backgrounds of the proposed members. A debate ensued amongst the prospective members. They argued whether to accept the traditional charter language or fight. Universally, they loved the concept of Rotary, they just had some questions about the way it was being run. Finally, they reached consensus by approving the standard charter language. They decided that they would then submit a resolution to change the by-laws of Rotary International, by admitting women, at the 1986 Council on Legislation.

The prospective club continued to meet provisionally in regular meetings for six months. Finally, on September 18, 1984, the club was chartered. On its charter it was named the Rotary Club of Seattle - International District. The Governor’s Special Representative, Lloyd Hara, became the chartering president. subsequently, he recalled, "We ran the usual luncheon program, but had a higher degree of political and community-related issues. We also visited each other's businesses, somewhat like an open house, in order to get to know each other better." In other words, they took the early words of Paul Harris to heart, and believed in Harris’ model for Rotary.

The new club was very multicultural, and considerably younger than most clubs. The majority of the members were in their 30's and early 40's. Only Hara and one other member had been Rotarians previously. It was a new group of people that were challenged to get involved. It probably was a contributing factor to the effort to permit women members in Rotary.

The board soon formed a Women-in-Rotary committee. It investigated alternatives and studied procedures for amending the Rotary constitution to admit women as full members. When every one of the “Women-in-Rotary “proposed amendments were overwhelmingly defeated at the Council on Legislation in 1986, club members were insulted and irate. They decided not to wait until the next Constitutional convention, but take action on their own, if 100 percent of the membership agreed with their challenge to Rotary International.

  The club’s web site reveals the next part of the story, “On July 31, 1986, the club unanimously voted to admit women. Members such as Bob Hashimoto spoke against discrimination. Because it was believed that admitting only one or two women would create pressure on those individuals, it was decided to admit several women. Ultimately 15 women were proposed and admitted.”

Admission of the original women members occurred on September 4, 1986. They included Kay Blackard, Director of Education at Harborview Medical Center, Cynthia Chirot, Senior Vice-President of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Seattle; Harriet Cody, Attorney-at-law; Reidun Crowley, Customer Programs Administrator of Puget Power; Katherine Fletcher, the Chair of the Puget Sound Water Quality Authority, Patricia Frank, Executive Director of Puget Sound Big Sisters; Canadian Consulate General Executive Jane Hardeson; Carol James, President of Carol James Talent Agency; Ginny McCormac, the Executive Director & President of Goodwill Industries of Seattle; and Sonya Kim, who was Associate Director of the Washington State Dept. of Social Work.

Other initial women members were Assunta Ng, the Publisher of the Seattle Chinese Post; Seattle City Councilmember Dolores Sibonga; Barbara Vanderkolk, President of Barbara Vanderkolk & Associates, Inc.; Sister Charlotte Van Dyke, Director of Corporate Relations of the Sisters of Providence; and Karilyn Van Soest, who was President of Travel Bug, Inc., and who became President of the club on July 1, 1988.

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