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The RGHF audio/video project
directed by Marlyn Marie Kenney
Marlyn Marie KenneyI have always enjoyed all aspects of history, so it wasn't surprising that in early 2010 my interest grew in the direction of learning more about the history of Women and Rotary. I had heard many presentations by RIP 1992/93 Cliff Dochterman on the History of Rotary while living in California, but little about women and Rotary. I researched online and spoke with many individuals involved with history such as Doug Rudman, Jack M. B. Selway, Sandra Myers, Basil Lewis, Sandra Duck  worth and numerous club historians  in Duarte, Minneapolis, Duluth and Seattle.

PDG Sandra Duckworth had done a PowerPoint presentation back in 2008 titled the Mouse that Roared  for a District 7620 Conference and got much of the information from the Rotary Global History Fellowship internet sight. The slides and the script enabled me to expand on that history as well as update the PowerPoint presentation in time for the 25th Anniversary of Women and Rotary in 2012.

While working on the presentation, it occurred to me that a video of the first woman president of a Rotary club as well as the first women District Governors would add greatly to the collection of history. Please note, this was coming from a total amateur who mostly video taped grandkids. A passion for history and meeting these trailblazing women took charge. I also added all first women Trustees of RI/TRF and first women Directors. My vision was far reaching but the logistics proved to be difficult.

A framed copy of information on the first women DG’s in Rotary. This belongs to Anne Robertson of Fulton, KY.I first contacted Sylvia Whitlock and the first women DG's from 1995 (Gilda Chirafisi, Reba Lovrien,Virginia Nordby, Anne Robertson, Olive Scott and Janet Holland). My online search indicated that Donna Rapp was deceased. Imagine my surprise when I found her alive and kicking! She also happens to be the youngest member of the group. Mimi Altman was the 8th DG and she was deceased. I obtained information about her daughter, an active Rotarian also named Mimi Altman, and I was able to include her in my project.

My plan was to meet up with Sylvia, Gilda and Janet at the RI Convention in New Orleans in May, 2012. I was able to interview and develop a script with all three of them and video Sylvia, but the space for the video taping at the Convention Center proved inadequate.

Sylvia Whitlock and Lyn Kenney at the District 7750 Conference in Hilton Head on March 3, 2012The next plan was to try to bring all the women together for what might be called a reunion. The venue was the District 7750 Convention being held at Hilton Head in March of 2012 with an emphasis on the History of Women and Rotary for the 25th Anniversary of women in Rotary. Sylvia was a keynote speaker and 5 of the 7 women DGs attended and made up a panel discussion. All were presented with awards by District Governor Gary Goforth to acknowledge their achievements within Rotary. A hospitality suite was provided for the women to visit and to prepare scripts for the video taping. Del Hickey, Aiken Rotary, SC, assisted with the room and the panel discussion. A video tape of Sylvias keynote and the panel discussion was made at the Conference. That left two past DGs and all the Trustees and Directors to complete the project.

Lyn Kenney interviewing Sylvia Whitlock at the RI Convention in New Orleans in May, 2012I contacted the Trustees and Directors but only heard back from two of them. Their schedules were extremely busy and it was difficult to coordinate a meeting. I also contacted Nan McCreadie in Great Britain (president in 2013/14 of RIBI) and arranged to meet her at the RI General Assembly in San Diego in 2013. I was in hopes of doing many of the women at this event, but it did not work out so I cancelled my trip. In the meantime, one of the past DG's I interviewed advised me that it would be better to video tape them after they completed their years in office. It was easier to be open and candid after the fact. I decided that may be true and decided to skip the Trustees and Directors. It is with great sorrow that I missed Betsy Demaray, Director and first woman RI Treasurer, now deceased, as we did try to coordinate a meeting. (There is a ten minute video of Betsy Demaray, on her page, speaking from the US White House. 

Mimi Altman, daughter of one of the first women DG’s (Mimi Altman). Interview and video taping took place in Wisconsin in Sept. of 2012.That left two past DG's plus Mimi Altman, the daughter. Mimi drove up from Chicago and we met in Racine, Wisconsin in the summer of 2012 and did her video taping at the home of a friend. Since she was hauled to Rotary District Conferences as a baby through the growing up years and is currently an active Rotarian, she may hold the record (by age) for attendance. In the video, she shares that her grandfather was good friends of Paul Harris and her mother was bounced on his knee more than once. 

While in Wisconsin, I video taped Pat Jenkins, Executive Director of the Madison Downtown Club of 550 members. She had been in this position for a number of years then became a member when women were allowed in Rotary. She is still the Executive Director of the club. I also interviewed and planned to tape what I thought might be the first couple in the same Rotary Club, again in the Madison Club, Judge Andrea Bartell and Jeff Bartell. She joined as one of the first women in the club right after the Supreme Court decision and her husband had been a member for years. I am yet to do the video as I don't know if they are the ‘first'. I drove to Ann Arbor, Michigan in September of 2012 and video taped Virginia Nordby, then in November I met Anne Robertson in Nashville, Tennessee.

Then came the task of editing. That was completed in January of 2013 with the assistance of my brother, Art Farwell and sent along with release forms to Jack Selway at RGHF. The PowerPoint presentation is currently being updated to reflect changes in Directors and will require future updating as women are selected for positions at RI. The PowerPoint does not lend itself well to be put online at RGHF, but a summary will appear on the sight and is available for presentations.

So, this labor of love has come to a close, at least temporarily. I am still in hopes of video taping the women Trustees and the Directors and Nan McCreadie of RIBI at some time in the future. My appreciation goes out to the many Rotarians that assisted me in this project and the Rotary Women that have touched my life forever.
Historic Videos of Women and Rotary
Sylvia Whitlock  (interview): Sylvia was the first woman president of a Rotary Club (The Duarte Rotary Club of California) in 1987.  She was the only woman to attend PETS as a President-elect prior to the Supreme court decision on May 4, 1987.  She served as a DG from 2012-2013 in District #5300 including southern California and southern Nevada.

Sylvia Whitlock (speech):  Sylvia presents at a District 7750 Conference in Hilton Head on March 3, 2012 and provides insight into her first woman president experience.
Gilda Chirafisi (interview):  Gilda was one of eight first women Rotary District Governors in 1995 in District 7230 in New York including Westchester County, the Bronx, Manhattan, Staten Island and Bermuda. Reba Lovrien (interview):  Reba was one of the first women Rotary District Governors in 1995 in District 5520 in New Mexico and part of West Texas.
Donna Rapp (interview):  Donna was one of the first women Rotary District Governors in 1995 in District 6310 in east central Michigan. Virginia Nordby (interview):  Virginia was one of the first women Rotary District Governors in 1995 in District 6380 including clubs in both Michigan and Canada.
Anne Robertson (interview):  Anne was one of the first women Rotary District Governors in 1995 in District 6710 covering the western half of Kentucky. Janet Holland (interview):  Janet was one of the first women Rotary District Governors in 1995 in District 5790 covering North Central Texas.
Olive Scott (interview):  Olive was one of the first women Rotary District Governors in 1995 in District 7190 in rural upstate New York. Mimi Altman (interview):  Mimi was one of the first women Rotary District Governors in 1995 in District 6440, "The Home District", in northeastern Illinois. Since Mimi is deceased,this interview is with her daughter, Mimi Altman, an active Rotarian from Lake Zurich, Illinois.
Panel Discussion:  This panel of 5 of the first women District Governors (Reba Lovrien, Janet Holland, Olive Scott, Donna Rapp and Gilda Chirafisi) along with Sylvia Whitlock, were taped at the District 7750 Conference in Hilton Head on March 3, 2012.  It was moderated by Del Hickey from the Rotary Club of Aiken, SC.
Marlyn (Lyn)  Kenney:

Lyn grew up in a Navy family where her father was a pilot serving in two wars. She attended high school in Japan, the University of Florida for undergraduate school and the University of Wisconsin-Madison for graduate school. She worked as Director of Rehabilitation Therapy for the State Mental Hospital in Wisconsin, then went back to school and switched to a career in business. Lyn worked as Marketing Manager for Wisconsin State Correctional Industries, then in the private sector for several years, and finally returning to the state as Marketing Manager for the Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources. Lyn then decided to retire to follow her husband's career, living in Florida, California and currently South Carolina. As an active volunteer, Lyn served in multiple roles with the Salvation Army Emergency Response team in California, including a two week assignment to New York City supporting 9-11 emergency efforts. Lyn and her husband have one married son and two grandchildren. She loves cooking, travel, reading, football (yes, she is a Cheesehead) and wind surfing.
Lyn has been active in Rotary for 25 years starting at the Madison, Wisconsin downtown Rotary Club with 450 members (now 550). After moving from Wisconsin, she joined five different Rotary Clubs including Concord, CA where she was President from  2003 to 2004. She has served in multiple club and district roles, including Assistant Governor in SC from 2009 to 2011. Lyn is a multiple Paul Harris Fellow and a Benefactor. Her Rotary passions include International projects and history. In addition to a PowerPoint presentation titled "The Mouse that Roared" on the history of Women and Rotary dating back to 1910 developed in coordination with PDG Sandra Duckworth, Lyn recently completed an extensive historical documentation project to video record her interviews of the first woman club president and the first women DG's in Rotary.   


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