Women and Rotary, why bring it up? It’s always been this way, hasn’t it. The answer is no. Women have been included as members of Rotary since 1987. Go back in time to 1983 or 84 and there might have been women walking into the House of Friendship, but you would know she wasn’t a Rotarian. She might be a Rotary Ann or a spouse of a Rotarian.
Today, approximately 20% of Rotarians are women.
Complete song, with lyrics in various language: (Rotarian Women) - (로타리안 여자) -(donne Rotariane) - (Mujeres Rotarias) An award winning Canadian singer/songwriter, Helen Austin, has given permission for RGHF to feature this wonderful song, celebrating 25 years of Women and Rotary (2012) Why was Jean Thomson Harris included in the section about Women and Rotary? She had never been a Rotarian! What value is her information to RGHF today? 2012 will be the 25th anniversary of the Supreme Court's ruling that culminated in changes to the Rotary International Constitution allowing women to join as of 1 July 1989. Having been a newspaper reporter, for ten years, I was disappointed to find that there was history, but in the form of time-lines and fact sheets. Not many documents written by, or about all those remarkable pioneer women that set the world on fire nearly 25 years ago existed. There are, however, many articles about women who were involved in Rotary, going back to the very beginning.
The search left me a little like the proverbial cup of tea, half-full. I longed for the full cup of tea. I not only wanted to know more about the First Lady of Rotary, Jean Thomson Harris, but I also wanted to read the stories of all the other trailblazers like Sylvia Whitlock, the first woman president of a Rotary Club, whose story is told in this section. I also wanted to read the stories of the first eight women district governors who were installed all in one day and I found them here at www.jeanharris.org What did they learn from their new roles? What could we learn from them if we were a district governor? Past District Governor Mimi Altman District 6440, who served from 1995-1996 in the very district her father had served as District Governor 80 years prior, said “Women have proven their capabilities as Rotarians, as club presidents and district governors. Their leadership qualities have been demonstrated at the club and district levels, the future will see them rise to the greatest heights of Rotary,” and her story and even a video are online here.
It’s true the history of Women and Rotary is still being written. Yes, there are limited statistics and names to research, but why is so much of this history still unrecorded?
"Woman's influence in Rotary will be like the scented flame of the alabaster lamp, filling the organization with the light of their benign influence, and warmth of their charming cordiality." The Rotarian Magazine, May 1913,
(3rd president of Rotary, 1913/14)