the Women and Rotary Site


Most of the Jean Harris history, a portion of the Rotary Anns story, and some of the Inner Wheel past has been written previously. The rest of this information has been compiled and written from personal interviews, diaries, RI board records, district and club documents, and as first-person accounts by many of the participants. It is anecdotal in nature. Many of the pieces are collaborative, as the information is not contained in any one location, such as the archives at Rotary International.

As Rotary International had never planned on admitting women, the Secretariat had never set out to retain information on them, except where the subject was officially discussed. Not until the U.S. Supreme Court decision on 4 May 1987, did RI actually believe that they would have to admit women. And that was grudgingly. Yet, had the Belfast club, in July of 1912, voted to admit women, this entire area of Rotary Global History might not have been necessary.

Since much of this material has just happened, in historical terms, that history is still being written. And, since Rotary International has not yet had a woman serve as either President of Rotary International or as a member of the Board of Directors (a requisite for becoming President), some of this history has not yet occurred.

So, aside from future events, why is so much of this history still unrecorded? Here is what the RI Secretariat has to say about collecting information about women members, “When an individual becomes a Rotarian, information on that person is sent to Rotary International in order for us to send the new member our magazine ‘The Rotarian.’ The question of gender is not asked nor needed. Consequently, we have no statistics, nor names, to offer you regarding the first women Rotarians.”

The addition of women in Rotary represent the single greatest force in the growth of Rotary International since the chartering of Winnipeg, Stuart Morrow and RIBI, the exploits of Ralston and Davidson, and the founding of Havana and Madrid by Angel Cuesta.

Doug Rudman

For a further explanation of this portion of Rotary Global History, see the Timeline on Women and Rotary