Posted by Graeme Leith

Women in Rotary, like water on stone, it took a long time. 

June Mills gave us an eye opening talk on the long and slow progress to admit women into Rotary Clubs around the world. First credit goes to the Rotary Club in India, for its 1950 proposal to delete ‘male’ from the Rotary Constitution. In 1964 Rotary Ceylon also tried, and then in 1972 the US was not successful. 

In 1977 three unsuccessful proposals are made to the Rotary Convention. However the Rotary Club of Duarte, acts on its own and admits women. Its membership of Rotary International is terminated in March 1978. In 1983 the California Court upholds the decision, but in 1986 the decision is reversed. This is appealed in the US Supreme Court and on 4th May 1987 it decides Rotary cannot exclude women on the basis of gender. By June 1990 there are 20,200 female Rotarians worldwide. 

June joined on 7th Sept 1995 and she with Astrid Winfur, were the first women into our club, from a decision made by Pres. Stuart Heal, and invited to join by member John Heslop. John and his wife Barbara, had many debates on the subject of women’s possible rotary membership, sometimes with June listening. 

It seems that other Rotary clubs had been somewhat sceptical that Dunedin would ever invite women, but history has shown that significant progress has been made, and the Dunedin and all Rotary clubs, are all the better, for those who took the first steps.