Throughout history, women have broken through barriers and fought against the odds to stand out as a gender. This is a universal trend and the Rotary Club was no different. The first ever Rotary club was created in Chicago on February 23rd, 1905. By 1921, the club's popularity had risen and there were Rotary clubs spread throughout six continents. What started as a club meant to help the members' social and professional interests soon changed, as the clubs decided to pool their resources and started projects to help people in need around the globe. This was the start of the Rotary Club we know today.

     The club was a men's only club and remained this way for many years. It wasn't until 1989 that the club finally allowed women to become members. It seems, in this day in age, almost ludicrous that it took a good eighty-four years for women to break into this stupendous organization. Yet that was and still sometimes is the difficultly for the women of this world. Since opening its doors to women, the Rotary Club boasts to having at least 145,000 female members.

     When I was approached about writing an article for the Rotary, I was excited to look at the topic as a feminist, showing how women fought against all odds to break into the club and make a huge difference within the organization. Yet, as I researched the history and interviewed members of the Rotary Club, I found myself increasingly surprised about how truly accepting the men of the club were and how the little resistance to women joining faded quickly.  

     The Rotary club in our sweet little town of Cobourg, Ontario was another club that, in the beginning, was not too sure what to make of their new female members. There were those who opposed opening the club up. One of the interviewees, a previous president of the Rotary Club, Gael Moore said, "They didn't really know what to make of us." She also said that when she first became president of the Cobourg club, the men were overly polite, afraid to make some of their jokes or offend her. The same was said by Joan Chalovich, who was one of the first three female members of the Rotary club. The other two to join with her were Frankie Liberty and Barbra Philips. Mrs. Chalvoich went on to become Cobourg's first female mayor. It just goes to show how much we as women have progressed.

Gael Moore speaks fondly of the Rotary Club, saying she misses the people and meetings when she is unable to attend them. She says that it really does become a social activity that the members become invested in. Joan also speaks highly of her first days with the Rotary club and has proudly been a member for 20 great years. "It is an honour to be part of the Rotary club." She said. "It is really worthwhile." Although Mrs. Chalovich said she didn't face much of an opposition going for mayor because she was a woman, she did say that there were those who opposed her because she did not live in Cobourg. Otherwise she said that everyone was as nice as the members of the club have been.

     Since women infiltrated the club, they have been taking huge steps at making their presence known. When asked about how women are stepping out in the Rotary, Mrs Chalovich said that, "women are particularly good at building alliances," and stated that maybe that is because women had to learn how to balance their commitment both in and out of the home. Gael Moore even went so far as to become the first female president of Cobourg's Rotary club.

     This might not seem like a feat to some, but when one considers the eighty-four year fight women had to even join the club, one must applaud such a tremendous accomplishment. Women now, not only join the club as regularly as men do but they head up departments, they run activities, they help out in the community, they become club presidents and mayors of cities and so on and so forth. Each and everyday, women are stepping out and climbing higher and higher, just reaching for the stars. And as a gender, we have proven that we have the potential to get there.

By Olivia Frederick - CDCI West student