The year 1987 is usually referenced as when women were first able to join Rotary, based on the date of the Supreme Court decision that determined it was unconstitutional to exclude women from Rotary Club membership in the United States.  But it wasn’t until 1989 when the Council on Legislation made it official women could not be excluded from clubs in other countries.
 
However, did you know that women actually were members of Rotary Clubs long before that time?  In fact, women have been members of Rotary Clubs since at least 1911. In that year two women’s Rotary Clubs were chartered: The Duluth Women’s Rotary Club and the Women’s Rotary Club of Minneapolis.
 
In the early days of Rotary, the organization was less formally structured, and the inclusion of women, though rare, was not specifically prohibited.  It was assumed that only men would join Rotary.  Later, as the organization formalized its structure and executed governance documents, women were excluded officially.
 
Undeterred, professional women did charter Rotary Clubs.  In later years, they requested formal recognition by Rotary but were denied.  Yet, they continued to exist and flourish, and while Rotary International did not formally recognize them, nearly all other civic and governmental organizations did. 
 
The Duluth Women’s Rotary Club ceased meeting when World War I started in 1917.  But the Women’s Rotary Club of Minneapolis remains in existence and next year will celebrate 110 years of service.
 
Check out their history from this link: Womens Rotary Club of Minneapolis
 
Above, the Women’s Rotary Club of Minneapolis celebrates its 50th anniversary in 1961.