Rotary’s relationship with women has not always been comfortable.
Until 1989, the Constitution and Bylaws of Rotary International stated that Rotary club membership was for males only. In 1978 the Rotary Club of Duarte, California, invited three women to become members. The RI board withdrew the charter of that club for violation of the RI Constitution. The club brought a legal suit against RI, claiming a violation of a state civil rights law. RC Duarte lost the case initially, went to appeal, then to the Supreme Court and after years battling in the court rooms, they finally won. This action in 1987 allowed women to become Rotarians in any jurisdiction having similar “public accommodation” statutes.
The RI constitutional change was not made until 1989, when the Council on Legislation finally voted to eliminate the “male only” provision for all of Rotary. Today, interesting enough, the dearest wish of Rotary is to substantially increase the membership of women.
In 2007, it was once again, another Rotary Club in California that began chartering a Rotary Fellowship for Singles. Details please see RSFI.