Abstract: a short article about the history of women’s involvement with Rotary
Some very significant programs of Rotary service are conducted not by Rotarians but by organizations of Rotarian’s wives and other female relatives associated with Rotary clubs around the world. Generally organized before Rotary clubs admitted women to membership, these groups served, and continue to serve, as a way for spouses of Rotarians to support the Rotary ideal of service and make valuable contributions to their community.
Women’s groups—often called Women of Rotary, Rotary Ann Clubs, Las Damas de Rotary, or more formalized organization, Inner Wheel—annually conduct hundreds of notable projects of humanitarian service. They work with schools, clinics, food and clothing distribution centers, hospital facilities, orphanages, and homes for the elderly. In many instances, the women’s groups complement and supplement the programs of service performed by the local Rotary clubs. Many of the women’s groups actively conduct international as well as local service projects.
In many countries, the wives of Rotarians have been called “Rotary Anns,” a tradition that began at the 1914 Rotary Convention in Houston. On the train ride there, only one Rotarian’s wife was on board. Rotarian passengers identified the woman named Ann, as “the Rotarian’s Ann,” which soon became Rotary Ann, and created a Rotary Ann chant, which soon was taken up at the Houston station when the group discovered another wife named Ann among the greeters. Rotary Ann thus became a term of endearment for Rotary wives.
In 1984, the RI Board of Directors recognized the excellent service and fellowship of the clubs and organization of female relatives of Rotarians and encouraged all Rotary clubs to sponsor such informal organizations.