Women in the Arlington Rotary Club
I have a story for the club’s Centennial archive about our Rotary Club’s then president, Dwight Miller’s 1987 announcement to the club that Rotary would soon begin admitting women. A brief summary: Most people thought that Rotary and Rotarians were sexist for refusing to admit women until 1987. However, it was not the Rotarians who opposed this. (Most were fine with it.) It was their wives. The thought of Rotarians having lunch each week with young, attractive businesswomen was just too much for some of the Women of Rotary (an auxiliary organization at the time). Nothing good could come from such a circumstance, many thought.
Dwight’s wife, Syble, was a good example. She was normally a very shy, very deferential woman. Although she often accompanied Dwight to Rotary meetings (where he introduced her as his “Rotary Ann”) she rarely said more than hello, nice to see or meet you and goodbye. Dwight was in his 80s and he and Syble had only been married since 1973, so some Rotarians thought that she was supervising him. (She was only 67.) In any event, Syble would never have dreamed of disagreeing with Dwight in public. However, she very much opposed Rotary International’s decision to admit women. Dwight tried several times to announce this development to the club. However, each time he began she would redden, mutter under her breath and begin what for all appearances might have been an angry fit of screaming. Each time Dwight interrupted himself, went on to something else and did his best to comfort Syble. Soon, however, we all knew that something was up and that sooner or later Dwight would have to tell us. Some of us had also begun experimenting with this new thing called the internet and had discovered that there was news not normally reported in the local newspapers. And those of us who kept up with decisions of the United States Supreme Court (which were regularly read by the lawyers in the club) knew that that court had handed down a decision that would likely impact Rotary’s refusal to admit women.
In any event, during his third try in as many weeks, Dwight finally screwed up his courage to the point where he was able to report to the club that Rotary would soon begin admitting women. This was too much for poor Syble, who virtually exploded. But, to her credit, she was able to keep relative control herself. Red-faced, she said merely “of all the nerve…” Despite many predictions, the club survived.