Every now and then, a speaker with anticipated normality (after all, is the subject of admitting women to Rotary so interesting?) arrives with a fascinating tidbit of historical importance. Such was the case when PP Peter More asked and introduced Sanford Smith to address our Club today.
On a zoom call from his home in Glen Ellen, CA (wine country) Mr. Smith, a retired lawyer by trade, led us on a legal journey of a small Rotary club of 15 members in Duarte (just east of Pasadena) which had three women members was told by Rotary International to discharge the women or face expulsion from RI. This was in the mid-1970’s when the District Governor (from Mississippi) and RI had the mindset of “men only” in attitude and policy. Not only was the Duarte Club an exception but also dared to have several black members. Thus, the Duarte Club’s membership in RI was terminated in March 1978.
Sanford Smith was called upon to take up the banner of equality to legally fight the injustice of gender discrimination in the RI Constitution. The basis of the Duarte case was that women in general were entering the professions and the Duarte Club followed the operational direction and procedures as spelled out by Rotary. By weaving his way through the courts, and with the assistance of the ACLU in defending the three women, Sanford eventually brought the case to the California Supreme Court, where a decision came down in support of the Duarte Club to admit women. On appeal, the case was remanded to the United States Supreme Court. Interestingly, Sanford pointed out the case was heard before only 7 of the 9 Supreme Court justices. You see, 2 of the justices had to recuse themselves as they were members of Rotary.
It had been 10 years through the court system, but now it was in the hands of the U. S. Supreme Court. The decision would be final. Sanford was not sure, but he thought the way the country was headed he believed the Supreme Court would support the case for women participation in Rotary. He was correct. The decision was unanimous.
The Duarte Club took their Rotary service seriously and had always acted accordingly. Thus, RI readmitted Duarte members. In 1989, the RI Council on legislation voted to eliminate the requirement in the RI Constitution that membership in Rotary clubs be limited to men. Thank you, Sanford, for your dedication to the Rotary words of wisdom “is it fair to all concerned” and Peter, for bringing Sanford to our Club.
After opening the meeting right on time, President Steve Day introduced a visiting Rotarian from the Reno Rotary Club and Past RI Director, Vicki Puliz, who incidentally will be next week’s speaker at Hillel. She recited the Four Way Test. Steve also thanked Jim Crane (pledge), Chris Gaynor (Thought of the Day), and Ed Gauld (song – Three Blind Mice, a reference to the Mouse that Roared, Sanford Smith).
In absentia, President Steve awarded a ‘Above and Beyond” pin to PP Marsha Hunt. Congratulations Marsha – well deserved.
President Steve closed the meeting with a quote from actress Marlee Martin - “I live my life like everyone else; everyone has their own obstacles. Mine is deafness.”