On May 4, 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Rotary clubs may not exclude women from membership on the basis of gender. Rotary issued a policy statement that any Rotary club in the United States can admit qualified women into membership. The Rotary Club of Marin Sunrise, California (formerly Larkspur Landing), was chartered on May 28 of that year. It becomes the first club after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling to have women as charter members. Sylvia Whitlock, of the Rotary Club of Duarte, California, became the first female Rotary club president.
The 1989 Council on Legislation vote to admit women into Rotary clubs worldwide remains a watershed moment in the history of Rotary. The vote followed the decades-long efforts of men and women from all over the Rotary world to allow for the admission of women into Rotary clubs, and several close votes at previous Council meetings.
The response to the decision was overwhelming: By 1990, the number of female Rotarians had skyrocketed to over 20,000.
Women have served in leadership positions as high as the RI Board of Directors and The Rotary Foundation Board of Trustees. In June 2011, there were 197,044 female Rotarians worldwide, and 91 women were district governors that year.
Posted by Dr. Laura Hills, President Rotary Club of Fairfax