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Brief histories of the first clubs of each geographic region

Brief histories of the first clubs of each geographic region

Rotary Club of Hamburg, the First Club of Germany

Rotary International District

The First Rotary Club in Germany – Hamburg

The most important events in the history of the 20th century in Germany were the two lost world wars. Their negative consequences could only be surmounted through the help of the United States. This is true for the moderation of the terms of the Versailles treaty through the Dawes and Young-plan and especially for the outstanding help by the Marshall-plan after 1948, which was essential for the West German economy miracle (Wirtschaftswunder) of the fifties and the sixties.

In this context, great importance must be attributed to the idea of Rotary. The movement originated from the United States for the mutual acquaintance of different classifications and the international understanding of all countries with a democratic society. The 75th anniversary of the founding of the first Rotary Club in Hamburg was therefore celebrated with due gratitude in October 2002. The Hamburg Rotarians were delighted, that their city was the first to bridge the divide to the United States through Rotary. In the next 18 month, this epochal initiative was followed by Frankfurt, Cologne, Munich, Stuttgart, Dresden and Berlin.

The city of Hamburg was especially suited for this role as a pacemaker, because most of the business contacts to oversea traditionally were initiated from this biggest German haven. Though in 1918 Germany’s former colonies were lost, it did not take long until successful business relations were taken up again. Many trades people, ship-owners and bankers were involved. Already in the summer of 1922 the Oversea-Club was founded, whose aim of international understanding can be compared with Rotarian principles.

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It is therefore hardly surprising, that the important persons, who founded the Rotary Club of Hamburg, already had positions in the Oversea-Club. The central figure at the beginning of Rotary in Germany, however, was Wilhelm Cuno. As early as 1918 he became general director of the important steamship line HAPAG. In 1922 he was nominated Chancellor of the Reich, but had to resign in 1923 because of a vote of no-confidence by the socialist party. He returned to lead the HAPAG company again. At the age of 51 he was elected as the first president of the Hamburg club for a two year term from 1927 to 1929. He was also the first German to speak at a Rotary world convention. (article at left) In the year 1930 he became the first governor for the by now 27 clubs in Austria and Germany.

The number of members increased from 33 at the foundation to 83 in 1931. Since 1932 the numbers decreased however because of the known political circumstances in connection with the coming to power of the National-Socialist Party (NSDAP). For the National Socialists an international movement was suspicious, especially one led from the United States. Therefore many career-orientated party members and Jewish friends had a reason or were forced to leave the club. When the German Rotary clubs dissolved voluntarily in 1937, the Hamburg club had only 39 members left. Nevertheless these members were the central nucleus of a Rotarian circle of friends during the years of war. In addition, they represented a substantial number of members when the club was readmitted on June, 7th, 1949. Today, the club has 98 members. Its partner clubs are the oldest club in Austria, Vienna, the Marseille club in France, also Hamburg’s twin city, and the Dutch club of Rotterdam, which was very helpful in readmitting the Hamburg club in 1949.

This article is the translation of a part of an article “75 Years Rotary Club Hamburg” published in the German magazine “Der Rotarier” (now “Rotary Magazin”), in September, 2002, written and compiled by Dr. Hellmut Kruse, member of the Rotary Club of Hamburg.


William B. Boyd

President’s Name William B. Boyd
Presidential Year President-Elect 2006-2007
Biography <style=”font-size: 9pt”=””> CLICK HERE</style=”font-size:>
Theme Lead the Way
Home Town Pakuranga, Auckland, NZ
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Convention History

Salt Lake City, Utah, USA

Convention Page

Other Information New Zealand Why I am a Rotarian

When one thinks of organizations that are involved in numerous noble causes worldwide it is impossible to not mention Rotary International. With an existence of more than hundred years, Rotarians continue to work with the same zeal and passion as when the organization was founded.


Rotary believes in service before self and works tirelessly and with great commitment in this direction. It is a perfect platform where members share the responsibility of creating lasting change to make the world better for all. This global network comprises of friends, neighbors, leaders, etc. and all those with a vision to solve the various issues global citizens face today.


Paul Harris was the first President of Rotary International and the duration of his term was from 1910 to 1912. Many able and distinguished members as successors followed him. One name among them was that of William Boyd who served as President from 2006 to 2007. His chosen theme of Lead the Way was a perfect example of a how a leader is an ideal role model for all the other members.


Rotary has more than a million members across the globe and they work on many health and other projects at the same time. One of Rotary’s most important missions in their health initiatives is fighting disease. They have been working to make basic health care available to everyone globally.


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Also see a complete record, for serious scholars, by RGHF senior historian Lyn Kenney

1866 – The Young Women’s Christian Assoc. (YWCA) founded in Boston, MA
Please, also refer to a list of “Other Women’s Milestones” from 1866 to 1920

19 April, Paul Percy Harris is born in Racine, Wisconsin to George H. and Cornelia E. Harris.

Paul becomes a founding member of the Prairie Club of Chicago. On one of the club’s early hikes a beautiful young woman from Edinburgh, Scotland points out a tear in his jacket and offers to fix it. Jean Thomson and Paul Harris were married several months later. The marriage lasts for 37 years until Paul’s death in 1947.

First Rotary convention was held in Chicago, 15-17 August, with sixteen clubs in Rotary. The National Association of Rotary Clubs was formed. Paul Harris was elected president of the Association and served two terms. Chesley R. Perry began 32 years of service as Secretary, then General Secretary of Rotary from 1910-1942.

At the RI Convention in Chicago, some delegates made the first attempt at official sanction of ‘Women’s Auxiliaries. It was rejected overwhelmingly.

July 1912 – Belfast Rotarians vote to refuse membership to women

6-9 August – 50 Clubs meet in Duluth with delegates from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada and the organization becomes “The International Association of Rotary Clubs.” London joins the same year as the 50th club. 5,000 members. Paul Harris is named President emeritus.

At the RI Convention in Duluth, the second attempt at official sanction of ‘Women’s Auxiliaries received a cold shoulder by the 598 delegates.

Also in 1912, Paul bought Jean a large home and they named their home after a road in Edinburgh, “Comely Bank.” There they started their life long friendship garden.

22-26 June and 1,288 Rotarians make the long journey to Houston, TX, USA. Rotarian Henry Brunier of San Francisco and his wife “Ann” boarded a special train for the convention. Since Ann was the only woman on the train for most of the trip, the other Rotarians began calling her “Rotary Ann”. In Houston the Bruniers met Guy and Ann Gundaker of Philadelphia. Soon the name “Rotary Ann” belonged to Guy’s wife as well. The term “Rotary Ann” lasted until the late 1980’s. Gundaker was RIP 1923-24.
Paul Harris’ mother, Cornelia Bryan Harris dies in Denver, Colorado. Paul had spent very little time with his parents who never seemed to be able to keep their family together. It was Paul’s grandfather whose quiet generosity maintained his parents. Paul’s father, George, never very successful in life, is vigilant as his wife’s caretaker at the end of her life.

Club #500 Fremont, Nebr., U.S.A.

24 May 1921 – Mrs. Alwilda F. Harvey, wife of the then Chicago Rotary Club president, stepped into a leadership that brought fifty-nine Rotary wives together at a luncheon in the Sherman House. Then and there Alwilda became founder and president of a new organization, first called the Women of Rotary. She made a good speech, and some of it got into the records. (Neither the men or women of Chicago favoured the RotaryAnn nomenclature.) Mrs Alwilda F Harvey, wife of Club #1’s President went on to say: “Women through the ages have always practiced ‘Service Above Self’ now we have the opportunity to put the slogan into practice in serving our community”. The new movement was chartered in Illinois state as a non-profit corporation on May 22nd 1923.

13 June 1921 – At the International Convention in Edinburgh, Rotary releases a supplement to the 1920 Proceedings written for all members, called the ‘Manual of Procedure.’ It included prohibitions on women as members of Rotary, or women�s clubs that used the Rotary name. It permitted a �Ladies� Auxiliary� for a Rotary club, however.
15 November 1923 – Manchester, England, produced an invitation for Rotary wives to discuss, “Proposed Formation of a Ladies Rotary Club in Manchester” The idea of a women’s Rotary Club was dropped immediately, but, under the leadership of Mrs. Oliver Golding, the wives adopted the title of Inner Wheel.
Paul Harris’ 1928 autobiography “The Founder of Rotary” is published.
November 1928 – Oklahoma City, Club 29 is responsible for the origin of the Rotary Ann auxiliary organization, after it was proposed by OKC Rotarian Virgil Browne’s wife, Maimee Lee.

Paul and Jean Harris travel to Hawaii, Japan, China, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand and Canada attending conferences, planting “Friendship Trees,” and Paul writes a statement of international philosophy from Parramatta, Australia.
Paul Harris writes “This Rotarian Age” and includes his comments on women in business and women and Rotary.

Paul Harris writes his second autobiography, “This Rotarian Age,” this time mostly about the evolution of Rotary in the first 30 years of the organization.
Jean Harris becomes the first Honorary Member of the Inner Wheel Club of Edinburgh.

27 January – After a many years of ill health, Rotary founder Paul Harris dies (see obituary) Following his death Jean experiences a break down.

Paul’s widow, Jean Thomson Harris, alone and childless, sold “Comely Bank” and lived in a Chicago hotel. Until 1955, she was involved in charity and philanthropy.

The Rotary Foundation admits women as Ambassadorial Scholarships recipients.

18-22 June 1950 – The Rotary Club of Ahmedabad, India, proposes Enactment 50-10 to the International Convention in Detroit. It would delete the word MALE from Article III of the Standard Club Constitution. It was overwhelmingly rejected.
Rotary’s Golden Jubilee features a last appearance by Rotary’s “First Lady.” Following the 50th anniversary convention (1955), held in Chicago, Jean Thomson Harris returned to Edinburgh.
First Interact club was formed by Melbourne, Florida U.S.A. Rotary Club. In August of 1962, Jean Harris attends a small reception for the 50th anniversary of RC of Edinburgh. RI president elect Carl P. Miller was in attendance. RC of Edinburgh kept in close touch with Mrs. Harris until her death. The club maintains signs and remembrances to this day.
9 November 1963 – Jean Thomson Harris dies in a Nursing Home in Newington, Edinburgh, the day after her 82nd birthday.

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June 1964 – The agenda of the Council meeting at the RI Convention in Toronto contains an enactment for the admission of women to Rotary clubs. Convention delegates vote that it be withdrawn.

January 1972 – The Rotary Club of Upper Manhattan, New York, USA, proposes an enactment, 72-48, to admit women to Rotary clubs to the Council on Legislation. After laughter and discussion, 72-48 is rejected.

January 1977 – Four enactments are proposed to the Council on Legislation that would essentially permit women members of Rotary, 77-16, 77-75, 77-70 and 77-94. Also proposed by Upper Manhattan, 77-16, which prohibited membership restrictions based on sex, was rejected. The other three were subsequently withdrawn. The Rotary Club of Fortaleza, Ceara, Brazil, in 77-35, proposed to allow women to become honorary members. It also was rejected.

1 June 1977 – Duarte held its 25th Anniversary Celebration and introduced the three women, Mary Lou Elliott, Donna Bogart and Rosemary Freitag, as members.

February 1978 – Rotary International first revokes the charter of the Duarte club. The club requests a hearing. The Board then tells Duarte that it must remove women members.

27 March 1978 – Rotary International Board of Directors officially revokes the Charter of the Duarte club. Duarte decides to continue to meet as a quasi-Rotary Club. An X was placed over the Rotary insignia, new pins were made, and the club was called: The Ex-Rotary Club of Duarte.

June 1978 – The Rotary Club of Duarte, California, files suit in Los Angeles Superior Court.

1983 – The Duarte case finally goes to trial in. California State Judge Max Deutz refuses to reinstate the club. The Duarte club immediately appeals the decision.

1984, Carl E. Swenson, Governor of District 5030, appoints Lloyd Hara as Governor�s Special Representative to a new club in the Pioneer Square and International District area of Seattle.

18 September 1984 – The Seattle-ID club was chartered with Lloyd Hara the president.

1986 – The California State Appeals Court reverses Judge Deutz, stating that Rotary Clubs are business establishments subject to regulation under the state’s Unruh Act, which bans discrimination based on race, gender, religion or ethnic origin. Rotary International immediately appeals the case to the California Supreme Court, who refuses to hear the case.

1986 – Rotary International appeals the decision to the U. S. Supreme Court.

31 July 1986 – The Seattle-International District club unanimously votes to admit women.

4 September 1986 – The Seattle-International District club admits 15 women.

15 September 1986 – the Seattle-ID club hires Margaret McKeown as counsel, files a suit and seeks an injunction against RI, and announces its admission of 15 women.
January 1987 – The Seattle-International District club files an Amicus brief in the Duarte case.

February 1987 – California PETs includes 310 men and one woman, Sylvia Whitlock.

4 May 1987 – The United States Supreme Court affirmed the 1986 ruling of the Court of Appeals of California in a 7 – 0 opinion.

1 July 1987 – Sylvia Whitlock begins term as the first woman club president of RI and Duarte, California.
1988 – The Rotary International Board recognized the right of Rotary clubs in Canada to admit women.
June 1988 – Duarte President Sylvia Whitlock and Seattle-ID President-Elect Karilyn van Soest attend the International Convention in Philadelphia.
1 July 1988 – Karilyn van Soest begins term as second woman club president of RI and president of Seattle-ID club.
February Helen Reisler becomes first woman member of The Rotary Club of New York
January 1989 – Council on Legislation votes to change Constitution and Bylaws of Rotary to admit women.

1 July 1989 – Council on Legislation changes take effect, and women are officially welcomed in Rotary

1 July 1995 – Eight women take office as District Governors. They include Mimi Altman, RC of Deerfield, IL, Dist. 6440; Gilda Chirafisi, RC of Riverdale, NY, Dist. 7230; Janet W. Holland, RC of Mineral Wells, TX, Dist 5790; Reba F. Lovrien, RC of Albuquerque Del Norte, NM, Dist. 5520; Virginia B. Nordby, RC of Ann Arbor North, MI, Dist. 6380; Donna J. Rapp, RC of Midland Morning, MI, Dist. 6310; Anne Robertson, RC of Fulton, KY, Dist. 6710; and Olive P. Scott, RC of Cobleskill, NY, Dist. 7190.

1 July 1997 – PDG Gilda Chirafisi, District 7230, begins second term as woman club president of the RC of Riverdale, NY, the first woman in RI to serve as president twice.

January 1998 – PDG Virginia B. Nordby becomes the first woman delegate to the Council on Legislation that met in New Delhi, India.

June 1998 – Rotary International presents its highest honor, the Rotary Award for World Understanding (RAWU), to Dr. Catherine Hamlin.

1 July 2001 – Sylvia Whitlock, District 5030, begins second term as woman club president of the Duarte club, the second woman in RI to serve as president twice.

July Helen Reisler becomes first woman President of the Rotary Club of New York In the club’s 92 year history, after sitting on the Board of Directors for 10 years. September 2001 Helen Reisler becomes the first Rotary Club President, in the United States, to address the challenge of a terrorist attack in her own city, successfully coordinating emergency and relief efforts for victims and first responders

1 July 2005, Carolyn E. Jones, PDG District 5010, Alaska, USA becomes the first woman trustee of The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International

1 July 2008, Catherine Noyer-Riveau, of Paris, France, Zone 11, elected to serve as the first woman on the Rotary International board.

There are 187,967 female Rotarians worldwide. Sixty-three serve as district governors.

More than 199,000 women are members of Rotary clubs worldwide, with an increasing number serving as district governors.


Elizabeth S. Demaray begins her term as treasurer, the first woman to serve in this position.

Anne L. Matthews begins her term as the first woman to serve as RI vice president. 2013-15: Celia De Giay from Argentina and Mary Ann Growney-Selene from Wisconsin became Directors

Going back in history, looking at the timeline, one realizes how much women have been a part of Rotary, just like the men. It is not just for the recreational fellowships but women have also been an active part of the projects carried out in Rotary. Most have them have been truly commited and have not given any excuses to miss the meetings or projects. even if one was hit badly with a stomach parasite, they have been known to use Detoxic and get back on track with their Rotary activities.