It’s been said that “necessity is the mother of invention” yet often when a movement for social cause breaks new ground it is accomplished in the spirit of equality or fairness. Think Women’s Suffrage or the Civil Rights Movement and scores of stories of heroism and self-sacrifice come to mind.
Remembering when women broke down the “Boys Club” door of men-only Lions Clubs back in the 1980’s, I wonder, did you know that it was Portland’s Lloyd Lions Club that first welcomed women to their ranks? Did you ever wonder if the Lloyd Lions were inspired by female protesters, did they succumb to local protests and rallies by members of the fairer sex?
“Well, it really came down to a numbers issue” says Portland Lloyd Lion Morgan Dickerson. “We simply needed the members to stay active.”
Still, being the first Lions Club in the world to admit women didn’t come without a fight. For admitting women into their Lions Club, Lions Clubs International (LCI) voted unanimously in 1981 to cancel the charter of the Lloyd Lions Club at their annual meeting in Taiwan. The Lloyd Lions appealed the decision and eventually won the right to admit women by taking the case all the way to the Oregon Supreme Court. That decision paved the way for women to join Lions Clubs throughout Oregon and eventually the world.
One of the original women that joined the Lloyd Lions in the early 80’s is still a member today. Helen Honse – then Helen Greenough – had traveled as a college student to Africa as part of an effort to promote better understanding between Americans and Africans, remembers the situation this way:
“When we came back to the States, part of our obligation was to speak to 50 different service groups. That is how I got introduced to the Lions as well as the Kiwanis, and Rotary. So when [I was] invited to join, I remember remarking…that I didn’t think the Lions took women. I only found out differently once I got to the meeting! I wouldn’t have accepted the invitation if I didn’t believe in the mission. But then when I heard what the actual situation was, I decided it was the right thing to do to go ahead and join even though a fight was looming.”
According to Morgan – who continues to be very active in the Lloyd Lions – even though the fight was on with LCI, admitting women wasn’t very controversial in his own Club. “All of our members were open to women joining. The culture of our club did change a bit, and it allowed us to do more good. If you look at Lions Clubs today, there are some Clubs that are almost entirely women. It [allowing women to join] helped us, but it literally saved others Lions Clubs.”
Not only did admitting women into Lions save many clubs, it preserved the level of service in those communities. It’s hard to imagine what some Lions Clubs in Oregon would be like without their women members, and thanks to people like Helen and Morgan, we don’t have to.
Doug will continue to share more information and stories of women joining Lions in his future blogs. If you have a story you’d like to share with Doug, please contact him at Dougt@olshf.org or phone him at (503) 413-8385.