At Rotary’s first convention and, again in 1912, official sanction was given to establish Women’s Auxiliaries. However, there was little progress and in 1918 the
Board of Directors decided that it would not recognize Auxiliary Groups.
In, Chicago nothing happened until May 24th 1921 when 59 Rotarians wives met for lunch at the Sherman Hotel and created a new organization called the Women of Rotary. (Neither the men or women of Chicago favored the Rotary Ann nomenclature.) Mrs Alwilda F Harvey, wife of Club #1’s President was leader of this new organization. She 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.
Rotary International’s Board of Directors however refused to move from their 1918 position and objected, in addition, to the word Rotary being used by the Chicago ladies. The name was soon expanded to its logical conclusion – The Women of the Rotary Club of Chicago.
The Chicago Rotary Club allowed Mrs Harvey to contribute for ‘The Gyrator’ by describing her organizations work. The ladies had organized a dinner dance in February 1922. This drew the largest attendance of any Rotary social event at that time.
As time went on, the ladies were successful in their own right in contributing to Service within their community. For example, the club started a fund for the blind which would eventually become known as the Women of Rotary Blind Foundation worth many thousands of dollars.
The success of the Chicago Ladies is best summed up by noting a comment of one Chicago Rotarian and husband. We have got to get up and “promote” ourselves or by 1970 our club will be known as the Men’s Auxiliary.