Women in Rotary

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By Julie Pingston

The Rotary Club of Lansing celebrates its 100th year of serving the community on May 29, 2016. The Club is marking the milestone in many ways, including a signature service project with the creation of a two-story water room at Impression 5
Science Center.

Each day, Rotarians strive to put “Service Above Self” in all matters, while contributing in positive ways in the community and throughout the world. The positive impacts made by the Rotary Club of Lansing go all the way back to the Club’s formation in 1916.

However, it is only in more recent history that Rotary admitted women as members to the Club.

There were individual clubs around the country who advocated for the admission of women and in 1987, the United States Supreme Court ruled that Rotary Clubs may not exclude women from membership on the basis of their gender.

The Rotary Club of Lansing responded quickly, inviting Sue Tadgerson, a Sparrow Hospital nursing administrator, to become its first female member. Officially joining in April 1988, Tadgerson admitted it took some “arm twisting” for her to accept when approached about her membership. Describing herself as being a “rather shy and bashful introvert,” she said she didn’t think she would be the right person to pursue membership as a female. She joined and was quickly followed by Barbara Andersen. A clinical psychologist, Andersen remembered how she would often feel like the “doe who crashed the hunters’ ball” during her first few months of membership.

Others followed, and soon women began playing key roles in Lansing Rotary. Helen Pratt Mickens, for example, became the Rotary Club of Lansing’s first woman president in 1994.

The New York Times noted the rapid increase of women in service clubs and published an article about women’s contributions and specifically mentioned Lansing Rotarian Kelly Rossman-McKinney.

“Many women joined the Rotary on the basic premise of developing a positive role for women and enhancing the public image of women in the Lansing community,” Rossman-McKinney said.

In reflecting as one of the first five female Rotarians in the Lansing Club, Rossman-McKinney said there were times it was difficult, however, “the camaraderie of Rotarians is an experience in and of itself.”

Rotarians would agree that the entry of women into Rotary brought not just new members but more of the enthusiasm, commitment and sense of camaraderie that Rotarians enjoy.

As the Rotary Club of Lansing celebrates its rich 100-year history in the community, the number of women members in the Club and in leadership positions continues to grow.


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