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Admit Women? Rotarians in a Spin

May 31, 1987|SUE AVERY | Times Staff Writer

The president of the Rotary Club of Monrovia would just as soon belong to an organization that is restricted to men.

But the man who is about to replace him as president wants women to join the 80-member club.

Such diverse opinions are common these days in the 31 Rotary clubs in the San Gabriel Valley.

While everyone agrees that the precedent-setting acceptance of women by the Duarte club--a move recently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court--changes things, not everyone is happy about it.

Mixed Emotions

"In my business I have had to accept a lot of laws," said Brad Posey, president of the Glendora club and the city's police chief. Although Posey said he has mixed emotions about women joining the club, most clubs apparently are getting used to the idea.

The San Gabriel Valley's largest Rotary Club, in Pasadena, and one of the smallest, in Rosemead, are aggressively seeking women members.

Rosemead, with only 17 members, is about to accept a professional musician, though bolstering membership is not the reason she was recruited, as it was in Duarte when that club first admitted three women 10 years ago.

"Service is our goal, and the women can do as much as the men do," said the Rosemead club's president, David Sprague.

At least one member of the Claremont club doesn't agree.

That disgruntled member has resigned because of the court ruling, said Bill Denseth, president of the 122-member club. But Denseth said he assumes that women will be nominated for membership.

Most clubs are proceeding cautiously, although all expect to have women members by the end of the year.

"A few of our members would react violently," President Gary Kooiman said of the prospect of women joining the Monrovia club. "And if we have two women in a club of 80, they may feel uncomfortable for a while.

"As a general philosophical matter, women should be allowed to join this type of club," Kooiman said. "As a business opportunity, they (the Supreme Court) are correct in that. Personally, I'd rather be in a men's club."

However, Dale Spickler, who will succeed Kooiman as president next month, said: "I am not in accord with members of the Monrovia club who don't want women."

Former Membership

Spickler once belonged to the Rotary Club of Duarte, the club that started it all and had to change its name to Ex-Rotary when it was expelled from Rotary International for admitting three women in violation of bylaws. It has since been reinstated.

"At the first meeting I attended (in 1977) there were women, but I didn't think anything of it," Spickler said. "I thought the rules had changed since I had last been a member of Rotary."

Spickler later joined the Monrovia club when he became a teacher in that city.

"When I was proposed for membership in Monrovia, there was some objection that I was still a member of Duarte Ex-Rotary, but not enough to keep me out," he said.

The court case embarrassed some members of the Monrovia and Arcadia clubs because they had sponsored formation of the Duarte group more than 25 years ago.

In addition, attorney Sanford Smith, who belongs to the 125-member Arcadia club, donated his legal services to the Duarte club during its court fight.

His involvement was not popular, said Arcadia club President James Hanrahan.

"If we took a vote now, probably 80% of our members would be against women in the club," Hanrahan said.

Hanrahan said he probably would not have joined the Arcadia club if there had been women members.

'Miracles Are Around'

"I joined an all-male club 13 years ago, and personally I think men have the right to belong to a men's club," he said. "But maybe I'll propose a woman. Miracles are still around, and opinions can change."

Hanrahan, who said an Arcadia member plans to propose a woman for membership, expects the club to move cautiously because it will take members a while to adjust.

"It will take awhile to involve women in the club. It will be hard for the first few and easier as we get more," he said. "We will spend the next 90 days getting used to the concept, and then women in Rotary will be a natural thing."

The 313-member Pasadena club already has three prospects, said President Philip Taylor.

'Way It Had to Be'

"As the largest club, we wanted to show our leadership," he said, "and most forward thinkers have said for years that this is the way it had to be.

"We wanted to recruit highly qualified women, and of the three going through the membership process now, one is an insurance executive, one an executive in the Girl Scouts and one an executive secretary for another service club."

Two other women approached by the club said they were not interested because they are members of Zonta International, a women's service organization similar to Rotary, and both clubs' rules prohibit membership in other service organizations, Taylor said.

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