In 1921, a group of women in Oakland, California formed the first Soroptimist Club and threw themselves into a local project to save the Redwoods, which were being felled on a huge scale. We are excited that today’s global network of 75,000 Soroptimists is celebrating the centenary by planting trees.
Clubs sprang up throughout the world, combining campaigning work and on-the-ground projects to improve women’s lives. Our club was chartered in 1952. We celebrated our 69th birthday on Zoom in May, not wearing hats as our founders did when they met in Limmers in the Buttermarket but with a glass near at hand.
Originally members were women with senior jobs in business and professions. The invitation list for the first meeting gives an interesting overview of the position of women in Ipswich. We are more relaxed and inclusive now. After all, we current members have experienced many opportunities that early Soroptimists fought for.
Despite this, there are echoes of today in the early minutes of our Ipswich club. Their first two projects were to support displaced persons in Europe – we have refugees – and to persuade local coal merchants to reverse their policy of refusing to deliver single bags of fuel to homes, thus penalising the less well off – we have foodbanks. When Sizewell A was being planned, the club held a study day on nuclear power – we have Sizewell C.
One recorded remark really rings a bell: “Would it be possible to have some speakers on more cheerful subjects?”
There are still so many issues to be tackled to achieve ‘our vision of a world in which women and girls achieve their potential and have an equal voice in creating strong and peaceful communities.