Prior to a decision handed down by the United States Supreme Court in 1987, Rotary was a men’s organization, and in many clubs, the wives of the members were called “Rotary Anns”. With the Court decision in the eighties, and with more women in the professions than ever before, the term “Rotary Ann” began to fall out of favor and clubs of Rotary Anns disappeared. While the name “Rotary Ann” has not gone completely out of favor, wives are more commonly known as “Rotary Spouses” or “Partners.”
In 1987, women were admitted to Rotary, and today women are the fastest growing segment of Rotary’s membership.
Why were wives of male members affectionately called “Rotary Anns”?
This designation was never one of disparagement, but rather grew out of an interesting historical occasion. The year was 1914 when San Francisco Rotarians boarded a special train to attend the Rotary Convention being held in Houston. In those days few wives attended Rotary events, and until the train stopped in Los Angeles, the only woman aboard was the wife of Rotarian Brunnier.
As the train picked up additional convention-bound delegates, Mrs. Ann Brunnier was introduced as the Rotarian’s Ann. This title soon became “Rotary Ann”. Since the clubs of the west were inviting the Rotarians to hold their next convention in San Francisco, a number of songs and stunts were organized which would be performed in Houston. One of the Rotarians wrote a “Rotary Ann” chant. On the train’s arrival at the Houston depot, a delegation greeted the West Coast Rotarians. One of the greeters was Guy Gundaker of Philadelphia, whose wife was also namedAnn.
During the rousing demonstration, someone started the Rotary Ann chant. The two petite ladies, Ann Brunnier and Ann Gundaker, were hoisted to the men’s shoulders and parade about the hall. The group loved the title given to the two women named Ann. Immediately the same term of endearment was used for all of the wives in attendance and the name “Rotary Ann” was here to stay.
Nine years later, in 1923, Guy Gundaker became president of Rotary International. Bru Brunnier was elected president in 1952, 29 years after that. Thus, each of the two original Rotary Anns became the “first lady of Rotary International.”
The formation meeting on the Rotary Ann Club was held at the Marine Hotel on 17 September 1954.
One of their main projects over the years has been the " Bargain Box" run since 1963 by the Rotary Anns (wives of Rotarians) as a charity shop. This extraordinary shop, with humble beginnings, is run entirely with the voluntary effort of the Hermanus Rotary Anns.
The shop serves:
a) to clothe the poor
b) to raise funds with which the Rotary Anns can better the local Community
The clothing and other bric-a-brac is donated by the public and good quality clothing at affordable prices, is sold. From humble beginnings, when net profit for the first 4 years was R1,700, the 2021 financial year showed a net profit of R120,725. Over the years the total takings have increased and now more than R184,000 R162,800 goes through the till annually. Because of the success of the “Bargain Box” many needy families, charities and organisations are supported by monthly food vouchers or buying items they need.
Many, many charitable projects have been supported and funded and this abbreviated list will give some idea of how far the Rotary’s wheel’s spinning has reached.
Society for the Care of the Aged
The Civilian Blind
The Publicity Association
School Feeding Schemes
Annual Christmas parties
The “Bargain Box” has had 5 addresses since its inception. After negotiations, and in recognition of service given, the Town Council two years ago made available, at a nominal rental, a plot of ground near the heart of the town. The Hermanus Rotarians then took up the challenge on behalf of their Anns. Funds were raised and borrowed from monies available from a bequest. A new “Bargain Box” was planned and built. This new, self-owned building meets the specific needs for the smooth running of the shop which is open four days of each week throughout the year. A permanent address was a cause for great celebration – no more rent to pay – BUT – an interest-free loan from the Hermanus Rotary Club has to be serviced.
This project has been good for the Rotarians, has built up enthusiasm amongst the Rotary Anns and an ongoing project has been established which will help assist the needy in the village and is good publicity for Rotary.