In July 1987, at the Lions Clubs International Convention, delegates voted to open the association’s membership to women around the world.
While some early Lions clubs had women members, in 1918 the Lions Constitution was changed to limit membership to men. It would be almost 70 years before women would be once again welcomed into Lions Clubs International as members. In the meantime, many women volunteered alongside their husbands, friends and family members who were Lions. Some women formed Lioness clubs, the first of which was founded in 1920 in Quincy, Illinois, to support the activities of Lions clubs.
Lions began to take steps to open Lions membership to women in the 1980s at the same time as several lawsuits in the United States were challenging the right of private clubs to have men-only membership. A motion to include women was narrowly voted down at the Lions Clubs International Convention in 1986.
When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in May 1987 that a California law prohibiting sex discrimination by any “business establishment” applied to Rotary Club, LCI opened membership to women in the United States. Women around the globe were welcomed into membership shortly after at the international convention.
Just two months after the vote, 3,500 women had joined the organization, bringing fresh perspectives and additional hands for service. Within five years, Lions had 55,000 women members.
In the last 30 years, the proportion of women in Lions Clubs has grown significantly. In 2004, Lions began a task force to discover and plan community projects that are of interest to women, identify new members and promote and charter new clubs. By 2015, women accounted for 27 percent of Lions membership worldwide, and 38 percent of new members are women. In some parts of the world the numbers are even higher. Women make up 43.5 percent of Lions in the constitutional area spanning South America, Central America, the Caribbean and Mexico.
Lions’ strong service model is attractive to women who want to invest their time and energy into helping their communities. With their efforts and enthusiasm, Lions Clubs is a more thriving, global organization, ready for another century of service.
Japan legend promises that anyone who folds 1,000 cranes will be granted a wish. The wish of Lions clubs around the world is to spread #DignityHarmonyHumanity through service and international cooperation. Lions are fulfilling wishes of health, hope and a better life for millions of people.
Social media allows Lions to see how we’re helping around the world. Let’s use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to see how far our #DignityHarmonyHumanity cranes can fly!
Fold a crane. Make a paper crane and write #DignityHarmonyHumanity on its wing.
Share a crane. Take a photo of your crane at a special place in your community or at the location of a Lions service project. Share your photo with the hashtag #DignityHarmonyHumanity on social media and on your Lions club Facebook page.
Give a crane. Give your paper crane to someone you know or leave the crane somewhere in your community for another person to find. Challenge other Lions and friends to do the same and spread #DignityHarmonyHumanity.
When devastating floods hit Paraguay in December 2015, more than 130,000 people were displaced. As relief workers and supplies poured in, Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) provided a US$200,000 Major Catastrophe grant.
Part of that grant money is being used to provide mobile classrooms, like those pictured here, to serve the 17,000 students affected by the flood. The Ministry of Education, in partnership with UNICEF and supported by LCIF, will provide 7 of these classrooms. They are made of durable materials and designed to stay 10 degrees cooler than the outside temperature. Each classroom can accommodate 50 students.
You continue to amaze me every day. No matter where I go, I see Lions and Leos embracing our spirit of service. Your dedication to service is admirable and you make me proud to share your stories with Lions and the world.
When you step out into your community, you show the world that “We Serve.” You understand the need to serve locally and globally, and you know that LCIF helps extend your reach. Seeing young Lions in action has shown me that service is not bound by age.
I recently visited three young and very enthusiastic clubs. A Branch Lions Club made up of young businessmen and women in Malaysia has taken on some global environmental projects. The new Campus Lions Club at Texas State University understands and supports LCIF because LCIF has responded to the recent flooding and tornadoes in their area. I visited with Leos in Mumbai who support LCIF because LCIF helped fund a much needed local blood bank.
I love being a Lion, and I love what LCIF does to support what we do as Lions. If I had to sum up LCIF in one word it would be “hope.” Like my song says, “Because we care, we’re always there, LCIF.”
In this spirit of service, I appeal to all Lions. Recently, cities in India and Paraguay have suffered from devastating floods. Multiple District 300 Taiwan is recovering from a tragic earthquake in Tainan. With the generous support of Lions from around the world, LCIF awarded grants for relief efforts in each of these areas. Please consider making a donation to LCIF’s Disaster fund so that our foundation can continue to respond immediately whenever and wherever disaster strikes.
Together in Service,
Chairperson, Lions Clubs International Foundation
Read the rest of the February 2016 LCIF newsletter here
For the past century, Lions around the world have been willing to meet the call to lead their fellow members. Whether at the club level or the board level, Lions international presidents help set a vision of service and do whatever it takes to enable the association to thrive.
Dr. W.P. Woods (pictured above), a physician from Evansville, Indiana, was elected the new association’s first international president in 1917 at the first Lions Clubs International Convention. Lions also elected a first vice president and second vice president, and ever since, the vice president positions have helped prepare future leaders for the responsibilities and rigors of the office.
Serving as the president of the world’s largest service organization is an honor, but it is also a challenge. The international president travels the globe almost the entire year, visiting clubs, attending board meetings, speaking with dignitaries and bringing attention to special projects, among many other activities. “I think I traveled about 330 days,” Past International President Dr. Tae-Sup Lee from South Korea said of his year in office, 2003 to 2004, which focused on building up membership numbers.
Efforts to visit clubs strengthen the bonds of friendship and keep Lions connected. Seeing firsthand the scale of Lions’ programs and their impact on individuals is also life-changing.
“I once used the terminology that we were improving the quality of life for a lot of people,” said Past International President Jim Ervin from Albany, Georgia, who served from 1999 to 2000. “I didn’t really know and understand what that meant until I began to travel and see the real quality of life—that we were making a difference with people.” Ervin, who resided in the same Lions district as former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, was instrumental in connecting Lions with the Carter Center and Pfizer to launch a SightFirst initiative against river blindness.
Lions’ leaders have emerged from every background imaginable. Johnny Balbo from LaGrange, Illinois, who served as international president from 1974 to 1975, was once a professional wrestler known as “The Great Balbo.” João Fernando Sobral, who served from 1976 to 1977, was a university professor from Sao Paulo, Brazil. Brian Stevenson, a judge from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, served as international president from 1987 to 1988, while Sid L. Scruggs III from Vass, North Carolina, a retired military and commercial airline pilot, served from 2010 to 2011.
Most presidents have come from the United States, and many hail from the Midwest where Lions got its start. The town of Wichita, Kansas, holds the distinction of providing three Lions presidents—Charles Hatton (1932-33), Claude De Vorss (1964-65) and Dr. William Wunder (1995-96). But as Lions has expanded globally, so have its leaders. Members from New Zealand to Chile, Italy to Thailand have led Lions Clubs. Four presidents have come from Canada. Brazil, India, France, and Sweden have each had two of their citizens become president.
In many ways, the international president is a service position for life. Past international presidents have a wealth of knowledge and experience to share, and they continue to chair committees, visit clubs and offer guidance long past their official terms. The immediate past president also serves as the chairperson of Lions Clubs International Foundation the year following the presidency.
For all their efforts, past, present and future, Lions have only one thing to say: “Thank you!”
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