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1925 -2014


The 1920’s (the “Roaring Twenties) was a time of prosperity, and new opportunities for young women.  In 1929, women earned 39% of the college degrees given in the US. Noted women include: suffragists - Alice Paul who proposed the Equal Rights Amendment, which failed to be ratified and Carrie Chapman Catt who formed the League of Women voters. In sports: Gertrude Ederle was the first woman to swim the English Channel; Helen Wills, was the 7 time singles tennis champion of the US Open and 8 time champion of the Wimbledon; and women compete for the first time in Olympic field events.  Outstanding women in art include:  Dorothy Parker, poet and witty screen writer; Zora Neal Hurston,  famous Renaissance writer; Edna St. Vincent Millay, feminist and poet who was the third woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize; and Georgia O’Keefe, artist.   The most important event for women was on August 6, 1920,  the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote, is signed into law.  Five years later Nellie Tayloe Ross, from the state of Wyoming, becomes the first woman governor in the US.  For the Zonta Club the eventful day was….. 

November 13, 1925 when the Zonta Club of St. Louis was organized as a member of the Confederation of Zonta Clubs.  Twenty-two St. Louisans were invited as eligible for membership.  Three representatives of the Confederation were present.  The club was the first club west of the Mississippi River.  Within six months the club gave their first contributions for charitable work.  An interesting planned service project was to adopt a baby.  The project was abandoned because legally a group of women could not do so.  To raise funds for service projects a card party was planned.  Moneys raised were to build and equip a cabin (named Zonta Cabin) at the Girl Scout Camp and guaranteed the maintenance of one scout each week during the eight-week period of the Camp.  In 1929, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers invited Miss Amelia Earhart to St. Louis to tell them of her experiences on her transatlantic flight.  Miss Earhart, a member of the Boston Zonta Club, replied that she would come only on the condition that St. Louis Zontians were included in the invitation.  This was an eventful meeting.


The 1930s began after the Wall Street Crash of 1929.  By 1932 the Great Depression left 12 million people out of work in the US.  Women were  discouraged from “taking jobs” from men.  Some states even passed laws against hiring women.  But many women must work – despite low wages and miserable conditions – to support their families.  By 1938, more than 800, 000 women belonged to unions.  Events include: Jane Addams,  the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize for her work with the poor in Chicago; First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt holds her own press conference, allowing only women reporters to attend; Francis Perkins becomes  the first US cabinet member as Secretary of Labor; Hattie Wyatt Caraway of Arkansas becomes the first woman elected to the US Senate and Marian Anderson sings at the Lincoln Memorial..  In 1932, Amelia Earhart, a Zontian,  becomes the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.  She disappeared in 1937 while attempting to circumnavigate the globe.  A great loss for  Zontians and the world.

Although times were hard in the 1930’s during the Depression the club continued on its service course.  A stove was given to the Salvation Army and the Crippled Children's Hospital was aided.    Education of young women was important to the club and during the lean years of the Depression funds were used to assist high school girls by providing lunch money, carfare, and a few needed clothes. One girl was given, upon graduation, a summer-term scholarship to Rubicam Business College. (Note:  Upon graduation the girl was immediately placed in secretarial work and was paying back to the club the money advanced to her training.)  In 1939, the club held a vocational conference for Senior high school girls and their parents.  The purpose of the conference was to help girls decide on a career by talking to the women executives present who represented fifty occupations.  Four girls were placed in jobs immediately as a result of the meeting.  At the end of 1939 the club assisted one girl in college, one in high school, and an additional girl to Rubicam Business School.  In 1932 Zonta International accepted the club's invitation to hold the twelfth annual International Convention in St. Louis.


The 1940’s was mostly taken up by World War II. During the war an aggressive media campaign urges more than 6 million women into the workforce.  Many learn new skills in industrial jobs – in steel plants, shipyards, and lumber mills.  With the end of the war most of these jobs go back to men and women are  encouraged to return to the home or to find “female” jobs.   Events of the era involving women include:  The Women’s Army Corps (WACS) and Women accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) are established.  Congress authorizes women to serve in the US Navy. The All American Girls Professional Basketball League is founded; high jumper Alice Coachman is the first African American woman to win an Olympic gold medal; Mildred “Babe” Didrickson and other women create the Ladies Professional Golf Tour;  Eleanor Roosevelt is appointed as a US delegate to the newly established United Nations.

Zonta’s career symposium first held in 1939 was so enthusiastically received that in 1940 a series of five were given.  These sessions received wide acclaim from educational directors, parents and student.  Civic activities were supported in these years by supporting the St. Louis Symphony, the Civic Music League, and became a guarantor of the Municipal Opera. Upon entry of the United States into World War II, the club arose to do the work at hand.  Working with the United Service Organization (USO) service projects were geared toward helping and entertaining our service men. Service projects included a Little Theater Party with 25 soldiers and sailors as guests; donations to the Red Cross and donated books to the Victory Book Drive.  Funds were given to The Women's Allied Relief Fund, USO, and the Salvation Army.  Three ping pong tables were given to the American Red Cross Camp and a room was equipped for the Medical Detachment at Jefferson  Barracks.  The club entertained servicemen and women on every holiday.  Every fourth Sunday of the month, members of Zonta served breakfast at the USO.  In 1942, during Women at Work Week the club sold $31,540 war bonds winning a $100 War Bond for its achievement and a certificate from the Coast Guard.  As the war went on the sales mounted, $336,575 (1943) and in 1944, the club won honors with total sales of $653,000.  At war's end stamps were collected for the wounded to cheer hospitalized veterans giving them a hobby while recovering.  To help war torn countries food was sent directly to the Zonta clubs of Denmark; 800 pounds of clothing was contributed as part of "Fill Zonta's Boat for Europe" to be sent to Poland, Finland, England, and Germany.  Philippines also received clothing.  Funds were given to the American Fund for Czechoslovakia Refugees, Inc.  Locally contributions were giving to the Salvation Army Building Fund, the March of Dimes, St. Stephen's House, the Red Cross, the City Sanitarium, and Cancer Fund.  In 1946, funding began to establish a scholarship fund at Washington University in St. Louis. (The funding was achieved in 1950.)


The 1950’s saw the clashes between communism and capitalism. Elvis Presley became the leading figure of the newly popular sound of  rock and roll.  American folk music revival became a phenomenon in the US and it was the Golden Age of Television. The 1950’s saw the height of the baby boom years and women were expected to stay at home as housewives and mothers.  These changing expectations decreased the enrollment of women in college.   Jacqueline Cochran becomes the first woman to break the sound barrier.  Althea Gibson is the first African American to win the All England title in tennis at Wimbledon.

In the 1950’s the club was concerned with the plight of the children of Greece.  Queen Frederika of Greece, who was touring the United States, was invited to the club's International Night.  Although she was unable to attend she sent her emissaries Madame Vassill Dendramis, wife of the Greek Ambassador as speaker, and Mrs. George Warsam, wife of the first Secretary of the Royal Greek Embassy.  Dr. George Mylonas of Washington University was toastmaster, and music was furnished by the choir of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church.  Elaborate displays of exquisite icons, silver, jewelry, and priceless handiwork were exhibited.  The proceeds were given to the Children's Cities of Greece.  The club received a letter of appreciation from Queen Frederika.  In 1951 funds were raised for the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) to use to refurnish a room to be known as the Zonta room and could be used for club meetings and housing the club’s permanent files.  The Salvation Army continued to be an interest to the club.   Each year the club, from 1952 to the present, has ringed bells for the Tree of Lights Campaign and has received several awards from them.  The Malcom Bliss Psychopathic Hospital became its ongoing service project (1956).  The project included furnishing a recreation room with canteen facilities; assist in the funding of an Occupational Therapy Department for the benefit of the mental patients.  The club assisted in converting part of the Hospital basement into an Indoor Recreation Area and purchased equipment for the area and furnished a Snack Bar adjoining the area.  The club recommended that all members participate in some personal service in Zonta's  name.  The club was divided into two groups and each participated in a different kind of service.  Some of these projects included hats for the women at the Little Sisters of the Poor; baskets with miscellaneous items for Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital, clothing for an orphanage, baby sitting was done, hospital patients without relatives were visited, etc.


The 1960’s is described the counterculture and social norms about clothing, music, drugs, dress, sexuality, formalities and schooling.  More women are getting jobs outside the home.  By 1969, 43% of women are in the workforce and  many of  these women are wives and mothers.  Eleanor Roosevelt chairs President Kennedy’s Commission on the Status of Women.  First’s for women include: Wilma Rudolph setting a new world  record for the 100-meter dash; Muriel Siebert owning  a seat on the New York Stock Exchange and  Shirley Chisholm of NYC,  the first African American woman elected to Congress.  Ecologist Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring” inspires the environmental movement.   Betty Frieden’s book “The Feminine Mystique” launches the modern women’s movement and she with others formed the National Organization for Women (NOW) to  ensure equal rights for women. The US Congress passes the Equal Pay Act and  the Civil Rights Act.

The club continued to support the Malcom Bliss Mental Health Center by continuing buying monthly supplies, contributed to the establishment of research laboratory for schizophrenia, and the establishment of a staff library for doctors and nurses for research and study.


The 1970’s is the era of women’s liberation as women’s right to achieve rights and opportunities equal to those of men.  This change is seen on college campuses across the country.  Enrollment in colleges increased 60%.  By 1979,  for the first time in history more women than men enter colleges in the US.     The role of women in society was profoundly altered with growing feminism across the world and with the presence and rise of a significant number of women as heads of state in a number of countries across the world many  being the first women to hold such positions.  These include: Isabel Martinez de Peron (Evita) the first woman President in Argentina, Elisabeth Domtien the first woman Prime Minster of Central African Republic, Indira Gandhi Prime Minister of India; Prime Minister Golda Meir of Israel  and acting chairman Soong Ching-ling of the Peoples Republic of China.  Other events are:  The National Women’s Political Caucus is founded, the ERA is passed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification.  Almost 100,000 demonstrators march in Washington DC, in support of the ERA.   It fails by 3 states.  The Supreme Court decision Roe vs Wade guarantees a women’s right to abortion, women are admitted into US military academies 

The club provided funds to establish a dental office at Elias Michaels School for handicap children. This included a dental chair, mobile dental cabinet and x-ray equipment.  The club sponsored a Sheltered Workshop to teach working skills to the handicapped and retarded to enable them to enter the labor market.  For the first time in the 27 year history of the  Salvation Army’s Tree of Lights project, a women’s organization – the Zonta Club of St. Louis won the Grand Championship Award. They also won the Reserve Grand Champion Award for having collected the largest amount in the Women’s Division in 1974.  The club organized a Z Club at the Academy of Visitation.  1976 - The Zonta Club of St. Louis celebrated its 50th Birthday in Zonta International. Additional service projects during the 70’s included:  funds for cancer research, funds for children projects, the elderly and refurbished the Zonta House at the Central Institutes for the Deaf. In 1974 the Salvation Army’s program on rehabilitation of alcoholic women became the club’s major service project.  The club assisted in the organization and chartering of the Cape Girardeau Club (1977).


The 1980’s saw great social, economic, and general change as wealth and production migrated to newly industrializing economies. In 1986, over half of college graduates are women -  but they’re not stopping there.  Women are earning over half of the master’s degree and more and more of them are entering professions such as law, medicine, and business.  Events:  Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman justice to the Supreme Court; Geraldine Ferraro the first woman nominated by a political party for vice president.; and Toni Morrison received a Pulitzer Prize for her book “Beloved”.  The Oprah Winfrey Show begins airing nationwide in 1986.  The space shuttle “Challenger” explodes, killing seven crew members including teacher, Christa McAuliffe.

The Salvation Army’s Women’s Treatment Unit at Harbor House continued to be the club’s major service project.  Other projects included Women’s Self-Help, an organization for helping women against violence, and bought Bliss symbols and cassettes for the St. Louis Child Haven Center. The club had been actively involved with the USO and received, in 1983, the USO Distinguished Service ward.

1990’s - 2014

In the1990’s, 60% of women work outside the home, making up to almost half of the work force.  The concept of “male” profession doesn’t apply by the end of the 20th century.  By1997, women are earning over 40% of  medical, law, and doctorate degrees.  The Department of Labor establishes the Glass Ceiling Commission to eliminate the barriers that block qualified women from advancements in the workplace.  The 1992 election doubles the percentage of women in Congress; as a result, 1992 is dubbed the “Year of the Woman”.  The annual take your daughters to work day is introduced.  The Viet Nam Women’s Memorial is erected.  Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsberg and Attorney Janet Reno are appointed..  Aung San Suu Kyi, Burmese politician, received  the Nobel Peace Prize while under house arrest by the ruling junta .   The Violence Against Women Act is passed to combat gender-based.  Zonta has an Internantional Summit on Violence Against Women.

By the 2000’s women have achieved ever more powerful roles in politics, business and society.  Poweful women  include:  Michelle Bachelet, president of Chile;  Benazir Bhutto, former Prime Minister of Pakaistan, was assassinated at a rally campaigning for that office; Hillary Clinton, first former First Lady  to hold an elective office and serve in the cabinet as Secretary of State; Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner first woman president of Argentina; SoniaGandhi, president of the Indian National Congress; and Wangari Maathai first African woman and first environmental activist to win the Nobel Peace Prize; and Angela Merkel first woman Chancellor of Germany; and Condoleeza Rice,  National Secruity Advisor and Secretary of State.   Nobel Peace Prize Winner (2014) Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who stood up to the Taliban and defended her right to an education.  She is a global icon for human rights advocacy for education..

To celebrate the club’s 75th Anniversary the club established the Yellow Rose Award to recognize women in the St. Louis Community who exemplify good character, dedication in service to others and our community.  Thirty-eight women have received this award.  In 1990, the club established the Women’s Another Chance Program (WAC) as the major service project. Through many revisions the present program benefits single mothers, 24 years of age and over who are committed to pursuing post high school education and/or training in an accredited program.  This scholarship could provide financial aid for tuition, book, lab fees, classroom supplies and child care support.  The WAC program assigns each student a mentor to provide guidance, counseling, and supportive relationship to help the student utilize all resources available to her from the club members and the community.  Over 50 women have received this award.  Other awards established are the Community Grants Award that provides funding to area organizations; the Individual Enrichment Award that provides funding for individuals who need short-term assistance in improving their quality of life and the Sharon Carmody Award for Challenged Individuals that provides a scholarship for individuals with disabilities for undergraduate and graduate studies.  The club has established ongoing scholarship awards at Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis University, University of Missouri in St. Louis and St. Louis Community College.  For twenty-five years the club has supported the Weinman Shelter for Victims of Domestic Violence. In 2014 Missouri Governor Jay Nixon presented the club the 2014 Award of Distinction from the Department of Economics Development.  This award is usually given to individuals and the Zonta Club is the first organization to be given this honor.  The award sited the service the club gives to the community.

In 1943, International formed the present District 7 and the first District Governor was from the St. Louis Club.  A total of five from the St. Louis club have been District 7 Governors.  The club has hosted six District 7 Conferences.

Since the beginning the club has fully supported the Zonta International Projects.  The club donates at least one-third of our service funds to international projects and for the last several years, have given biannually funds for a full Amelia Earhart Fellowship Award.  The club has hosted two International Conventions.