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Background -

The first Soroptimist Club was founded in Oakland, California, in 1921.

Other clubs followed throughout the United States of America and Canada and, in 1928, the Soroptimist Association of the Federation of the Americas was established.

In the meantime, Soroptimism spread to Europe. The Greater London Club was formed in 1923, followed by the Paris Club in 1924. After the establishment of clubs in other parts of France, Holland, and Italy, the European Federation came into being in 1928.

At the International Convention in Paris in 1934, the Federation of Great Britain and Ireland was established, with Margaret Adams as the first Federation president of Soroptimist International of Great Britain and Ireland (SIGBI). She was a headmistress and was from the Liverpool Club. The Federation of the South West Pacific came about in the early eighties. There are now four federations making up Soroptimist International.

Ireland -

The Belfast Club was the first Irish club and was founded in 1932; the Dublin club came into being in 1938. It was agreed that the title should be "The Divisional Union of Northern Ireland and The Republic of Ireland".

From 1944 onwards it is interesting to see how Soroptimism grew rapidly throughout the whole of Ireland. Clubs were formed in Coleraine and Derry, 1944. Ballymena 1945. Bangor 1946. Lurgan 1947. Newry and Mourne 1956. Extension work really took off during the 50's and early 60's. Cork Club was established in 1957. Drogheda and Sligo 1958. Dun Laoghaire, Galway, and Newtownards 1959. Bray 1960. Wexford and Clonmel 1961.

Athlone, Dungannon, and Kilkenny 1962. Carlow, Enniskillen, Limerick, Larne, and Killarney 1963. Ballymoney, Ennis, and Tralee 1964, and Ballina 1965.

Peggy Hunt of the Bray Club was elected President 1964 / 65 of the Divisional Union of Northern Ireland and The Republic of Ireland and was re-elected for a further year 1965 / 66. She was the last person to hold office under that title.

With the vigorous growth of Soroptimism the movement was becoming too big for efficient organisation. Owing to the administration difficulties of handling 36 clubs, it became necessary to divide the Divisional Union of Northern Ireland and The Republic of Ireland into two separate bodies - one for Northern Ireland and one for The Republic of Ireland. This happened in 1966.

It was decided that weekend conferences should be held in alternate years in Northern Ireland and The Republic of Ireland and this has continued very successfully ever since.

Between 1932 and 1966 Ireland provided three Federation Presidents:

Miss Grace Holloway
College Principal (Dublin Club)
1948 /49
Mrs. D. McNabb
Member of Stormont (Lurgan Club) 1954 / 55
Mrs. A N McIlrath
Head Teacher (Belfast Club) 1964 / 65

Soroptimist International Republic of Ireland -

And so, Soroptimist International Republic of Ireland came into being in 1966, with Doris McNamara of the Limerick Club as the first President.

A Presidential Chain of Office for the new Divisional Union was designed and made by Egans of cork. (The members from each club subscribed 2/6d towards the cost!)

Extension work continued and we welcomed:

Castlebar 1969
Letterkenny 1973
Dungarvan 1980
Bandon 1981
Naas Newbridge 1982
Mullingar 1991
North Kildare 1994
Ballinasloe 1995

We have now become the National Association, Republic of Ireland. We have provided two Federation Presidents:

Mrs. Beatrice Grosvenor (Killarney)
the Federation Conference was held in Killarney in 1972.
Miss Muriel Bowers (Cork)
the Federation Conference was held in Dublin in 1985 when Muriel was Federation President.

National Project -

In 1966 the Soroptimist Club of Galway suggested that a particular charity project at national level should be chosen every two years and that all clubs in the Divisional Union (National Association) should support it. This suggestion was formally adopted and we have, as a result, supported financially:

  • St. Luke's Hospital Cancer Research
  • Kidney Unit at Jervis Street Hospital
  • Cerebral Palsy Clinic
  • Multiple Sclerosis Society
  • Battered Wives
  • Cystic Fibrosis Association of Ireland
  • Special Olympics
  • Simon Community
  • St. Luke's Hospital Treatment Machine
  • Guide Dogs for the Blind
  • Fem Scan
  • The Youth Brass Band
  • The Small Voice (Street Children)

Caring for the Carers -

In 1991 the Ennis Club put forward Caring for the Carers as the National Project and this ran most successfully for eight years. Judith Ironside (Ennis) was President of the National Association and she, together with the Ennis Club, worked tirelessly with Dail and Seanad on aspects of community caring and as a result The Carer's Charter was launched on the 9th. March 1991. Many clubs adopted Caring for the Carers as club projects also and the respite weekends for carers still continue, organised by S.I. Ennis and District.

Girls' Public Speaking Competition -

In 1981 DU President Northern Ireland, Miss Marie Brownlee (Bangor) and DU President Republic of Ireland Mrs. Mildred O'Brien (Dun Laoghaire and District) launched the first joint venture: a Public Speaking Competition for Girls aged 15 to 18 years. A winner from the two areas would be selected and, in the initial year, the first prize for both winners (North and South) was a holiday together in the home of the President of S.I. VENICE. This practice of winners going abroad to the home of a Soroptimist continued for eighteen years. Now the first prize is a voucher for educational purposes. Each year both winners address us at our Joint Conference.

Lobbying -

The members of Soroptimist International Republic of Ireland have been interested in the following subjects and, as a result, have been in a position to make representations to the respective Government Departments on these matters:

  • The Married Women's Income Tax Allowance
  • The low standard of television programmes
  • The proposed Criminal Justice Bill
  • Discrimination over non-contributory pensions for women
  • Widows of Civil Servants Pension Bill
  • Proposed Legislation on Family Planning
  • Video Nasties
  • Anti-Discrimination Against Women
  • Carers in the Home
  • Equality Rights
  • Partnership 2000
  • Asylum Policy
  • Protection of Children

2000 Ireland -

Soroptimist International Republic of Ireland National Association invited all Irish Soroptimists, North and South, to celebrate the millennium at a banquet in Trinity College, Dublin, themed The Millennium Bubble. It was held on the 3rd. December 1999 on the eve of the last National Association Council Meeting of the twentieth century.


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