Local Rotarians celebrate women in Rotary

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Members of the Rotary clubs of Jacksonville-Oceanside, Ponte Vedra Beach, Ponte Vedra Beach Sunset and Beaches Rotaract gathered on Monday, May 21 at Fleet Landing Retirement Community to celebrate 30 years of women in Rotary.

The event featured the presentation of a Lifetime Achievement Award to Dr. Frances Kinne, who was the first woman to join Florida’s first Rotary Club — the Rotary Club of Jacksonville — and the first woman to serve as its president. The Jacksonville University Chancellor Emerita, who was the first female college president in the state of Florida, celebrated her 101st birthday a few days after receiving the award.

“I’m delighted to be here,” said Kinne at the event. “I think so much of Rotary, and I know so many of you. It was a bit difficult when I came here.”

Kinne reflected on the difficulties of being a female leader in society, specifically within her field of education and in Rotary. She noted that when she joined her first Rotary club in the late 1980s, the male members said she wouldn’t be permitted to eat in the same dining room. In addition, her initial admission to the club was only valid for one year. At the end of the first year, the membership ultimately voted to allow her in the club for good, Kinne chuckled.

In addition to Kinne, Past District 6970 Governor Cynde Covington shared the history of women in Rotary, and urged event attendees to continue making female membership a priority for the organization.

“As women, we need to invite those successful and fun-loving women to the party,” said Covington. “As women, we need to make sure they’re mentored and given the opportunities and leadership roles in Rotary.”

Magda Cichon, the president elect of Beaches Rotaract, also addressed the event attendees and spoke about the importance of Rotary in her life.

“Through Rotary, I’ve had the opportunity to have so many strong female role models that I’ve been able to learn from and be inspired by,” said Cichon. “To think that 30 years ago was the first time that women were allowed to be Rotary members and looking at our club now where we have tremendous diversity, both as far race and gender, I think it’s quite amazing.”

At the conclusion of the event, past and current female presidents and leaders of local Rotary clubs were honored, receiving pins and taking a group photo to commemorate the occasion. In addition, a group of Rotary Anns — wives of Rotarians before women were allowed in the organization —  were recognized.

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