Within Rotary in North America, “the growth in the power of women” is now well entrenched.

by John Borst, Past President Rotary Club of Dryden, ON

In February 1941, Dr. William Moulton Marston, an internationally famous psychologist submitted a draft of his first script, explaining the “under-meaning” of Wonder Woman’s Amazonian origins in ancient Greece, where men had kept women in chains, until they broke free and escaped. “The NEW WOMEN thus freed and strengthened by supporting themselves (on Paradise Island) developed enormous physical and mental power.” His comic, he said, was meant to chronicle “a great movement now under way—the growth in the power of women.” (link to source)

This month, with the release of “Wonder Woman” the movie, the role of women and the nature and meaning of feminism is the focus of much buzz in the world of social media.

Even though it took another 46 years for the “great movement” to get under way among Rotarians in North America, “the growth in the power of women” is now well entrenched.

I found that out when I joined the Rotary Club of Dryden in December 2009. The Club had a woman as President that year, as it would for three of my next four years in Rotary.  Two Dryden club women who fit Marston’s definition in my experience are Rena Madden owner and manager of Dryden’s TimberMax Building Supplies and Sandra Boyko who recently joined Rena at Timbermax. The dynamism of these two women in their year as president hasn’t been touched by any male since, and that includes me. Both are still very involved giving hours of service on behalf of Rotary and the community of Dryden. You can read “Rena’s Story” here.

When it comes to women, our club is unique within District 5550. It has the highest number of women of any club in the District, presently standing at  26 eventhough the percent is below half. They are also on average a decade younger than the men.

At the District level, I have had the privilege of working with two outstanding District Governors, Eva Vida (2011-12) and Dr. Pat Chernesky (2014-15). I was Communications Director for both of them. With Eva, I wasn’t yet two years a Rotarian, so not only did I go through a steep learning curve but saw, first-hand, the extraordinary effort and time commitment required to be a District Governor. That experience, my already advanced age and the death of my spouse in 2011 put all thoughts of being a DG out of my mind. One of the peeks into the job was learning when DG’s work at being a DG. The wee hours of the morning at both ends was not uncommon so when the May/June District Conference finally arrived I understood why they were totally exhausted DG’s yet were excited and buoyed by the prospect of their term coming to an end.

So what is each doing today? Your bang  on if you picked volunteering at the Zone level and, taking on special projects at the District like Pat took on the District’s “Million Dollar Dinner” while at the same time still playing a role on her Club executive in her small community club in Nipawin while Eva after her year took on the District’s lead for the implementation of Rotary’s Future Vision Plan.

Beyond the District level, I have had more than one opportunity to meet and work with our incoming Vice-president Dean Rohrs who served our District in her various capacities at the Zone level. Recently, I received a message from her relating how agonisingly difficult it was to approve the revised Zonal Boundaries for 2020. I have no doubt as to the truth of her statement, even as I contemplate that the nature of my post on defining exactly which Zones disappeared from North America probably didn’t help much.

The second woman I will place into the “Wonder Woman” category has not only earned accolades in her own right as a District Governor and representative of the President at our District 5550 2014 Conference but is about to do so all over again for all of us to see. Of course, that is our incoming President, Ian Riseley’s wife, Juliet.  I wish her and Ian a safe and invigorating journey as they travel the world on our behalf.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention the many woman Rotarians who simply give of themselves unstintingly and live out our motto “Service Above Self” leadon a daily basis. In my club, there is Rotarian Marty who beyond the club has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for equipment at our local hospital through here annual “Shake Your Booty” all women’s events. Then there is Rtn. Sally who annually builds Habitat for Humanity homes in Central America. And Rtn. Joaleadsthe District Training Team and more recently the implementation of our Rotary Leadership Institute initiative; Rtn. Pat who coordinates our weekly Rotary Radio Bingo from October to  April helping us raise in excess of  $125,000.00  annually for local causes and Rtn. Dr. Patty who drives our numerous youth activities and Dryden Area Anti-Racism Network.

In our neighbouring Rotary Club of Kenora, Claire Noseworthy and her husband Gord lead Canada’s ShelterBox effort, while their fellow Rotarians Deb and Gord LeMaistre lead the District’s Ripple Effect Program to improve the schools and education in rural Guatemala.

I am sure every Rotarian, man or woman who reads this can name a “Wonder Woman” in their club or District who by their “enormous physical and mental power” have earned Dr. William Marston’s famous moniker.

There is however, one Rotarian “Wonder Woman” whom we can not yet name. We do have a short list though and it is growing but oh so slowly. One day Rotary will have a woman as its president. Then and only then for Rotary will the movement be complete. Until then, I can only “Wonder…..”.