HISTORY OF ZONTA INTERNATIONAL
In Buffalo, New York USA in January 1919, five women attending a social meeting of Kiwanis as guests conceived the formation of a new service club. This new club would be composed of women who were recognized leaders in their businesses and professions. The primary purposes of the club would be to standardize and disseminate business principles and practices and to provide service to humanity through cooperative efforts. During the spring and summer of 1919, clubs were organized in Buffalo, Rochester, Binghamton, Elmira, and Syracuse, New York USA. Under the leadership of its Charter President, Marian de Forest, a playwright and newspaper critic, the Buffalo Club established specific guidelines for membership and classification.
The Confederation of Zonta Clubs was founded on 8 November 1919 in Buffalo. Mary E. Jenkins, newspaper publisher and civic leader, was elected the first president of the Confederation. Bylaws and a constitution were drafted and adopted, and selecting a name was all that remained.
Advancing the Status of Women Worldwide
Each club submitted a list of proposed names. The final vote was almost unanimously in favor of the Binghamton Club’s suggestion of “Zhonta”, as it was then spelled. A letter from the Bureau of American Ethnology of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. USA corrected the spelling to Zonta: “the word in question is from the Teton dialect of the Sioux stock of Native American languages. The word signifies ‘honest and trustworthy’.” The name “Zonta International” was officially adopted at the 1930 Convention in Seattle, Washington USA; and in September of that year, Zonta International was incorporated under that name in the State of Illinois USA. The following year, the word “Zonta” was registered with the Trademark Division of the United States government in Washington, D.C.
April of 1920 saw the first executive session of the Confederation’s officers convene in Rochester, New York. Among the considerable business conducted, the Zonta colors — mahogany and gold — were chosen, and the Zonta emblem, designed by Buffalo Zontian and artist Helen Fuchs Gundlach was officially authorized. In October 1920, the presidents of all existing clubs met in Syracuse, New York USA. Two important recommendations came out of the meeting: that the Zonta clubs take for their specific aim education and constructive work for girls and young women and that the Confederation’s first convention be held in Syracuse in May of 1921.
The Confederation was incorporated under the laws of New York State in February 1922. Five years later, the Zonta Club of Niagara Falls, which was composed of members from Canada and the United States, organized Toronto as the first club in Canada, and Zonta became international.
In 1931, Zonta was introduced to Europe when clubs in Vienna, Austria and Hamburg, Germany were organized. Over the next decade, growth continued steadily in Europe and Scandinavia. During the late 1940s and early 1950s, Zonta established itself in Latin America and Asia. By 1970, Zonta became truly worldwide when six African nations joined the organization. The last frontier was crossed in early 1991 when Szombathely, Hungary became the first Eastern European Zonta country.
Since 1919, Zonta International has supported international service projects that seek to improve the legal, political, economic, educational, health and professional status of women around the world, including, among others, preventing the practice of female genital circumcision in Burkina Faso, preventing violence against women in India, eliminating maternal and neonatal tetanus in Nepal, preventing human trafficking in Bosnia and Herzegovina, reducing obstetric fistula in Liberia and preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV in Rwanda.
Zonta International’s business was administered from New York until 1928 when Chicago, Illinois was chosen as the site for Zonta’s permanent headquarters. From 1928 to 1987, as the organization grew, Zonta moved several times to accommodate the changing needs of the organization and its membership. In 1987, Zonta International moved its headquarters to 557 West Randolph where it remained until 2009 when it moved to 1211 West 22nd Street in Oak Brook, Illinois.
Advancing the Status of Women Worldwide.
OK, my writing now. Incredibly, the organization is based near where I grew up near Chicago. Amelia Earhart was an influential member. This year marks the 100th anniversary of its founding. Please support Zone by attending the book events this weekend-Saturday, 8/24 2-5 pm at the Fort Collins Barnes and Noble store (I speak at 4:45.) Sunday, the event moves down to the Loveland store.
Hope to see you there, and buy some really good books by local female authors.