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President’s May 2021 Message

 

Blog written by Ruth Healey, Director of Finance.

 

‘Every mention of Soroptimism brings the inevitable question from the uninitiated …..”Yes, but what does Soroptimism do?”

It can be said with confidence that wherever help is needed in the future the service of Soroptimism will follow just as surely.’

 

These are the opening two sentences of a little booklet I have in my possession charting what British Soroptimists did in the first 25 years of existence….and an impressive catalogue it makes.

  • Discussions on the need for Women Police
  • Discussions on the need for Women Magistrates
  • Rescuing 30 people from the Vienna club refugees in 1938
  • Raising funds for three ambulances to be sent to Dunkirk together with one funded by Soroptimists in Canada
  • Linen for Russian hospitals
  • Support for unemployed Women; the Peggotty Scheme; setting up the Benevolent Fund; setting up The Soroptimist Fund for Post War Relief in Europe; half of women’s prison libraries replaced…….
  • and so much more.

One of the main points raised in the booklet is the need to continue with Extension work, developing clubs and numbers of members.  There is mention of how difficult that was in the blackout of war-time and how Presidents of the Federation and Divisions had to ‘carve the time required to make cross country journeys out of a time-table already too full’.

It occurs to me that little has changed over the last 100 years.  I don’t know how many members there were in the 1930s and 1940s but would it be a stretch to think it was much the same as we have now – 5,900 or so?

……and we’re still explaining ourselves and trying to change the title of ‘Best Kept Secret’ aren’t we?

In another little book I have celebrating 50 years of the Federation, Margaret Hutchings, Federation President 1984 says ‘Our Conference them is “Woman at her Best!”  Will the next fifty years be our best?  The story to be told when the souvenir magazine is published to celebrate our Centenary in 2034 will give the answers.’

We have 13 years to make good on that challenge; there is a huge amount of wonderful work going on around the Federation though we are being challenged in ways we never envisaged.  We have been challenged in the last 14 months with the pandemic like no other time in most of our memories and technology and the speed of change continues to try to trip us up.

As mentioned, we probably have the same number of members as 80 – 90 years ago but that hides the fact that we rose to significant numbers in between and now we are on the downward slope on the other side.  We continue to reduce in numbers by about 3% per year and this will be our biggest challenge yet.

Though in all that change there is enormous opportunity; many clubs, mine included, have shown that meeting on line has its benefits – a club can attract speakers from further afield, can join its Friendship links half way across the globe and members can join for the odd hour or two without having to travel miles to get to a meeting room.  My club has increased its membership by nearly 50% over the last year attracting those busy, younger women that we are so keen to join us.

The pandemic has also created a sense of community unlike recent years and has given us a platform from which to jump and jump we must as it has also created an even greater need for our advocacy in relation to domestic violence, in particular.

Margaret Hutchings also said in 1984 – ‘we are the members who must set the tone for this new era and ensure there will be much to celebrate’.

Those words could have been written now; we are the members, now is the time to put best foot forward to ensure that this Federation goes from strength to strength and has plenty to celebrate in the journal of 2034.

Ruth Healey
Director of Finance