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International Women’s Day 8th March 2020. Celebrating the life of Dr Kathleen Rutherford

Celebrating International Women’s Day

Across the world thousands of Soroptimists marked International Women’s Day with hundreds of activities and events on and around 8 March. In some countries just gathering like this puts their lives at risk. Events highlight the economic, political and social achievements of women, and raise awareness of work still to be done to build a better world for women and girls.

The life of one of our founder members

Dr Kathleen Rutherford M.B.E
Dr Kathleen Rutherford M.B.E


Dr Kathleen Rutherford MBE

Soroptimist International of Harrogate and District celebrated this very special day on the 4th March. Club member Rachel Richardson gave a fascinating presentation about the life of our founder President Dr Kathleen Rutherford MBE & Honorary Freeman of the Borough of Harrogate Town. A woman who devoted much of her life to working with disadvantaged people both nationally and globally. Rachel also managed to track down a thirty minute documentary made by Yorkshire TV in 1970’s. It was a privilege to hear her talk about her life first hand.

Early Life

Dr Kathleen, as she was usually known, was born in 1896. A time before women had the vote and very few became medical practitioners. She was described as a legend in her own lifetime in the Calendar News documentary. She worked in medical practice with her father and brothers in Harrogate.

Founding the Club

In 1933 Dr Kathleen became the Club’s founder President and in 1938 was elected Vice President of Soroptimist International of Great Britain & Ireland.

Charity Work

In the 1930s she helped organise the relocation of Basque children fleeing the Spanish Civil War. A life long pacifist, she wrote to Hitler in 1935 asking him to allow German Soroptimists to attend a conference in Harrogate.


In 1962 she was left a legacy of over £42000 (£750,000 in todays money). Determined to use it help others she made significant donations to Famine Relief, War on Want, Guide Dogs for the Blind, the Save the Children fund, and Leprosy.
Dr Kathleen offered her medical expertise and knowledge to those in need across the world including Italy, Uganda, Biafra and Palestine.
She joined the first official party of British doctors invited to China, paving the way for advances in medicine and global understanding.

National and local Recognition

In 1970 Dr Kathleeen received the MBE from the Queen for services to medicine in under-developed countries.

Club President Sylvia Purser said: ‘Dr Kathleen was a wonderful woman, Doctor, and Soroptimist whose charity and vision touched and enriched lives all over the world. It gives me and my fellow Soroptimists great pleasure to celebrate her life and work at our International Women’s Day event’.

We were delighted to welcome members from SI Dewsbury and SI Garforth Elmet to our meeting. We were also joined by Harrogate Author and Historian Malcolm Neesam. Malcolm is supporting the Club in our application for a Heritage Plaque to celebrate the life and achievements of Dr Kathleen. #Soroptimistsp>

[vc_column_text#EachforEqual #IWD2020 Club members celebrated #InternationalWomensDay