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Super Day to Celebrate Soroptimist Centenary with London Chilterns Soroptimists and Friends

Soroptimist International CentenarySI London Chilterns Centenary Helen ByrneSoroptimist International London Chilterns Region’s celebration of the Soroptimist International Centenary was a real day to remember. President Helen Byrne (pictured here during the toast later in the meeting) was delighted to be able to welcome almost 100 Soroptimists from the Region and beyond. There are videos and photos through this news item so please scroll to the bottom to get a feel for the celebrations!

The event has been co-ordinated by SI Milton Keynes who have picked up the Centenary Project theme #PlantTrees inviting a speaker from The Parks Trust : an independent charity which looks after the 6000 acres of parkland and green space in Milton Keynes. We celebrated the #WhoIsShe 100 for 100 Soroptimists from around our Region and then in the second half – a party in the company of the founding club – SI Oakland in California. After a toast and cake cutting we then sat back and enjoyed a play, telling the history of Soroptimist International & our Federation Soroptimist International Great Britain and Ireland performed for us by SI Milton Keynes.

SILC Centenary ZoomWe had almost 100 attendees – Members of some of the Clubs in the Region were able to get together (COVID-safe of course) and share the event. All the Clubs in the Region were represented and we had many very welcome guests from around the UK and beyond including Leicester, Salisbury, Sheffield, Southport, St Austell and Chico in California. One Member of SI Surrey/Delta Western Canada got up extra early and joined us for the whole meeting. Eight of our Soroptimist sisters from SI Oakland joined us and were welcomed for the second half of the event. SI Oakland was the founding Club of Soroptimist International in 1921, it has a friendship Link with  SI Milton Keynes (the youngest Club in our Region) and is the Mother Club of SI Greater London founded in 1924.

Our President Helen Byrne welcomed everyone to the meeting and read the Soroptimist Vision and Mission. She notified us of three significant absences: Jenny Vince, Past Federation President & member SI Oxford, Hilary Page, one of our “#WhoIsShe?” Soroptimists  and our dear Federation President and Regional Member, Johanna Raffan. Helen sent all of them our very best wishes and our sincere hope for better health. Tragically, Johanna has since passed away.

All the presentation materials and videos are available to click through to below – enjoy!

The Parks Trust Milton KeynesOur first speaker was Julie Dawes, Events and Community Engagement Manager: Milton Keynes Parks Trust [Picking up the Centenary Project Theme #Plant Trees for a Brighter Future]. Julie was introduced by Amanda Carter-Philpott, President of SI Milton Keynes SILC Centenary Amanda Carter-Philpott(pictured here during the toast later in the meeting). Julie’s presentation was fascinating – click here to view Parks Trust Talk for SIGBI 12 June 21 The Parks Trust is an independent charity that cares for over 6,000 acres of parkland and green space in Milton Keynes. This includes the river valleys, ancient woodlands, lakesides, parks and landscaped areas alongside the main roads that represent 25% of the city and it continues to take ownership of additional areas of green space as Milton Keynes expands. In most places parks are owned and managed by the local authority, but the city’s founders wanted to be sure that such a unique green landscape would be managed and protected forever, without having to compete for funds with other council priorities. So, The Parks Trust was created in 1992 to care for most of the city’s green space and was endowed with a substantial property and investment portfolio. The income from this portfolio pays for the vital work of nurturing and enhancing the landscape. The Parks Trust is entirely self-financing. There were plenty of questions showing that everyone was really engaged with The Parks Trust and the great work it does. After the presentation many attendees are now planning a visit!

We played this short inspiring SIGBI Centenary Video which got us all thinking about our “bright past” and our “brilliant future” as Soroptimists.

Regional President Helen Byrne’s opening address welcomed us all to the event by saying what a great privilege it was for her to be Regional President in this Centenary Year. She spoke about the promotional opportunities the Centenary offers to Soroptimists and encouraged Clubs not to miss this once in a lifetime opportunity.

Helen gave us 4 great reasons we have to celebrate at this event – to acknowledge and celebrate our own achievements as well as those of others. She spoke about Kathleen Halpin CBE who was representative of a generation of indefatigable women administrators and organisers, who maintained a low personal profile while having a considerable effect on their society. Helen’s reflections on our #WhoIsShe women reveals a lack of diversity amongst the women represented, in the UK at least – something we need to change. With the centenary slogan “Bright Past, Brilliant Future” we need to think afresh about what we should carry on doing and what needs to change.

In hearing about our #WhoIsShe Soroptimists Helen inspired us to honour their achievements and their contribution to Soroptimist International  and so gain inspiration and feel the glow of belonging to the same fantastic organisation which provided them with the environment in which to soar.

Helen reminded us, last but by no means least, that having fun is good for us and it makes everything else possible! This is why Helen planned our celebration for the second half of our programme for the afternoon.

Click here to view the slides that Helen used during her opening address SILC 12 June Centenary Thoughts Helen Byrne


#WhoIsSheOur Region’s #WhoIsShe 100 for 100 Soroptimists. As part of the celebration of the first centenary of Soroptimist International in 2021, more than 100 Soroptimists have been selected to be commemorated as part of the #WhoIsShe? Campaign. The centenary of the organisation seemed a fitting opportunity to recognise and celebrate the professional and personal commitments made by these outstanding members through the years. These #WhoIsShe? campaign members, both past and present, from Soroptimist International of Great Britain and Ireland have all been nominated by Soroptimist Clubs for their noteworthy contribution to society in the furtherance of the aims and objects of the organisation.

In this celebration we proudly recognised eight inspirational Soroptimists from our Region – and we will celebrate the others at our AGM in October. Audrey Collins OBE SI St Albans, Kathleen Halpin CBE SI Greater London, Elizabeth Hawes MBE SI Greater London, Sylvia Mear SI Hertford, Hilary Page MBE SI Lewisham, Hilary Ratcliffe OBE SI St Albans, Phyllis Sigsworth QPM SI Slough, Windsor & Maidenhead, Rose Moriba Simbo SI Thames Valley. We were delighted that Hilary Ratcliffe, Phyllis Sigsworth and Rose Moriba Simbo were all able to join us, but sad that Hilary Page had been unable to attend on the day.

Denise Powell and Pamela Robertson presented our eight wonderful women – you can view  the Power Point here SILC 12 June WhoIsShe Presentation and read more here 


Long Service Awards were presented by SI London Chilterns President Helen Byrne as follows: Over 50 years of Soroptimist Service – Paddy Barrett, Janet Darby  and Mary Janssen all from SI Bedford. Over 40years of Soroptimist Service – Valerie Edwards    and Joan Howe both from SI Bedford. Over 25years of Soroptimist Service – Pamela Robertson SI Hertford & District, Valerie Seddon SI Hertford & District and Lynda Smith SI Bedford. 25 Years of Soroptimist Service – Anne Miles SI Hertford & District.

After this we had a break before the second half of the Programme.

Welcome to SI Oakland from California and a Time to Celebrate! – by Angela Novell, First President of SI Milton Keynes. Angie also facilitated a Q&A about the Oakland Club – please see the 25 minute video below

SI Milton Keynes with Oakland Friendship LinkThe photo here is of a Zoom call between SI  Milton Keynes and SI Oakland in California – who created a Friendship Link when SI Milton Keynes was started in 2015. The two Clubs are spending time getting to know one another on Zoom and have committed to develop their Friendship Link. SI Oakland was the founding Club of Soroptimist International and  SI Milton Keynes is the youngest Club in London Chilterns Region.

Soroptimist London Chilterns Centenary Cake

Celebration – Cake Cutting, Toasts & Bubbles – was introduced and led by SI London Chilterns President Helen Byrne please see the photo of our wonderful cake – it look more like a work of art!

Rose Moriba Simbo, SI Thames Valley – cut the cake in the presence of some other Members of the Thames Valley Club. Rose was sad that she was performing the honour in place of Johanna Raffan whose role it should have been. Please see the photo and  video below:

Rose Moriba Simbo Cutting the Cake


Please see the video below for the toasts to Soroptimist International by Hilary Ratcliffe OBE, SI Sheffield and to Soroptimist International of Great Britain & Ireland by Helen Byrne, SILC President.

Toast to SI Oakland by Amanda Carter-Philpott, President SI Milton Keynes and response by Carolyn Bolton President SI Oakland  – please see the video below

Please scroll down to see photos of some more of the celebrations – Members of some of the Clubs in the Region were able to get together to celebrate in small COVID-safe groups .

We all sat back with our cake and bubbly/tea to enjoy some entertainment as SI Milton Keynes took us on an exploration of Soroptimist history through the medium of drama. Please click this link to watch the play! Centenary Play by the members of SI Milton Keynes – click here to view

SI Milton Keynes 100 CakeSI Milton Keynes 100 Cake and Members

SI Newbury 100 celebrations Pictured here are SI Milton Keynes Members  with their cake and bubbles ready to share and Members of SI Newbury and District with their delicious looking cake too.





Summing Up and Closing Thoughts: Regional President Helen Byrne – after generously thanking everyone Helen finished by talking about Violet Richardson Ward, 1st President of the 1st Soroptimist Club in the Redwood Forest of California and her lifetime motto “It’s what you do that counts” please see the last (5th) slide in Helen’s presenation SILC 12 June Centenary Thoughts Helen Byrne

Next Meeting: & Regional AGM on Zoom – Sat 9th October 2021

After the meeting officially closed at 5pm the Zoom remained open for people to chat – important for many who had only met for the first time at this event! New friendships are just starting to bloom between SI Oakland in California, SI Milton Keynes their friendship link Club and SI Greater London the “daughter” Club of SI Oakland in 1924.

A few quotes from the Zoom Chat:

“Thank you for a special meeting in every way. Congratulations”

“Thank you for including me in your celebrations… was an honour and privilege to join you. I have been re-inspired!!!”

“A totally amazing afternoon, thank you all!”

There were lots more – all in a similar vein – a day to remember – celebrating the Soroptimist centenary with Soroptimist sisters around the world was super!


This was a very special meeting – a super way to celebrate our centenary! To read more about the centennial click on the website