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Celebrating SI Oakland’s Centenary Virtually (Founding Soroptimist Club and Friendship Link)

In early 2021, members of SI Oakland – The Founder Club (SIO-TFC) – were invited to zoom into a London Chilterns Region meeting for a Centenary entertainment organised by their UK Friendship Link Club, Milton Keynes.  Enterprising Milton Keynes, the youngest club in the region (chartered 2015), had lost no time in forging a link with SI Oakland.

At the Regional meeting, Soroptimist International Greater London Club (SIGL) chartered in 1924 (the first Soroptimist Club chartered outside the Americas), was honoured to accept an invitation from the Founder Club to forge an historic Friendship Link with Oakland in its Centenary year, 2021. SI Greater London club celebrates its charter centenary in 2024. SIGL needs new members to be take part in the fun and be in the historic photos.  Apply now.

Members of SI Bristol (founded in 1920 as a Venture Club that in 1930 amalgamated with SI), likewise linked with Oakland fairly recently in 2020. Members of all three UK clubs were delighted to be invited to zoom in to Oakland Club’s Centennial Celebration on 3rd October 2021 even though this meant viewing from 9pm to midnight, UK time.

New ‘Pandemic Normal’ Zoom meetings are custom-made for Soroptimist Friendship Link drop-ins. Timing can be a problem! The sun rises in the east 8 hours earlier in the UK than in Oakland, California, a busy sea port on the west coast of the United States.

Oakland Soroptimists at their outdoor, afternoon celebration in a lakeside park setting, recaptured the spirit of the 1920’s era by wearing beautiful vintage-style, Charleston-dance-inspired costumes.

This was the first facemask-optional event that Oakland members had attended since the contagious Coronavirus outbreak in 2019 caught the world off-guard and vulnerable. Event attendees were required to be fully vaccinated against the Pandemic.  Elbow-bump greetings between friends were the ‘new normal’.

The most fun for ‘real’ guests was being photographed as Womanhood in the centre of the iconic Soroptimist International symbol designed by early Oakland member Anita Houts Thompson.  Womanhood was adopted as SI’s universal emblem in 1927.

SI Bristol, Milton Keynes and Greater London clubs – the bedtime brigade – zoomed in to congratulate SI Oakland members on attaining their first Centenary.  Attaining that centenary was no mean feat in view of that century’s turbulence throughout the world.  Soroptimists were needed!

  • In the United States in 1929 the Stock Market crashed causing economic depression throughout the world until 1941.
  • World War II (1939-45) with its great loss of life was followed in 1947 by anti-cyclone conditions that caused The Great Freeze throughout Europe.
  • The Great Freeze was felt by Britain in particular with prolonged sub-zero temperatures and deep snowdrifts closing arteries of transportation of coal and food throughout January and February. This was followed in March by a rapid thaw that caused flooding.
  • By-passing Tsunamis, cyclones, ship sinkings, train and aircraft crashes, droughts, bushfires, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and terrorist attacks, we arrive at the latest world catastrophe in 2019-21 and ongoing – the Coronavirus Pandemic – from which Health Services and Medical Science are leading the recovery.

Soroptimist International advocacy of improved status and political consultation for women and girls is helping to increase women’s confidence and improve their educational opportunity and employment prospects, globally.

SI Oakland’s outstanding contribution to the education of elementary school girls in a low income area has been its Steps to Success project. Female role models in a variety of careers talk to girls about their type of work, its usefulness, interest, and the personal fulfilment and financial security it confers.  The girls are later taken on a Soroptimist shopping expedition, to select from within a budget range, a desired pair of shoes to set their feet on steps to success in future careers.

SIGL Club has been impressed by SI Oakland Club’s successful formula.  SIGL members hope that Oakland may take an interest in SIGL’s forthcoming planned monitoring of Specialist Domestic Violence Courts (SDVCs), with a view to improving court procedure for all concerned.

The culmination of SI Oakland’s special anniversary was the presentation by Mayor Libby Schaaf of a Proclamation designating October 3rd, 2021 as SI Oakland Day – whilst Congresswoman Barbara Lee,

US House of Representatives, honoured SI Oakland with a Congressional Certificate of Congratulations on its century of service to women and girls, notably in education.

Photos of the day (© SIO-TFC) including Mayoral and Congressional recognition, and a Steps to Success video may be seen on the SIO-TFC website

SIGL historian Irene, in pyjamas, let her hair down to watch SI Oakland club President Carolyn Bolton (left) aided by Friendship Link Ambassador Patricia Costello (right) sign the Greater London club Friendship Link certificate. Photo © David & V. Irene Cockroft 
Historic Friendship Link certificate signing. Enhanced screenshot © V. Irene Cockroft  
The Centennial celebration was held in the verdant grounds of Camron-Stanford House Museum located by Lake Merritt in Oakland. The temperature was a pleasant 75 degrees Fahrenheit (around 24 degrees Celsius). The sky was blue, pierced by distant skyscrapers. Photo © SIO – TFC  
Founder Region Soroptimists in sassy Charleston costumes flitted between flower-bedecked tables greeting friends. Photo © SIO – TFC
Oakland Celebration Committee Chair, Carol Dippel, represented the SI emblem, Womanhood. Photo © SIO – TFC