THE HISTORY & DEVELOPMENT OF SOROPTIMISM IN NORTHERN ENGLAND
2021 will be commemorated as the Centenary of the birth of Soroptimism in Oakland, California, U.S.A. in 1921. The first clubs in Europe were chartered in 1924 in London and in Paris. Clubs in the U.K. grew with Manchester and Liverpool in 1926; Glasgow and Edinburgh in 1927; Birmingham in 1928 and Aberdeen in 1929. By 1928 there were enough clubs in the two continents to form two Federations – America and Europe. A link between them was established by the creation of the ‘Soroptimist International Association’ in 1928. In 1934, the Annual Conference of the British National Union was held in London where it was proposed to form a separate Federation of Great Britain and Ireland. In 1936, after a years trial, it was agreed to establish nine Divisional Unions encompassing the then forty-four British Clubs.
The earliest clubs in the north were members of the North East Divisional Union , founded in 1936 and stretching North from Yorkshire. Meetings were held in Leeds.
During these early times several new clubs were chartered. S.I.Newcastle upon Tyne was the first in 1937 and was closely followed by S.I.Sunderland in 1938. The war years slowed down progress but S.I.Carlisle was chartered in 1941; S.I.Middlesborough in 1945 closely followed by S.I.Durham; S.I.Hartlepool snd S.I.Tynemouth in 1947.
In 1948, the new Divisional Union of Northern England was formed while the original North East Divisional Union took the new title of Yorkshire Divisional Union. The formation of new clubs progressed rapidly with S.I.Darlington and District and S.I.South Shields and District both being chartered in 1948. 1949 saw S.I.Morpeth and District being chartered. As we entered the 1950’s, S.I.Gateshead was chartered with some members transferring from S.I.Newcastle upon Tyne in 1950 and then S.I.Whitley Bay in 1953; S.I.Stockton – on – Tees in 1958 and S.I.Ashington & Newbiggin in 1959. The 1960’s saw further progress with S.I.Penrith & District and also S.I. Bedlington & Blyth being chartered in 1960. In 1967 S.I.Hexham was formed followed by S.I.Berwick & District in 1968 and a few months later by S.I.Alnwick in 1969. In 1973 S.I.Whitehaven & District was chartered. Progress then started to slow down and S.I.Cockermouth & District was chartered in 1981.
In 1990 the Region known as the Divisional Union of Northern England changed its title and became S.I. Region of Northern England as it is still called today. In 1991 our newest club, S.I.Tynedale, was chartered and in 2003 it was agreed that S.I.Tynemouth and S.I.Whitley Bay & District would merge to form a new club of S.I. Tynemouth, Whitley Bay & District. Over the years since 1937, a total of nine clubs have closed with one new club emerging as a new S.I.Tynedale in the Tyne Valley and two further clubs merging to form one. Twelve clubs remain and many members have made the welcome decision to transfer from clubs facing closure into neighbouring clubs.
In the wider world, Soroptimist International continues to liaise and link the four Federations together and an International Convention is held every four years. The Federations are those of S.I. of The Americas; S.I. of Europe; S.I. of Great British and Ireland; S.I. of the South West Pacific. Plans are well advanced to charter the fifth Federation of Africa in 2021.