By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor
Zonta International, the professional women’s service club founded in Buffalo in 1919, marks its centennial on November 8. The Glens Falls chapter was formed just five years from the start. It is 95 years old.
The 25 original members held their first luncheon at the Rockwell House hotel on Glen Street on February 12, 1924, says Glens Falls club president Frances Bowen.
Glens Falls Zonta has 38 members today. They plan to mark the International centennial with a community dinner and cocktail reception on Saturday, Nov. 16, at Hiland Country Club in Queensbury.
It will recognize local women who have made “outstanding efforts in keeping with Zonta’s mission.”
Ginny Sullivan, co-chair of the Centennial Committee, says they’re actively seeking nominees. “They don’t have to be members of Zonta,” Mrs. Sullivan adds. “This is a celebration for the whole community, we hope.” See the Website, listed below for details.
Seeks women nominees
What is Zonta’s mission?
Long-time member Irene Orton, who is also the District 2 Governor overseeing 20 clubs in New York State and Canada, said, “We are an international organization that honors and empowers women and young girls. Right now our focus is on ending child marriage.”
Other efforts have addressed domestic violence and human trafficking.
Mrs. Orton notes, “This is not just an issue of the world that happens in other countries. Child marriage is the marriage of any person under 18. There are only two states in this country that have passed laws about this. Most states have loopholes that allow it. It is a form of child abuse.”
Glens Falls Zonta is best known for its three major fund-raising events. The Zonta Country Faire craft show, the same weekend as LARAC’s annual June Arts Festival, is heading to its 59th year in 2020.
Zonta also had its 10th annual craft fair during the Adirondack Balloon Festival, on the tarmac at Warren County Airport.
Their 20th annual golf tournament fund-raiser will take place next June.
Funds raised go to scholarships for graduating seniors and for women looking to return to the workplace. They also support local organizations helping women in need, and Zonta International’s world-wide efforts on the issues, Mrs. Orton noted.
Glens Falls Zonta initiated a task force on human trafficking in Warren and Washington Counties.
Is human trafficking — the trade of humans for forced labour or sexual exploitation — an issue here? “Yes,” says Mrs. Orton. “We are on the route to Canada, out of the country. It is definitely an issue.”
They’ve partnered with groups such as Catholic Charities to raise awareness and combat domestic violence in the region. More people are seeking help, they say, in light of the Me Too movement. They also support men’s awareness efforts such as through the group “He for She.”
District 2 raised $186,563 for local community service projects last year, Mrs. Orton said, much of that, “by far,” from the Glens Falls Club.
Last year, Glens Falls provided $12,000 to Zonta International, $12,000 to local organizations, and $19,000 in educational scholarships for local women.
For all their community work, however, “We used to be a sort of secret organization,” Mrs. Bowen says.
In recent years, the group has dramatically increased its community presence. They’ve become active on Facebook and Instagram, with daily posts — sharing or re-posting sometimes outspoken, no-holds-barred messages about female trafficking, domestic violence, successful women’s stories and the Me Too movement.
Lorraine Abess, president-elect and chair of the leadership development committee, is responsible for the Social Media posts. “I ‘like’ and re-post messages of empowerment and support,” she says.
“This is still a society that doesn’t always recognize the importance of what women do, or respecting women. They need to know they are worthwhile. We also look to bring men into the conversation. Educating young men is so important to these goals.”
Danced as ‘The Supremes’
On a lighter note, the Glens Falls Zontians put together a memorable act for the first-ever Glens Falls Lip Sync contest last May at the Wood Theater. Wearing long black robes, they danced as “The Supremes” to the song “Stop in the Name of (LAW),” pointing out, with humor, that of the 114 U.S. Supreme Court justices ever to have served, only four have been women.
Together with the local branches of two other women’s organizations — Soroptimists and the American Association of University Women — Zonta also launched an annual Women’s Day luncheon bringing in speakers addressing women’s health and other concerns around the world.
They’ll participate in Zonta International’s “16 Days of Action,” beginning in late November, again, showcasing efforts to end violence against women, locally and internationally. They said they consider themselves “activists, but non-sectarian.”
They said, “We don’t endorse candidates or anything like that.”
“It’s important, the balance of the international and the local mission,” Mrs. Sullivan said. “We are supporting grassroots efforts here, but also the bigger issues in developing countries where violence against women and child marriage is a whole different message.”
Find Zonta info on the Web
For information on Zonta, its mission, membership, the community dinner on November 16 or to nominate a woman to be recognized at the dinner, go to www.ZontaClubofGlensFalls.org. Also find the group on Facebook and Instagram.
Members: Why we joined Zonta…
Members of the Zonta Club of Glens Falls had this to say about why they chose to join Zonta.
“Women in 1970 couldn’t have their own bank account,” president Frances Bowen recalls. “In 1978, I couldn’t get car insurance in my own name.”
She says, “I joined Zonta for personal reasons, so women wouldn’t have to go through the things I did. There was a time, there still is, that women were treated as chattel. Men owned them. I’d like to see that end. The members of this club are the most hard-working and sincere about what they do. And we have a lot of fun, too.”
President-elect Lorraine Abess says, “As a young girl I experienced a lot of what I want to see end for girls in the future. I had a personal reason for joining Zonta, what drove me initially. Many of us had these reasons why we joined, and we have grown, out of this experience.”
District 2 Governor Irene Orton says, “I love the friendships I’ve made, the mission of Zonta, and teaching our daughters, granddaughters and nieces, empowering them to be and do what you want to be, to be brave. I come from the City originally, so I also love the international piece.”
Centennial co-chair Ginny Sullivan says, “I love the friendship, the service and the friendship, and what we’re doing at the club level. We are women; we know what it’s like to be in a society where men have run the show forever. We have uplifted so many lives, near and far.”
— Cathy DeDe
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