‘Have Fun. Get It Done’

Soroptimists celebrate 100 years of giving women an extra boost

By LeAne Rutherford
February 2023

In 1921, when women were not allowed to join male community groups in Oakland, 80 women signed a charter for the first Soroptimist Club, of and for women.

Not far behind Oakland, Soroptimist International of Sacramento was chartered in 1923.

Now global, 72,000 members in 121 countries belong to this volunteer service organization. Celebrating 100 years, Sacramento’s club is the fourth oldest active soroptimist club in the world.

Loosely translated, “soroptimist” means “best for women.” The nearly 50 business and professional women comprising Soroptimist International of Sacramento volunteer their efforts for the benefit of women and girls through education and training for economic improvement.

Members range in age from early 40s to 103, with many in their 70s and 80s. Ethnically diverse, they include African American, Asian, Indian, Latina and Pacific Islander women. Their reasons for becoming Soroptimists are varied.

Pat McConahay is “inspired by the concept of women helping women, particularly at-risk women who have as many talents and gifts to share as anyone else. They just need that extra boost.”

The club’s history is dense with good deeds. In the ‘20s and ‘30s, members arranged milk stations for the needy and funded tuberculosis services.

During World War II, they contributed to the Red Cross, backed USOs and furnished an empty room for the Women’s Army Corp at McClellan Air Force Base.

In subsequent years, they subsidized drug rehabilitation, collected 9,000 pounds of clothing for disadvantaged Native Americans, purchased a kidney machine for Sutter Memorial Hospital and Braille machines for the blind, donated funds to establish PBS KVIE, and supported the Sacramento Science Center and newly established WEAVE.

When good things are happening, look for the soroptimists behind the curtain. Over time, attention went to a monthly cleanup of the American River Parkway, underwriting 20 performances of the Children’s Fantasy Theatre and championing independent living for foster children aging out of the system.

Their worthy works continue. Last year, Soroptimist International of Sacramento awarded $28,000 to six young women seeking university degrees ranging from master’s to MDs. “It has been so gratifying to me to hear directly from these women about the impact of the scholarships and how they have helped them reach their goals,” President Karen Smith says.

The Sacramento club has presented grants to organizations such as My Sister’s House, which provides safe haven, job training and community services for Asian and Pacific Islander women and others, and Saint John’s Program for Real Change, a residential program for moms in crisis.

Live Your Dream Awards give scholarships to women, often single mothers who are the financial heads-of-household, seeking a degree or enrolling in a technical training program. Cash awards may be used for things such as books, childcare, tuition and transportation.

The Dream It, Be It program provides training for young women at the Sacramento Academic & Vocational Academy in finances and life skills. Classes include exploring careers, creating achievable goals, rising above obstacles and turning failure into success.

A four-week “Money Matters—Making Your Money Go Further and Last Longer” program focuses on financial literacy. Designed and taught by club members to build rudimentary skills and confidence in homeless women, the program teaches how to plan, budget, bank, save, balance a checkbook, use a credit card and shop wisely.

More than half the recipients have survived domestic violence, trafficking or sexual assault. Nearly all the women and families have overcome the enormous obstacles of poverty, teen pregnancy, and drug or alcohol addiction.

The club’s informal motto is “Have fun. Get It Done.” Lunch meetings twice a month, guest speakers, holiday get-togethers, sangria socials, crab feeds, potlucks, fundraising and polo parties help members get to know each other and build camaraderie.

Soroptimist International of Sacramento celebrates its 100th year on Saturday, March 4, at The Dante Club. For tickets and information, visit sis.ticketleap.com/100 or soroptimistsacramento.com.

LeAne Rutherford can be reached at lrutherf@d.umn.edu. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

Stay up-to-date with our always 100% local newsletter!

* indicates required
Type of Newsletter
Share via
Copy link