All-Male Club of 60 Years Finally Relents
Pasadena’s University Club, a men-only institution for more than 60 years, has decided to admit women.
For doctors, lawyers, city officials and high-ranking businessmen, the club’s exclusive board rooms always have been the place to discuss important issues, talk deals, make contracts and learn lessons.
The club’s 600 members had voted twice previously--in 1977 and again in 1980--against allowing women to join. But on Tuesday, members voted by a 3-1 margin to change their minds.
“We’ve moved into the 20th Century,” laughed club President John Bonholtzer on Wednesday.
Bonholtzer, a commercial real estate broker, said the issue has been “on our minds for the last few years. This is an issue which many organizations have been grappling with.”
In March, Rotary International was ordered by a state appellate court to reinstate the Duarte chapter it ousted eight years ago for admitting three women members. Male-only clubs such as the Jonathan Club in Los Angeles and the exclusive and secretive Bohemian Club on the Russian River, whose members include President Reagan and Vice President George Bush, have come under increasing criticism from politicians and legal and feminist groups.
The University Club, established in 1922, is open daily for lunch. City Manager Donald F. McIntyre is a member. So is Mayor John Crowley. But the Board of City Directors stopped having special meetings there several years ago because of the membership rule barring only women. The club does not have racial barriers, one official said.
Director Loretta Thompson-Glickman, the city’s first black mayor and the second woman to hold the post, squealed in delight when told of the club’s vote.
“I love it!” she cried. “It’s the old-boys network. It’s a little institution. The University Club is where everyone met. All the decisions were made there. That’s where it all happened.”
Glickman said that after first being elected to the board in 1977, she and Jo Heckman, the only other woman director, had to enter the club through a side door.
“They wouldn’t let us in the front door,” she said. “I remember one time, three of us walked over and they were not going to let us in. They said you’ll have to use the side door. And I said, I’ll show them.”
Glickman said that shortly thereafter, she made an impassioned speech during a city directors’ meeting urging her colleagues to meet elsewhere. They agreed.
Attorney Candis Ipswitch applied for membership at the behest of two club members in 1977. She was turned down “because I was the wrong sex,” she said Wednesday. “When they rejected my membership application, they stated it was because I was a woman.”
As a member of the board of directors of the Pasadena Bar Assn., Ipswitch said she has pushed her colleagues to meet at other places “so as not to subsidize the University Club. We used to meet there all the time.”
Ipswitch said the decision to allow women “shows that the place is being run now by people who are more aware of what’s going on. I don’t think it’s all altruistic. I think they realize that they’ve got to have more members and that women will provide that.”
Attorney Lorne Brown, a member 15 years, was one of two who proposed Ipswitch for membership. He said that he has remained an outspoken advocate of allowing women to join.
“I think it’s about time,” he said Wednesday. Asked why the club had excluded women, he replied, “Small things, like if we had female members, they have higher voices and the noise levels will increase. Dumb things like that. They were so idiotic that they didn’t make any sense.”
Even without the men-only rule, membership is not open to everyone. Prospective members must have business or professional careers, at least three years of study at an “acceptable” university, and be recommended by two current members.
Bonholtzer said two women have already called seeking membership. “One is a judge and one is an attorney. I can’t tell you who they are--in case they’re not accepted,” he said.