Sixty-two years after its founding, the Zamorano Club, a distinguished organization of Southern California bibliophiles that includes many luminaries in the book-collecting world, has been quietly integrated.
Until now, the private club, named after California’s first printer, Don Augustin Zamorano, has limited its membership to 80 men--a practice that failed to cause any ripples for most of its history.
But after two women, Victoria Steele, head of USC Library’s special collections, and Doris Harris, an autograph and manuscript dealer, were denied membership by the club’s board of governors last spring, all that changed.
The rejections led to the resignation of three prominent bibliophiles and an informal poll of the the membership, which voted “overwhelmingly” to admit women, according to Loren H. Rothschild, a Los Angeles industrialist who tabulated the results.
Responding to this pressure, the seven-member board voted unanimously earlier this month to invite five women to join. Zamorano President Martin Ridge declined to name them. Steele, however, said she was not among them. Harris was unavailable for comment.
Ridge, a senior research associate at the Huntington Library, sought to minimize the significance of the vote, noting that three of the club’s 15 honorary members are women and that the club’s bylaws contain no language prohibiting female members.
But it was apparently Ridge himself who helped precipitate the resignations of Dr. Irwin (Jack) Pincus, a retired gastroenterologist, Daniel H. Woodward, departing librarian at the Huntington Library, and Robert Vosper, UCLA librarian and professor emeritus.
“I’ve written several letters saying, ‘if you don’t like what the club does, quit,”’ Ridge acknowledged.
After the resignations, Rothschild and other members warned Zamoranons in a letter that “the continued existence of the club as a responsible and respected institution is in great jeopardy,” according to a draft provided to The Times.
Steele said she was surprised and disappointed not to be among the first women invited to join the club, which holds most of its meetings at USC.
Ridge declined to comment on Steele’s exclusion or to say whether the members who resigned would be invited back.