1930 Dr Mabel Ramsay pioneered the formation of the Plymouth Soroptimist Club, after a brief few months as a Venture Club. There were 34 members including Nancy Lady Astor, the first woman to take her seat in the House of Commons. The Club prospered with members predominantly from the professions but we did have a Timber Merchant and a Quarry Owner too!
1941 Plymouth was blitzed and the Club records and meeting place were destroyed. The Club limped along as attendance dropped and meeting were only held monthly. In 1943/44, 3 members petitioned the Chief Constable with the Clubs views about the lack of women in the Police Force. Shortly afterwards 5 policewomen were appointed. We were supported with food parcels by a number of American Clubs including Spokane.
FIFTIES AND SIXTIES
We emerged from the effects of war. Membership and Activities expanded. We supported a child with leprosy and delivered over 30 Christmas parcels to the needy and elderly each year. By 1958 we had several “out of town” members and became The Plymouth and District Soroptimist Club, meeting twice monthly once more, with membership increasing to 45. The City of Plymouth Coat of Arms was added to the President’s Insignia.
Membership was now about 50. A boat named” Soroptimist” was purchased and maintained for YWCA girls to use at The Drakes Island Adventure Centre from 197 1-76. Many visits were made to and from our Friendship Links of Spokane, Rotterdam, New Plymouth and Brest. Programmes of Action were vigorously pursued.
To celebrate our 50th anniversary in 1980 and the 400th anniversary of the 1st circumnavigation of the World, the Club presented the City of Plymouth with a Royal Doulton seated figure of Sir Francis Drake. An American Soroptimist visiting our Barbican noticed that those listed as sailing in the Mayflower in 1620 were all men! We persuaded the City to list the women too, and financed the project.
The Club insignia was refurbished in 1991, when the bars bearing the names of all our Presidents were made into an attractive chain. Throughout this decade the club has supporting Ion Majorescu High School in Guirgui, Romania; providing books for their English library, teaching material for English courses and hospitality for their English teachers undertaking study in Plymouth. Our past president’s daughter also taught there in her gap year.
We have actively supported local sick children by contributing to the charity Cancer and Leukaemia in Childhood and the Children’s Hospice Southwest; we have supported women by raising money for a dedicated Breast Care Unit at Derriford Hospital, the Regional Osteoporosis Research Fund and the Women’s Dependency Unit for Substance Abuse.
MILLENNIUM – 2010
We celebrated our 70th Anniversary in 2000 with a wonderful 3-day Friendship weekend. It had a grand International feel with greetings from around the world. The display of the Limbs for Life Quilt, and visitors from France, America and Sweden.
We have also purchased a computer and appropriate software for the Child Development Centre in Plymouth for young children with severe developmental problems and communication difficulties. This will enable the children to develop their communication skills.
The new millennium started with the inauguration of the 2000 Club . The first decade saw us involved in some major projects: Pink Plymouth for breast cancer and building a well and toilets for a village in Nepal. Other overseas related projects sent books to Romania, saw us build a pyramid of shoes in the city centre to raise awareness of cluster bombs and “Love in a box” shoeboxes in collaboration with the Mustard Seed appeal – an ongoing project.
Closer to home the club collaborated with Rotary to produce youth concerts to raise money for Children’s Hospice South West. We also helped Shelterbox, the Women’s Refuge and Trevi House and we placed a bench on the Hoe and helped the food bank. We had the honour of Mary McNaughton being a regional president in 2004-2005 and another regional president, Penny Etherington, in 2007-2008.
This decade we continued to support the Women’s Refuge, Trevi House and “Love in a box” projects along with activities for International Women’s Day and participation in Tavistock’s Dickensian evening. Projects abroad have included Mary’s Meals backpacks, Dress a Girl in collaboration with the Girl Guides, a second Nepal well and toilet build and the Bissary project in The Gambia. At home we produced Love me/Love me not bookmarks and posters to raise awareness of domestic abuse, and had a city centre stall for the Purple Teardrop campaign and an information stall at the Lord Mayor’s Day in Plymouth city centre. A creative writing competition again involved the Girl Guides and for International Literacy Day we had a stall in the city centre and gave away books to encourage reading. Members have also attended the Lord Mayor’s choosing ceremonies and carol concerts. The club has had fund raising stalls at Plympton’s Lamb Feast.
One member, Hilary Preston, worked hard to install the first blue plaque solely for a women in honour of Dr Mabel Ramsay, who was the first female surgeon in Plymouth and a founder member of our club. Hilary also organised a march through Plymouth city centre with over 100 women (some in period costume) carrying plaques to commemorate the ‘first’ achievements of 100 women.
During this decade we have sponsored a female engineering student at Plymouth University and contributed funds to young girls working on projects overseas. We have also sponsored the University of Plymouth female football club.
Both decades have also included fun events such as celebrating the royal wedding, lunches at the Horn of Plenty, lively barn dances, quiz nights and coffee mornings.