Looking back on June 1919: ‘Lift-off’ for Zonta

By Susanne von Bassewitz, International President

June 1919 was a milestone month for women’s history in the United States. After decades of petitions, silent vigils, hunger strikes and protests, in June 1919, the U.S. Senate passed the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing all American women the right to vote. The amendment would not be fully ratified until 18 August 1920; however, its passage was a victory for women suffragists who had fought tirelessly to be given an equal voice and to be fully recognized as American citizens.

The weeks immediately preceding and following the passing of the 19th Amendment encouraged tens of thousands of women to use their newfound voices. The women who would become the first Zontians had gathered only a few months ago to conceive of a different kind of women’s organization. Soon they would already count some hundred (!) pioneer women who would, on 8 November 1919, form Zonta. In hindsight, the creation of Zonta was an even more remarkable achievement since this organizational effort was made in times of snail mail and a just developing telephone infrastructure.  

I think it’s not exaggerated to say that the successful fight for women’s right to vote was the “lift-off” for Zonta. The drive and admirable energy that our founding sisters felt encourages us to take more bold steps on the road for gender equity.