About the author

Eva Nielsen holds an MA in history from the University of Copenhagen and was awarded the University’s Gold Medal in 1963 for her research. Eva has since taught history from first grade to university level in Denmark, and from 1975 to 2001 was Principal of Aabenraa Statsskole, an academic high school with boarding facilities for students.

After joining Zonta in 1996 as a charter member of the Zonta Club of Sonderborg, Eva transferred to the Zonta Club of Esbjerg when she moved to the island of Fanoe on the west coast of Denmark in 2006. With the closure of the Esbjerg club in 2019, she transferred to the Zonta Club of Copenhagen II (club no. 0822).

In District 13, Eva has served as club president, area director, lieutenant governor, governor (2014-2016), and as a member of several committees at all levels of Zonta, notably dedicating a decade to Zonta International as a member of the Centennial Anniversary Committee (CAC) from its establishment in 2010.

Zonta International is Eva’s organization of choice because of the access it gives to an international network of educated women, and because Zonta advocates for women´s rights as human rights.

Author’s Acknowledgements

Being a member of CAC has given me an opportunity to learn about Zonta and to be acquainted with a great many Zontians. I want to express my gratitude to Past International President Dianne Curtis who appointed me in 2010 and to the succeeding International Presidents who extended my appointment as a member of CAC.

My special gratitude goes to Past International President Val Sarah and to Past Zonta International Director Beryl McMillan for their inspiring leadership, patient proof-reading, and wonderful conversations. Past International Presidents Margit Webjörn, Beryl Sten, Mary Ellen Bittner and Olivia Ferry, Committee Chairmen Karin Nordmeyer, Leslie E. Wright, Ragna Karlsdóttir and many Zontians from all over the world have kindly answered my questions when I could not find answers in the source material I have collected. Your help was important and very much appreciated. Thank you.

Special thanks go to all district historians, including those in Europe for our exciting and productive meetings from 2013 to 2017. They are Ingeborg Geyer and Franziska Wein (District 14), Ulla Mikkola (District 20), Bodil Ulate Segura and Marianne von Hartmansdorff (District 21), Annette Binder, Marianne Dwars and Liesbet von Landegem (District 27), Wiltrud Walther (District 28), Irene Wiese-von Ofen (District 29) and Karin Saeger (District 30). Irene and Karin very kindly lent me several of their own ZI Directories which have been part of my core material.

To my fellow members of the history group, thank you for your interest in my research, for conversations at conventions and email correspondence. They are: Nicki Bonner (California, USA), Vivian Cody (New York, USA), Amy Lai (Taipei, Republic of China), Omotayo Morgan (Ibadan, Nigeria), Erlinda Panlilio (Makati City, Philippines) and Ronda Walker (Victoria, Australia).

I am also grateful to District 13 clubs for their never-ending interest in my research and to the Danish clubs of District 13 Area 01 who pledged financial support if it was needed to bring the project to completion.

I am grateful for the opportunity Zonta International gave me to work for three days in March 2017 with historical records kept at headquarters in Oak Brook or stored nearby. With permission from Executive Director Allison Summers, Communications Manager, Kate Trusk Edrinn, supported PIP Val Sarah and me in accessing all past volumes of The Zontian and the incomplete archive of past directories, Zonta International Bylaws and special publications. Kate has continued to support the project over the intervening three years, responding promptly and generously to any queries.

My gratitude goes to Past International Director Judith Anderson (District 22) for meticulous and knowledgeable editing accompanied with humor and encouragement. I have learnt much during this process.

Finally, I want to express my extreme gratitude to my husband Kresten Refslund. Without his understanding I could not have completed this work.

I hope that this history will be helpful for those who seek information on the development of Zonta International, and in the spirit of Zonta, I cannot end without acknowledging one of my mentors: author and translator Aslaug Moeller (née Mikkelsen), one of the founders of the Zonta Club of Copenhagen I.

The greatest care has been taken to ensure that this history is factually correct. Any mistakes and inaccuracies are mine.

Eva Nielsen
January 2020

Recommended Reading

The following list suggests sources of further information on different aspects of Zonta International’s history and development.

Zonta International

  • Theresa de Langis, Advancing the Status of Women Worldwide. A History of Zonta International 1919-1999, USA 2000, ISBN 1-56311-591-3
  • Bylaws. Biennial editions
  • Zonta International Directories: Annual, later Biennial editions since 2016 ZI on-line directory
  • The Zontian. HQ has a complete collection in the HQ-library. D-13 archives hold several issues, but not a complete collection. Some issues are published at
  • ZI e-newsletters,

Zonta Districts

  • History of District 30 1994-2014. Advancing the Status of Women Worldwide, Karin Saeger, Josiane Menard, Barbara Bernabò, Susanne Trojani and Kati Stoitchkova, Filograf- Forli, May 2014.
  • District 17: Zonta’s Vibrant Presence in Asia & the Pacific, Erlinda E. Panlilio, 2020
  • District 16: Empowering Women. A History of Zonta International in New Zealand 1965-2016 by Jennifer A. Loughton, ISBN 978-0-473-402-6
  • District 16, 22, 23, 24: Zonta International: Down Under and Across the Ditch, ISBN 978-0-994-362-322, 2019
  • 80 Years District 13 1935–2015, Eva Nielsen, ISBN 978-87-998398-0-3
  • Zonta International District 12 1952-2016, Beth Robertson, 2017
  • History of District IX 1921-54, M.E. Bonham and Blodwen R. Hunt
  • History of District IX, Wilma M. Swantz, 1982
  • ZI History of District V, Marjorie Wilson, 1990
  • Zonta International District 4, Mary Yunker and Vivian Cody, 2016

Zonta Clubs

  • Der erste Deutsche ZONTA-Club, Auf den Spuren Aussergewönlicher Frauen, Deutschland 2002 ISBN 3-935549-43-1
  • 80 Jahre Zonta in Europa, Wien 2010, Praesens Verlag Wien 2010 and
  • Jahresbericht 1969-70, Zonta International/Club Wien


  • ´Folake Solanke, Reaching for the Stars, the autobiography, 2007 ISBN 978-978-8088-50-9
  • Irma Kunttu, Helvi Sipilä, Woman at the Top of the World, Helsinki 1978 ISBN 951-1-05155-5

United Nations

  • Hilkka Pietilä, The Unfinished Story of Women and The United Nations, Development Dossier, UN 2007

Status of women

  • Equal career opportunities, facts or fiction? Published December 1975 by District XIII and XIV
  • Attitudes and Background of European Career Women. A Survey Among the European Members of Zonta International, Helsinki 1978
  • The Zonta International Status of Women Study, Dr. Burleigh Gardner of Social Research, Inc., 1985

Service clubs

  • Anton C. Zijderveld, Tradition linked to modernity. A sociological Interpretation of Service Clubs (Kiwanis, Soroptimists, Zonta, Rotary Lions), the Netherlands, 1978