Our Vision: "Women and girls have the resources and opportunities to reach their full potential and live their dreams."

Soroptimist History Through the Decades


The Soroptimist Club membership represented a vital cross-section of community thinking and planning. Service projects, through the years, cannot be recorded without relating the clubs' activities to the influential events of their communities, the nation, and the world.

Clubs that came into being during the "Roaring 20's" experienced the Stock Market Crash and the resultant financial disaster. Service was rendered to club members who experienced financial loss so they could re-establish their businesses as well as meet their immediate family needs. It is true that Soroptimists suffered disaster, however, many clubs initiated Service projects that have paved the way for greater things.

Our first club reported supporting a "Save the Redwood League" project and the establishment of a vocational guidance bureau in cooperation with Oakland YWCA. Today this bureau is a part of the California Employment Service. Sacramento planted a "mile of trees" along the Sacramento-Stockton highway and furnished flowers for hospital rooms. San Jose established scholarships for college students and provided camperships for children. These projects are in existence today in the 1970s.

Different was the project of Watsonville in the 1920s - with its young, "either in body or spirit," membership singing and putting on skits when visiting other Soroptimist groups.


The 30's ushered in the "depression" years which were hard on Soroptimists as well as the public at large. Soroptimists turned their efforts to providing clothing, medical supplies, dental and shoe funds, milk lines for children and food for the needy at home and abroad.

It was during this time that Hitler was named chancellor and was busy creating a formidable machine which was ultimately to affect the living people all over the world. Even with war clouds hanging overhead, and despite the depression, Soroptimists were rendering service to their communities to make them better places in which to live. Throughout the region, scholarships, camperships and student loan funds were initiated. Napa club gave "packages for patients" in the Napa County Infirmary- it was so successful that it has continued into the '70s. San Jose had a project "Say It With Roses", and planted a plot in the City Rose Garden with a rose from every State in the Union. It grows today.

Other history-making projects were:
Berkeley sponsored a "Women's Driving School" and was a force in having a center-line painted on highways; Eureka assisted the W.P.A. in locating employment for women; Richmond assisted the physically and mentally handicapped; Marysville-Yuba City provided a Christmas pageant with music, carols and scenes of camels and wisemen on an island in the city lake; Fresno provided funds for needy college girls; Modesto furnished lunches for school children; Visalia supplied clothes for high school seniors; and Monterey spent time restoring dolls and distributing them to needy children.


In the '40s service efforts were turned toward immediate war work, as shocked America reeled under the devastating bombing of Pearl Harbor. Red Cross, Service Chest, High Sea Gifts, USO, and YMCA work was undertaken with redoubled efforts. Soroptimists uncomplaining took up unaccustomed jobs to keep the ships, tanks, planes and supplies rolling, while in their hearts were silent hopes and a fervent prayer for the return of their loved ones. Ambulances and station wagons bearing the Soroptimist name were transporting military men from bases to hospitals. Soroptimists manned USO Community Canteens and Lookout Stations.
Honolulu Club headed the evacuation immediately after the Pearl Harbor disaster. Hospital equipment of all kinds were donated. There were "Packages for England", "Bundles for Holland", Chinese Relief, (AFA fund for Mule Back Nurses of China) hundreds of wheelchairs donated to returning veterans, and projects too many to name.

At long last the tide of events began to turn in 1944, as America took heart with the Normandy Invasion and the Battle for Leyte. Southwestern Soroptimists gave freely of their "Founder Pennies" to a fund (first known as the Madame Noel Fund) for the purpose of re-establishment of clubs in war-torn Europe. Events moved fast in 1945 - the Yalta conference and the Charter adoption in San Francisco in June; the surrender of Japan in August 1945.

The happier years from 1946-1950 saw the club activities turn quickly to peace. Scholarship programs increased in number. The Regional Fellowship program began in 1948 for women graduate students at universities. It was in 1948, too, that Southwestern region purchased a Redwood Grove of forty acres in Prairie Creek area, on highway 101, north of Eureka.

Club service went forward with the '40s. Santa Rosa instituted the Sonoma County Fair nursery for children from three to six years of age (care of children when parents attended the fair). It still operates with Soroptimist volunteer supervision. Vallejo collected and shipped English language classics to Russia. Sacramento furnished musical instruments for a Lincoln School band. Modesto and Napa sponsored youth centers. Berkeley and Visalia sponsored Girl Scouts. Fresno, a midsummer formal ball for servicemen, and Eureka became known for its dental fund.


IDuring the early '50s Armistice talks bogged down in Korea and Southwestern Region was "bogging down" under torrential rains. Severe losses were felt in Marysville-Yuba City, Santa Cruz, Humboldt and Sonoma Counties. Soroptimists were on the spot with housing, food, clothing and medical supplies for flood
victims, Again Soroptimists helped Soroptimists. After the floods, the mountain areas were devastated by forest fires. Soroptimists again were prepared to give service.

A new Southwestern Region project was established - the Eye Bank. Hundreds of Soroptimists have willed their eyes so "others may see".

The Space Age began in 1957 as the Russians launched their Sputniks - with and without dogs. Soroptimists were busy keeping their feet on the ground and were busy accomplishing their earthly missions. Forty-six clubs were chartered. "Soroptimist Only" service projects were given emphasis.

Clubs making headlines in their communities were: Santa Rosa for sponsoring the Sonoma County Heart and Sonoma County Nurses associations; Vallejo, Napa, Albany, Turlock, Chico, Manteca, Fresno, Marysville, Yuba City, Placerville, Redding, South Lake Tahoe, and Santa Rosa gave hundreds of dollars to hospitals for equipment; San Jose, West of Twin Peaks and Richmond supported Sheltered Workshops; Reno and San Francisco gave resuscitators for the Fire departments; St. Helena built a swimming pool; East Oakland sponsored a school for mentally retarded children; and clubs throughout the region sponsored Girl Scouts, Camp Fire Girls, Brownies and Blue Birds. During this decade Fresno was given the Woman's Home Companion award for their "Girl of the Month" project.


The 1970's
As the Ecology movement shifted into high in the 70s, Soroptimists added emphasis to planning for their Golden Anniversary years in 1970 by serving mankind. Hundreds of dollars were sent to Peru to assist earthquake victims. Concord established a "Meals on Wheels" project and won community and regional recognition.

In 1970 as the war in Vietnam de-escalated, Southwestern Soroptimists were busy escalating club projects to become "Golden Jubilee Clubs" to celebrate the 50th Anniversary. Time and money were contributed toward building a SFA float, "Seeing Eye to Eye" for the Tournament of Roses Parade, and on January 1, 1971, in Pasadena, California, the name "Soroptimist" was televised around the world to usher in our Golden Jubilee year.

At the 1971 Spring Regional Conference in San Francisco, Southwestern Region, with love and affection, unveiled a Bronze Portrait of charter President Violet Richardson Ward. Present in the audience were Violet, "Friend Husband" Stanley, son, John, and SFA President, Katherine Stinson. Mr. Ono de Ruyter, the artist, captured in the portrait the wonderful face and character of our Founder President Violet.

On June 13, 1971, a special Fiftieth Anniversary Memorial Service for departed members was held in the Soroptimist Memorial Grove. Added to this day's activities, a special Redwood Tree was dedicated and named for Charter President Violet.

During our 50 years, service projects continued and special new ones have been added for our Golden Jubilee Year. These have been: Santa Cruz had a begonia named "Lady Soroptimist"; North San Mateo had an orchid named "Lovely Mists" for the lovely Soroptimists; Oakland purchased a bookmobile in honor of Founder Member Eloise B. Cushing; Waikiki sponsored a Campfire Group of mentally retarded children with severe emotional problems; Colfax has converted a "caboose" into a railroad museum; Oakland and Berkeley have sponsored "satellite homes" for the elderly; Sonoma Valley and Placerville furnished rooms in hospitals; Marysville-Yuba City sponsored the "Yuba General Volunteer Bureau"; Reno has a "Child Care Center"; Woodland helped purchase the "Woodland Opera House", one of only two in California; Chowchilla, Madera and The Sierras have joined together to sponsor a County Mental Health Clinic and program; Delano has participated in "Beautification of City Traffic Islands"; San Leandro has underwritten the cost of sending the high school "jazz band" to Switzerland; Manteca has built a swimming pool; El Pinablo, El Cerrito and Richmond have started an Inter-Community vision and screening program for pre-school children and Antioch provided funds for a "Therapy Pool" for the Mt. Diablo Therapy Clinic.

In the area of Drug Abuse, we find clubs sponsoring programs and rehabilitation centers. Taft has "DUE", Drug Understanding Education, El Pinablo operated "Unity House", Hayward, "Project Eden"; Visalia, "Turning Point", and there were others. Livermore purchased a "Drug Abuse" film for the Police Department, and Watsonville has spearheaded a drive for a "Van" for use in Drug Prevention.

Other projects in 1971: Burlingame, San Mateo and North San Mateo are sponsoring "Skylark Residencies, Inc" for youth; San Francisco is sponsoring a Pediatric Reading and Language clinic; Crescent City has spearheaded a community awareness program on "Pollution"; Greenville has built and equipped a city park; East Oakland has a "New Careers" program, and there are others too numerous to list.

A high point in Soroptimist Service, all through the years, has been the awarding of scholarships in all classifications to assist youth in continuing their education. In 1971, alone, clubs distributed approximately $53,000 in scholarships. Other monies disbursed in service projects have amounted to over $100,000 in the year 1971. Soroptimist Service is Big Business, because Soroptimists Think Big!