Cool with the Gar­rick’s rules? Join the club

Uxbridge Gazette - - OPINION -

DID YOU know that the Gar­rick Club still bars women from its squishy leather so­fas and high­backed arm­chairs? Ob­vi­ously I’ve never been in, but that’s how I imag­ine the cen­tral Lon­don club to be fur­nished. Its mem­bers, I’m sure, are all clad in vel­vet smok­ing jack­ets, read The Tele­graph and smoke pipes. Maybe there’s a whiff of Old Spice in the air, and spot­ted dick for pud­ding.

It doesn’t bother me in the slight­est. I think there’s still room in this weird world of ours for sin­gle sex spa­ces.

Let’s face it the Gar­rick gang just want time out from wives, girl­friends, moth­ers, wives, daugh­ters, Prime Min­is­ters …. and it works both ways. The Univer­sity Women’s Club for in­stance hasn’t al­lowed men in since it opened in 1886.

Watch­ing a pro­gramme about the beau­ti­ful steam en­gine The Fly­ing Scots­man, the other night I no­ticed the en­thu­si­asts lin­ing the route, snap­ping pic­tures and writ­ing down notes (or is it num­bers?) were al­most ex­clu­sively male. Some­times we just group our­selves ac­cord­ing to gen­der with­out even think­ing about it.

But some­times sur­pris­ing bar­ri­ers are crossed. It is now 25 years since I, a lo­cal jour­nal­ist, and Shifa Yusuf, a suc­cess­ful lo­cal busi­ness woman, were in­vited to be the first fe­male mem­bers of a Ro­tary Club in our bor­ough. As it would be mak­ing his­tory in Hilling­don, my ed­i­tor was lin­ing up a pho­tog­ra­pher, al­most be­fore Shifa and I had said yes.

We were wel­comed by the Hayes and Har­ling­ton mem­bers, although one or two I be­lieve had left in protest. That was a shame, but it was a ground­break­ing move – led by men – and it was hap­pen­ing all over the coun­try at the time.

The Hayes Ro­tar­i­ans soon re­alised that we, like them, were em­bed­ded in the com­mu­nity and, although busy in our jobs, were keen to be in­volved in the char­i­ta­ble ac­tiv­i­ties for which Ro­tary has al­ways been known. To­day Ro­tary is a truly mixed or­gan­i­sa­tion, and there have even been women pres­i­dents in Hilling­don.

But wait a minute: my re­search has just re­vealed that one woman did ac­tu­ally ‘storm the gates of the citadel’ as one news­pa­per put it, a cou­ple of years ago. For the first time in its 180 year his­tory a woman, Ann Rob­bie, was ad­mit­ted to the Gar­rick. Oh, as the club’s sec­re­tary.

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