Cool with the Garrick’s rules? Join the club
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.