On July 4, 1985, at Exchange’s 67th Annual Convention in Philadelphia, Penn., the national constitution was amended, thus opening membership for the first time to women.
At the convention, National President Fred Harron presented to the delegates the recommendation of the National Board of Directors that Exchange’s bylaws be changed to permit women members.
“The law relating to the admission of women into Exchange in Minnesota and at least 36 other states is quite clear,” Harron said to the convention attendees. “Our friends, the Jaycees confirmed that when they spent in excess of a million dollars in legal fees in their unsuccessful attempt to challenge the question all the way to the United States Supreme Court. So we have three choices: either admit women into Exchange; spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight a losing battle in the courts; or else close up shop and get out of town in those states which insist we let the ladies in.”
“Faced with these choices and the fact that the role of women in our society has changed so dramatically since our constitution was first written, your Board of Directors decided there was only one proper choice to be made,” he continued. The delegates agreed and their affirmative vote ended a 10-year long debate and opened a new chapter in the history of Exchange.
Since that historic decision, thousands of women have joined the ranks of America’s Premier Service Club, helping Exchange make even greater progress in its community service and expansion efforts. Two of them reached the highest office in Exchange: Pamela Sudlow, national president in 2003-2004 and Margaret Miller, national president in 2010-2011.
Every day, in cities and towns across America, Exchange Club members are dynamically transforming the Exchange ideal of “Unity for Service” into direct and positive action, enhancing the lives of their fellow citizens from coast to coast. From a handful of members in Detroit, Mich., at the turn of the century, Exchange has developed into a progressive national service organization comprised of tens of thousands of dedicated men and women.