In 1917, few women were considered “professionals.” Their voting rights, let alone the concept of equality, were nowhere to be found and the idea that women could, or should, work outside the home was considered farfetched.
A few visionaries thought otherwise.
That era was the beginning of Altrusa. It started in Tennessee by women who worked, and soon spread throughout the country. Then throughout the world. It was driven by women who were ahead of their time, and by the belief that there was value in service — that women had something to offer.
Mamie L Bass, one of Altrusa’s founding mothers, once said: “It’s not enough to be good, Altrusans must be good for something.”
April is Altrusa’s “Birthday Month” and 2017 marks 100 years that Altrusa has served its local communities. To celebrate, Altrusa members from clubs in Western Washington gathered for a luncheon Saturday at The Inn at Gig Harbor. They brought with them examples of projects that their clubs had given their local communities and enjoyed a meal and program that reminded them of how far they have come and what good company they enjoy.
Debbie Dimitri, a storyteller and actress known throughout the Puget Sound region for her portrayals of famous women in history, brought Eleanor Roosevelt to life in a program that looked at history from her perspective. Roosevelt was a longtime Altrusan and kept up her involvement in the New York city club during her residence in the state governor’s mansion and the White House.
“Chautauquans” for Altrusa’s founders and organizational leaders greeted Saturday’s guests and presented short biographies to them as they arrived. Chautauquan is a term applied to early American performers who brought history to life for rural residents. They dressed in costumes and enacted stories and history in shows that traveled across the country.
Altrusa of Gig Harbor, the host club, was formed in 1981, and has been responsible for a long list of local community enhancements, including thousands of dollars in college and music scholarships for Peninsula Youth Orchestra, the equipping of the community kitchen at the Boys & Girls Club, and most recently the effort, through the Empty Bowls event, to organize and provide a summer lunch program for local children whose families can’t afford the additional food costs when school is out.