History of Rotary

 

History of Rotary

The world’s first service club, the Rotary Club of Chicago, was formed on February 23rd 1905 by Paul P. Harris, an attorney who wished to capture in a professional club the same friendly spirit he had felt in the small towns of his youth. The Rotary name derived from the early practice of rotating meetings among members’ offices.

Rotary’s popularity spread, and within a decade, clubs were chartered from San Francisco to New York to Winnipeg, Canada. By 1921, Rotary clubs had been formed on six continents. The organization adopted the Rotary International name a year later.

As Rotary grew, its mission expanded beyond serving club members’ professional and social interests. Rotarians began pooling their resources and contributing their talents to help serve communities in need. The organization’s dedication to this ideal is best expressed in its motto: Service Above Self.

By July 1925, Rotary had grown to more than 2,000 clubs and an estimated 108,000 members. The organization’s distinguished reputation attracted presidents, prime ministers, and a host of other luminaries to its ranks – among them author Thomas Mann, diplomat Carlos P. Romulo, humanitarian Albert Schweitzer, and composer Jean Sibelius.

Rotary and World War II

During World War II, many clubs were forced to disband, while others stepped up their service efforts to provide emergency relief to victims of the war. In 1942, looking ahead to the postwar era, Rotarians called for a conference to promote international educational and cultural exchanges. This event inspired the founding of UNESCO.

In 1945, 49 Rotary club members served in 29 delegations to the UN Charter Conference. Rotary still actively participates in UN conferences by sending observers to major meetings and covering the United Nations in its publications. “Few there are who do not recognize the good work which is done by Rotary clubs throughout the free world,” former Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Great Britain once declared.

Dawn of a new century

As it approached the 21st century, Rotary worked to meet society’s changing needs, expanding its service efforts to address such pressing issues as environmental degradation, illiteracy, world hunger, and children at risk.

In 1989, the organization voted to admit women into clubs worldwide. Today, women are an integral part of Rotary’s membership.

After the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Rotary clubs were formed or re-established throughout Central and Eastern Europe. The first Russian Rotary club was chartered in 1990, and the organization underwent a growth spurt for the next several years.

More than a century after Paul Harris and his colleagues chartered the club that eventually led to Rotary International; Rotarians continue to take pride in their history. In honor of that first club, Rotarians have preserved its original meeting place, Room 711 in Chicago’s Unity Building, by re-creating the office as it existed in 1905. For several years, the Paul Harris 711 Club maintained the room as a shrine for visiting Rotarians. In 1989, when the building was scheduled to be demolished, the club carefully dismantled the office and salvaged the interior, including doors and radiators. In 1993, the RI Board of Directors set aside a permanent home for the restored Room 711 on the 16th floor of RI World Headquarters in nearby Evanston.

Today, more than 1.2 million Rotarians belong to over 34,000 Rotary clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas.

To learn more, watch this video

What makes Rotary different?  

One of the key things that distinguishes Rotary from other organizations is our strong commitment to an ethical code of conduct  This Code is often referred to as the Four-Way test.  To learn more about this click on the link “Four Way Test”.

 


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