Kiwanis history

First Kiwanis International board
The first clubs were organized to promote the exchange of business among the members. However, the members were distributing Christmas baskets to the poor. A lively debate ensued between those who supported community service as the Kiwanis mission and those who supported the exchange of business. By 1919, the service advocates won the debate.

  • Kiwanis was founded in Detroit, Michigan, on January 21, 1915.
  • In the early years, Kiwanis clubs focused on business networking, but even then, members were serving the needs of the poor.
  • By 1919, the organization had changed its focus from business to service.
  • Kiwanis became an international organization in 1916 with the organization of the Kiwanis Club of Hamilton, Ontario.
  • Kiwanis limited its membership to the United States and Canada until 1962 when worldwide expansion was approved.
  • Until 1987, Kiwanis was a male-only organization. But after years of debate and growing support, women’s membership was received overwhelmingly.
  • Kiwanis celebrates 100 years in 2015.