Celebrating more than 25 years of
women in Kiwanis

The face of Kiwanis International changed forever in the summer of 1987 when delegates at the 72nd annual convention voted to allow women to join the organization. It was a historic vote that changed everything.

Now, as we celebrate more than 25 years of women in Kiwanis, we share stories of some of the women who joined the organization in the early years. Use the toolkit below for ideas on how your club can join in the celebration—honoring women of the past and reaching out to new members for the future.

Toolkit

Stories of women in Kiwanis
Grace Antes Strong
Loni Kuentzel
Stephanie Pearlman Pangaro
Lucille Carlson
Kathy Jo Schweitzer
Cindy Champer
Gail O’Brien
Barbara Saalfeld



Grace Antes Strong
Grace Antes Strong calls her nearly 25 years in Kiwanis “a wonderful adventure.” Soon after the 1987 decision to allow female members, Philip Mitchell, a zealous recruiter, approached Grace about being part of the State College, PA, Kiwanis Club and the club and community have been better for it.

“I resisted (joining) for a while and then decided that if my husband, Ed, rejoined at the same time, I wouldn’t have to cook dinner on Monday evenings!” says Grace. Grace has served as chairman of special meetings countless times and as president of her Kiwanis Club of State College, PA, as well as lieutenant governor of Division 11E.

Recently Grace said, “I think, to a man, everyone would agree that having women has been a blessing. Different ideas, workers, and outlooks make a more exciting and dynamic club.”


Loni Kuentze
Loni Kuentzel is looking forward to getting her 25 year Legion of Honor pin after near-perfect attendance at her club, the Kiwanis Club of Arroyo Grande Valley, California. Loni served the club, especially while her father was club president, as a volunteer and happily became a member in October 1987.


Stephanie Pearlman Pangaro 
Stephanie Pearlman Pangaro was acknowledged as an “associate” active member by her club, the Passaic, New Jersey, Kiwanis Club, in October 1984, and when the vote passed in 1987, Stephanie was already serving as the club’s vice president. Supporting Kiwanis ideals for more than 25 years, Stephanie remains an active member of the Randolph Kiwanis Club also in New Jersey.


Lucille Carlson 
After sponsoring the 1987 amendment to the KI Bylaws, the Kiwanis Club of Olympia, Washington, was eager to welcome women into membership that first year. Lucille Carlson was among their first official members. Lucille met Sam Reed, her sponsor and Washington’s current secretary of state, through her work in state government. She was interested in community service and joined the club without hesitation when Sam extended the invitation. Immediately she felt welcomed, agreed to chair a committee and later got involved with the Kiwanis Community Garden, a club project making a huge impact in their area.


Kathy Jo Schweitzer 
Before Kathy Jo Schweitzer became a Kiwanian, she was already growing the Kiwanis spirit through the Key Club she advised. She grew the Port Clinton Key Club from six unexcited students to 88 committed members forming a cohesive group. “Key Club became my life,” she says.

Because she wanted to continue to serve the community to a greater degree, Kathy Jo decided—with a little encouragement from the Key Club president—to join the Key Club’s sponsoring Kiwanis club in 1988. It was on her induction day that she realized that this was a big deal for their northern Ohio community—a woman among all men. Kathy Jo became the club’s first female president in 1996 and held numerous chairmanships, including getting her club involved with the first Worldwide Service Project during her presidential year.

“My goal was never to break a ‘gender barrier’ but to continue what I had always been doing by working together for one purpose: to give service,” she says.


Cindy Champer 
Talk about immediate impact: Cindy Champer was inducted as a member of the Ashland, Kentucky, Breakfast club at 7 a.m. on July 14, 1987. Guess they know a leader when they see one in Ashland, because within the first week Cindy was asked to chair the club’s travelogue program. She went on to serve as the club’s first female president and the division’s first female lieutenant governor.


Gail O’Brien 
Gail O’Brien was serving as the president of the chamber of commerce in the summer of 1987 when members of the Canadaigua, New York, Kiwanis Club invited her and two other women to join. Gail was happy to have other women as immediate comrades in the male-dominated culture.

“It was an honor,” she says of being one of the first women in Kiwanis. “It was a time of such change.” Gail was happy to be part of that change, and a part of Kiwanis, which exposed her to important issues in her community and the world through programs and speakers and gave her the opportunity to help eliminate iodine deficiency disorder.


Barbara Saalfeld 
Barbara Saalfeld was a single mother of five and a businesswomen in the San Fernando Valley in the mid 1980s. She was very familiar with Kiwanis, already serving as a volunteer chaperone for outings of Key Club and Keywanettes (the all-female club prior to co-ed Key Clubs). And because she felt a mutual respect for her colleagues who were Kiwanians, Barbara decided to volunteer with the club long before she was allowed to join, as a way to serve and to network. Having heard more than a few times, “I’m sure this year they’re going to vote women in,” she was prepared for the news from the 1987 convention in D.C.: You are welcome to join. And join she did—that very evening at the Granada Hills, California, Kiwanis Club meeting.

Just a few years later, Barbara moved to Washington State where she joined the Bremerton Club, and she soon became secretary, then their first female president, then the division’s first female lieutenant governor. Over the years she crossed paths with her husband-to-be more than once—he was serving as the Pacific Northwest District governor—and she’s been a member of numerous clubs in that district, the most recent move landing her and her husband with the Fife-Milton Club in Washington.