On April 24th 1926, women holding executive positions in the city of Vancouver gathered together to form the First Soroptimist Club in Canada and only the second within the British Empire. In an age in which women were encouraged to stay home and tend their knitting, they were accomplished and compassionate leaders determined to improve the lot of other women. Their motto – Quality, Service and Harmony.
In 1931, as the Depression hit, they aligned themselves with another group of unusual women – the Police Women of Vancouver who had established a hostel for unemployed and low income women called Dunromin. Initially they donated money but a year later took it over.
Thus began the Soroptimist Club of Vancouver’s real estate odyssey. What began with a hostel in 1932 eventually became in 1960 Sorptimist Apartment House at 546 west 13th. They were the first Soroptimist Club on the continent to open an establishment to house low income senior women. They continued buying and selling real estate until in 1970 they partnered with the Kiwanis Club of Vancouver to open a complex of ninety suites for low income seniors. All this at a time women would have a hard time getting a mortgage by themselves.
Along the way they contributed to the war effort. From 1939 to 1945 they sent more than one hundred articles every month overseas. Even after the war they sent food parcels to Britain and Holland. Over the years they donated to other international relief funds including the Cambodian Relief Fund, the Italian Earthquake fund and projects in Barbados and Fiji.
Closer to home, our club has had a long history of donations to low income senior centres and has funded awards to both young and mature students. (See our projects for more details)
From the very beginning we have attracted compassionate, social pioneers – women who were different and wanted to make a difference. And that is as true to-day as it was then.
What these awesome ladies have to say:
Helen Armstrong, member since 1982
Pat McKenzie, member since 1986