Zonta was founded in 1919 in Rochester NY.  Zonta International was established in Seattle, WA at the meeting of the Confederation of Zonta Clubs in 1930.  Zonta District 8 was established as part of the Western District originally, and then District VI.  We officially became Zonta District VIII in 1948.


The Beginning Histories of Both Zonta International & District 8
Joan E. Knapp, D8 Historian




Zonta’s Beginnings 

Zonta International’s 100th birthday/anniversary is coming up in 2019. Do you know the REAL story of how ZI got started? We’ve all heard the story about Marian deForest, playwright and journalist, who along with four other women decided to start Zonta after not being allowed to join a men’s service organization, but there are some details and twists about the story you might not know. Let me tell you the REAL story:
Marian attended as a guest a holiday party held by the Kiwanis Club of Buffalo, NY (exclusive to men executives) on December 16th, 1918. This was the spark for the five women who formed their own club exclusively for executive women chartered as the first Quota Club in Buffalo, NY the following March 1919. Yes, not first Zonta Club, but the first Quota Club. So, why and how did  Zonta get formed?
With the help of an organizer Quota experienced a tremendous surge in membership in the next few months. Quota Clubs quickly formed in six other cities in NY, one in PA and one in Detroit. Charter members felt growth marked both its success and failure. Women joined in droves, but the classification system was hardly adhered to. They felt quantity rather than quality members was the end result. They also felt that socializing was the main goal rather than service and that social status rather than professional expertise was more important. Within months, more than 100 women including Marian deForest defected from Quota. A meeting was set to discuss plans for a new organization with a more rigorously designed classification system. With four delegates from each of the nine charter Quota clubs in attendance, the Confederation of Zonta Clubs was born on November 8th, 1919. Colors (gold and mahogany to represent the autumnal season of Zonta’s birth) and official flower (yellow rose – the symbol of friendship) were selected which remain the same today. The original spelling was Zhonta but was changed to Zonta by the Bureau of American Ethnology at the Smithsonian Institute.  The Lakhota Sioux  word “Zonta” meaning honest and trustworthy remained though the spelling was corrected. The Zonta insignia was adopted on April 10, 1020 and the Zonta code in 1921 which remains pretty much the same today. Originally Zonta emulated the organizational structure of Kiwanis and members had to be employed 50% of the time at executive and decision-making levels with only one member per club under each classification. In 1923, the words “professions” along with “businesses” were added to “executives”. Already, local clubs were quite active in pushing for gender equity in employment opportunities and at the 1929 convention they voted: “resolved that women in the profession, in business and in industry shall be free to work and be protected as workers on the same terms as men”. This was not admitted into US law until 1938 in the “Fair Labor Standards Act”. Zonta was ahead of its time!
District 8’s Beginnings 
District 8 didn’t start out with our current territory or name. There have been many changes to both territory and name. Follow along as we journey and learn about our district’s beginning.
D8 was originally in the Western District from 1923 to 1926 with a chairman not a governor.  The district was composed of 16 clubs: Buffalo, Rochester, Jamestown, Lockport, Niagara Falls in NY, Erie in PA, Cleveland & Toledo in Ohio, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Flint and Ann Arbor in Michigan, Moline & Ottawa in Illinois AND Seattle, WA – the only club west of the Mississippi River. Seattle was organized in July 1923 locally by Anna Marie Brueggerhoff mainly through the efforts of Mary Janes who was the Northern District Chairman.
In 1924, it was decided that there would be 7 districts with Washington State being with Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Oregon and part of Canada due north. With this action the Western District was divided and what is now District 8 became part of District E with Seattle being the only one club in the whole district.  At the 6th Zonta Convention in Rochester NY on May 14th, 1926, Clara Shaw Herrick, District E Chairman reported: 
“I have no detailed report and I will tell you why. Our nearest club is three train days away and I write and write and write and get no report. I did get a report from the Seattle Club just a day or so before Ieft. I was mailed to March 30, and I don’t know why I didn’t get it until then, I finally got it a day or before I left. The Dallas Club* I have not heard from except that it sent in its vote for chairman for next year. I cannot get any word, we have no conference, we cannot have. I wish you could appreciate our problems in the West.  You people are close together and have the enthusiasm and inspiration of this close contact with other clubs and you cannot imagine what this means to us. Honolulu*, I wrote to and the letter was returned. So, you see we are up against it and we must have help or die.”
The first District E Conference was held in 1928 at 8th annual Zonta convention in St. Paul Minnesota. This was the first time a district chairman was elected as previous ones were appointed. From 1926-1928 all District E Chairmen were from Seattle.
District E woke up under Mary Jane Dent, Chairman, who was from Seattle. Mary Jane’s report to Zonta in 1928 included: “Before beginning my report for District E, I feel it wise to inform you or remind you of the size of the district. We are bounded on the north by the North Pole, on the East by the states of North & South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, on the southern border by Mexico and on the West by that part of the Pacific Ocean that lies west of the Hawaiian Island, where we have our last outpost, the wonderful club of Honolulu. We have never been able to have a district conference because of the great distance between the cities until this morning when we had our first district meeting and first election of a district chairman. We now have seven clubs in the district with a membership of 217 . This is an increase of over 100 members in the last years. In the Pacific Northwest the Seattle Club has suffered for lack of association with other clubs and lack of contact with the national organization. We have an excellent organization completed in Tacoma, thanks to the untiring efforts and cooperation of the Tacoma girls. Besides the work in Tacoma there have been surveys made of Portland, OR, Vancouver, Bellingham and Olympia, WA.” (Tacoma was chartered December 16, 1927.)
At the 1929 Zonta Convention in Erie, PA, Chairman Mary Jane Dent said: “Last year at conference time we had just seven clubs, now we have fifteen. Our total members were 250; now we have 415. We feel that is quite a remarkable report for a district so widely scattered as District E. It is everything West of the Mississippi Valley. We plan to organize Olympia and Spokane before Christmas. (Olympia was chartered October 10, 1928.) Following the Christmas holiday work was started in Portland. The Portland delegate came so gladly that we followed up with Salem. On March second the first conference was held in Seattle. Seattle had volunteered a club in Everett and had done quite a lot of preliminary work up there, then I finished it up for them.”
District E became District VI September 21, 1929.


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