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ZONTA celebrates its 101. Birthday

On this day, in 1919, Zonta was officially founded. Now, 101 years later, we look back at the great and important development of the leading global organization of professionals empowering women worldwide through service and advocacy.


How did Zonta come about?

The Great War 1914–1918 had a particularly noticeable impact on the place of women in

society in North America and Europe. Women´s services were needed in a wide range of

occupations to replace men who had volunteered or been conscripted into the armed forces.

Many women, who had hitherto been badly paid domestic servants, discovered that factory

work gave them a better income and more freedom, despite long working hours. Education

had been opened to women in the last quarter of the 19th century, and educated women were

ready and willing to be recruited as doctors, scientists, teachers and civil servants.

On 16 December 1918, a group of five women attended a Christmas holiday party held by the Kiwanis Club of Buffalo, New York. The Kiwanis Club was an all-male service organization which recruited its members through a strict professional and business classification system, limiting membership in order to secure the strongest pool of varied experience for civic service. The five women discussed forming a similar club exclusively for executive women and chartered a women-exclusive club in February 1919. Within a few months, the total membership numbered more than six hundred in various cities in the US. The clubs were different from any other women´s clubs because they were based on classification and open only to women holding executive positions.

Marian de Forest, one of Buffalo´s most outstanding newspaper women, was the first to notice the trend to quantity rather than quality. In September 1919, the officers and board of directors of the original Quota club established a new and different club in Buffalo, with Marian de Forest as club president and a focus on quality rather than quantity of members. The representatives of the nine clubs, organized based on this principle, founded on November 8th, 1919 the Confederation of Zonta Clubs in Buffalo, New York, USA. Mary Jenkins is elected first president, the constitution and bylaws were adopted and the name Zhonta (later spelled Zonta) was chosen.

Source: Eva Nielsen: Zonta History

from left to right: current ZONTA international president Sharon Langenbeck, first elected president Mary E. Jenkins (1919-1921) and founding member Marian de Forest (who became president from1924 to 1925)

Source: and


Since then, the Zonta clubs and its principles spread rapidly. The first club outside the US was formed 1927 in Toronto, Canada and three years later, the name "Zonta International" was adopted as the first European club was established in Vienna, Austria. In 1983 Zonta was granted consultative status with the Council of Europe. In 1988 Zonta welcomes its 1000th club in Lome, Togo. In 2012, the Zonta Says NO to Violence Against Women annual campaign launched for the first time, which is held during the 16 Days of Activism starting November 25th. And 2012 marked also the year, in which the first e-club was founded in Uruguay. Through electronic (e-) clubs, Zonta International offers an up-to-date, alternative, not locally-based way to establish clubs and fulfill Zonta’s mission. Today, Zonta International is a global organization of more than 28,000 women and men in more than 1,100 Zonta clubs in 62 countries.

What does Zonta do?

Zonta International envisions a world in which women's rights are recognized as human rights and every woman is able to achieve her full potential. In such a world, women have access to all resources and are represented in decision making positions on an equal basis with men. In such a world, no woman lives in fear of violence. Members of Zonta clubs organize service projects and events that raise awareness for gender equality and women's rights all over the world, bringing about change and improvement locally and globally.

Zonta International members of the early 1920s (left) and current Zonta members (right) Source:

Read more about Zonta International here:

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