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A Brief History of the Zonta Club of: Auckland

The Zonta Club of Auckland’s inaugural meeting was convened by Dorothy Thompson a member of and sponsored by the Zonta Club of Toronto on 19th October 1965 who had been asked by past Zonta International president J. Maria Pearce to bring Zonta to the Antipodes. Officers elected were Cherry Raymond President, Broadcaster and Journalist, Joan Kerr editor of Vogue N.Z. Vice President, Beverley Simmonds Secretary, journalist, Anne Gambrill Treasurer, barrister and Solicitor, Committee members Christin Wynne, Librarian, and Marie Stuttard a journalist and communications advisor

The Charter the first for an Australasian club issued 15th November 1965 and was presented by J. Maria Pierce the Past International president at the Club’s Charter Dinner on 31st May 1966

The Club has had 40 presidents and membership starting at 25 grew solidly until the late 1980’s to 60 members but declined in the mid-nineties. Thanks to hard work of five former Presidents who took a second term of office namely Yvonne Watson, Joan Mary Longcroft, Jacqui Burnett, Jan Bowman and more recently Sandra Dudek who with the other Presidents focussed on membership, the club numbers have climbed back to around 35 to maximum 40 members.

The Club originally was on its own in N.Z. but led by Cherry Raymond from 1967 onward the club worked hard to found the basis for new N.Z. Clubs. Cherry and Anne Gambrill found 17 potential members in Wellington so on Dorothy Thompson’s return visits in May 1968 and November 1970 firstly Wellington and then Hamilton, Christchurch and Dunedin were formed. Presidents of Wellington, Beverley Shore Bennett later the first NZ District XV1 Governor, Dame Silvia Cartwright first President of Hamilton and later Governor General of New Zealand, and Judge Cecily Rushton President of Rotorua were all involved as initial Chair of their Clubs through friendship/professional associations with Anne Gambrill. The club assisted in the formation of Rotorua and Whangarei during 1973 and Joan Mary Longcroft assisted by Anne Gambrill between 1974 and 1977 formed West Auckland, South Auckland and North Shore.

Cherry Raymond became the first elected Australasian Regional Representative in April 1972 and the conference convened by her in August 1973 in Auckland themed “Zonta is International” was honoured by the visit of Harriet Yeckel the International President. The Region comprised 9 N.Z. clubs and 9 Australian clubs. Despite the additional financial costs the 17 clubs present at the conference supported unanimously the establishment of District XV1 at the 1974 Convention. There have been 20 Auckland Club members elected to the Board of our District originally formed as the Australasian District XV1 which continued until 1990 when at the conference in Auckland in September 1989 the clubs resolved to divide and create 3 separate districts at the 1990 Convention. The then 22 New Zealand clubs became District 16. Our club officers who have served on the board were Governors Cherry Raymond 1990-1992 Joan-Mary Longcroft 1992-1994 (deputy Governor in 1990-1992) Joan Ready 1996-1998 (deputy Governor 1994-1996) and Janice Bowman 2000-2002 (deputy Governor 1998-2000) Both Cherry and Jan ran for international vice president Cherry in 1976 and Jan in 2006 but both were unsuccessful. District treasurers have been Anne Gambrill, Gillian Edwards, Elsie Neill, Jacqueline Burnett and Judith Ray. Our Governors have been backed by Auckland Club members Joan Ready, Jan Bowman, Lorna McIntosh and Joan Thompson as secretaries. Area Directors were Frances Elkin, Yvonne Watson, Joan Mary Longcroft, Jan Bowman, Lorna McIntosh and Anne van de Straten. The club organised in Auckland the regional convention in 1973 the District Conference in 1989 and the District Conference in 2011 as co-host with Christchurch. The club was represented at Convention in 1966 by Christine Wynne a charter member and from 1970 onward has been represented at every International Convention and has been an attendee at all District conferences. Over 20 club members have been honoured by Her Majesty the Queen for services in their profession and also often for their services to women.

Fund raising over the years has resulted in gifts on current day prices of over $2,500,000 to Zonta and
N.Z charities and also seen disadvantaged people supported often with assistance from individual club members. Generous donations from individual club members for raffles and the numerous social occasions in members’ homes particularly in Joan-Mary Longcroft’s home and garden have included dinners and soirees, garage and garden sales and all have assisted fund raising. Fund Raising events to mention a few included entertainment shows “Halloween Happening” and “Not on your telly” for Laura Ferguson Trust paying for one of the first 12 homes for paraplegics in 1971, antique sales, table setting competitions and art sales to purchase a specially fitted van for paraplegics 1973 art exhibitions to coincide with the United Women’s Convention in 1973 where again the club fundraised by making 1100 lunches for 2 days for the attendees, career seminars for women “You and your money” and in the
1980’s a seminar on “home decorating and handy man activities.” The 1975 platter by Sally Vinsen and the poster by Gretchen Albrecht (our first Zonta awardee) celebrated International Women’s day and the year of the Women set up under Heidi Sipila (former Z I President) and then Assistant secretary UN. In 1977 the second N.Z. telethon set up by Don Hutchins and Cherry Raymond supported by all Auckland Zonta clubs raised an unheard of sum of $2,000,000 for the newly created Mental Health Foundation

Health and fitness seminars, fun runs, car rallies, musical concerts and film events including the premiere of the film “The Navigator” were a feature of the 1980’s and the profits helped funding at Nga Tapuwai College, a cot death monitor and Speld as was the money donated and the many weekends of unpaid labour when the Club agreed to fund and the members to clean out and redecorate “Merivale” a house to become one of the first women’s’ refuges. The association with Merivale has continued Zontians making toilet bags, creating the Gardens in their new premises in the early 2000’s and every year ensuring there are Christmas presents for the families in the refuge. This interest for the club has also been manifest in the support for “teen parenting” the now nationwide scheme providing schooling to pregnant girls and after the babies’ birth a return to school. These classes are attached to major state secondary schools and in many cases try to enlist the involvement of fathers. It is rewarding to see these teen parents now involved in jobs and obtaining tertiary qualifications whilst bringing up their offspring.

From 1973 onward the club has given 25% of its fund raising to Zonta International projects. Throughout the club has funded its own scholarships firstly as the Zonta Award now the Cherry Raymond award. It has nominated students for the Jane M Klausman award and Women in Public Affairs with additional special scholarships in memory of Dr. Alice Bush an early paediatrician member and with the profits of a Women print makers exhibition in 1995 scholarships for the young art graduates. The N.Z wide touring exhibition by 33 N.Z. Women printmakers was organised by the club who handled gallery bookings transport and sale of the prints to celebrate the Suffrage Centennial over the period 1993/1995 and the prints all bore the Zonta emblem.

The club has strongly supported any organizations helping women’s rights and has been a member of the National Council of Women and the National Organization of Women which was created after the National Women’s’ Convention. It has taken a major role in making submissions to Commissions and to the Parliamentary Select Committees of the House of Representatives (Parliament) relating to women’s rights. Initially the submissions were formulated under the leadership of the late Dr. Alice Bush in relation to the Accident Compensation no fault principle of accidents, equal pay, hospitals and abortion in the early 1970’s. By 1972 submissions were the drafted by Dame Margaret Wilson later Speaker of the House of Representatives (Parliament) and focussed on the changes to create equality for sharing of matrimonial property, custody, no fault divorce, the creation of Family Courts and the reform of abortion law. The law relating to marriage and domicile for non NZ born children of NZ mothers also was addressed together with an attempt to establish equal pay for women and fair provisions for maternity leave. By the 1980’s the Family Court was established under the principal court Judge Dame Silvia Cartwright. The club has subsequently supported or made submissions in respect of the National Development Bill (environment) Domestic Protection, Crimes Amendment (sexual crimes) Human Rights and a number of subsequent proposed bills affecting women. Latterly the club has made submissions on the criminal justice legislation the Crimes act amendment preventing female genital mutilation (formerly not an issue in NZ) and supported the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Bill submissions presented by our International President Lynn McKenzie. The Zonta International campaign say “no” to violence has also been widely supported.

The decrease in membership in the 1990’s resulted in more concentration on club management and more modest fundraising activities raffles, dinners and trading tables but the club has continued to support its awards and after Cherry Raymond’s death in 2006 sought to establish the national Cherry Raymond award given to a Zontian or club in recognition of its support for the status of women. The club has over the last 3 years recognised the importance of Women’s’ suffrage and celebrated the 1893 grant
of the vote to women on International Women’s Day (8th March) at Khartoum Place where the memorial
to Auckland suffragettes is erected. The book launch of “Jane Hunter” a woman winemakers tale and fashion shows have also been very enjoyable events. Club members often say working for Merivale or interviewing young and successful women for scholarships is one of the most rewarding experiences

Joan Mary Longcroft has been involved in the organization of our 10th 20th 30th and 40th anniversary celebrations and with our 50th in view three charter members remain as active members of the club Joan Mary Longcroft Q.S.M Lillian Chrystall O.B.E. and Anne Gambrill C.M.N.Z Our regular meetings are monthly dinner meetings with an independent speaker many of whom are eminent New Zealanders giving their speeches gratuitously.

Compiled by Author/Historian:  Anne Gambrill, August 2015