The Alton-Wood River Zonta Club will be honored for its work to support women and children.
Zonta is made up of approximately 49 professional women from Alton, Bethalto, East Alton, Edwardsville, Godfrey, Maryville and other communities. They strive to improve women and children’s lives in all ways, including violence prevention.
Zonta’s first club was chartered in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1919 by playwright and journalist Marian De Forest. While working in a prominent role at the Buffalo Express at a time when women rarely held leadership positions, De Forest conceived the idea of an organization that would bring together women in executive positions. She envisioned a strong network that would help women reach their rightful places in diverse professions. By 1920, a confederation of nine Zonta clubs had formed with 600 members.
While Zonta shared a common vision with hundreds of women’s clubs in the first part of the 20th century — encouraging women’s teamwork, courage, risk-taking and self-reliance — it also represented something of a departure. Zonta’s strict business and classification system required its members to be employed at least 50 percent of the time at an executive or decision-making level in a recognized business or profession. In addition, each club could have just one member per business classification, a requirement that ensured clubs would consist of “experts” in a broad range of fields. The founders foresaw the benefits of having clubs made up of architects, artists, educators, entrepreneurs, executives, doctors, government officials, lawyers, pilots, scientists and more. This diverse expertise meant clubs could offer their communities and the world optimum service, backed by a broad range of understanding and insight.
The Zonta Club of Alton-Wood River had its beginning in 1948 when Dr. Saidee Stark visited her friends Ruby Giehl of Wood River and Jane Henry of Alton. Stark, a prominent District IX Zontian from California, was enthusiastic in suggesting the organization of a Zonta Club in this area. Etta Preston, a member of the Evanston Zonta Club and former member of the International Board, was appointed as field representative and interviewed prospective members. Harriet Richards and Meta Steinfort, Chairman of District Vl, were also helpful.
The Alton-Wood River Zonta Club was chartered on April 19, 1949, with 23 members. As Zonta celebrates its 65th anniversary this year, the objectives of its 49 members are to improve the legal, political, economic, educational, health and professional status of women through service and advocacy and to promote justice and universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The Zonta Club of Alton-Wood River has historically provided support to a variety of projects and continues to support the following programs:
- Oasis Women’s Center and its Caravan Resale Shop to help domestic violence victims;
- Comfort clothes at the Alton Memorial Hospital Emergency Room to help victims of domestic violence and sexual assault;
- Madison County Child Advocacy Center to assist victims of child abuse;
- The Covering House to provide refuge and restoration for girls who have experienced sexual exploitation or sexual trafficking;
- School supplies drive providing items to local schoolchildren to help them learn;
- Educational scholarships to local women pursuing higher education.
The Madison County Child Advocacy Center will honor the Zonta Club of Alton-Wood River at the Harvest of Hope event Friday, Oct. 9, at Willoughby Farm in Collinsville. Harvest of Hope is a benefit event to support the center and also will take time to focus on the incredible work the Zonta Club has done in the community.
“The Zonta Club has been an integral part of helping to fulfill the mission of the Child Advocacy Center,” Child Advocacy Center Executive Director Carrie Cohan says. “We are pleased to honor them for their dedication to women and children of this community and their willingness to serve.”
The center conducts forensic interviews of children involved in allegations of severe physical or sexual abuse and works to raise awareness about child abuse. The event will feature a food truck dinner, auction and live entertainment by the Smash Band of St. Louis. Tickets are $65 per person and may be purchased online at www.madco-cac.org.
For information, contact the center at (618) 296-5398.