Celebrating 100 years of Soroptimist

In 1921 a man walked into a secretarial school owned by two women and that is where our history began. Immerse yourself in the stories of our bright past and learn about those who forged our path and helped make Soroptimist the global organization it is today.

How did Soroptimist Start?

Stuart Morrow, who started Soroptimist

Soroptimist was started by a man named Stuart Morrow, who was born in Dublin, Ireland, and emigrated to California in 1885. Stuart became a member or the San Francisco Rotary club in 1908. He served and organized for several years in Rotary. He moved back to the UK but returned to California in the Spring of 1921, when he wanted to organize a new kind of club… for women!

Stuart approached the owners of the Goddard-Parker Secretarial School in Oakland, California, to speak to professional women about joining a club he called “Soroptimist.”

By October of that same year, 80 women signed the chapter for the first Soroptimist Club in Alameda County. Each member was from a different profession or vocation and held an “important rank.”

What does Soroptimist mean?

The word “Soroptimist” is loosely based on the Latin word “soror,” meaning sister, and “optima,” meaning best. This led to the eventually translation of our name was “Best for Women!”

1928 Soroptimist Member at the White House

Soroptimist Members at the White House during the 1928 Soroptimist Founding Convention

Beyond the First Soroptimist Club

Through the efforts of an expanding band of Soroptimist members and Stuart Morrow, Soroptimist began to spread around North America, and Europe.

In 1928, club delegates gathered in Washington, DC, to form an organization from all the independent Soroptimist clubs in North America and Europe, which became known as the Soroptimist International Association, and what we now know as Soroptimist International.  The American Federation of Soroptimist Clubs, now called Soroptimist International of the Americas was also formed at this meeting.

The work of these earliest founding members, coming from many different professions and businesses throughout Alameda County, set the stage for all the Soroptimist clubs that followed, through to the present day.