The Birth of Quota International

In the early days, just after the end of World War I, the business landscape on the American homefront was becoming a much different place. During the War, women had entered the workforce in unprecedented numbers—and had realized the valuable lessons brought about through teamwork and camaraderie when faced with a common cause.

The urgency of the need for concerted action had broken down the barriers of the social and business worlds and had revealed the effectiveness of the woman power that had been aroused. Once peace was declared, however, men began their homeward—and office bound—treks, and the teams of women workers separated. How to serve and direct this power became the question of the day.

Quota’s Pioneering Spirit Emerges

A ladies’ night Christmas event at the Buffalo Kiwanis Club in December 1918 enlightened five of Buffalo’s leading business women as to what needed to be done. Florence M. Smith, Alice C. Sauers, Ora G. Cole, Jean Ware Redpath, and Wanda Frey Joiner joined together their powerful insights and observations that night to unify their efforts in creating what would become Quota Club International, Inc. (later renamed Quota International, Inc.).

The five pioneers saw the need amongst women for the same atmosphere—a place where women eager to make their efforts count could thrive—and a special place where a common purpose could grow. The founders chose to keep their dream simple by using the “golden rule” as their code and the “sharing” of both talent and responsibility as its ideal.

They did not sit still on their ideal. A mere two months later, on February 6, 1919, the group convened to sign its articles of incorporation, creating an organization that would be international in scope, embracing members regardless of geographic location, and making Quota the first international women’s club.

Organized businesswomen from the start, their first meeting just several weeks later convened on the subject of accepting bylaws so that the organization’s base would be set for expansion. In electing its first officers, Wanda Frey Joiner was elected as the first president and its first headquarters were located in Buffalo, New York. This structure also set in place the founding five’s belief that a strong central organization was critical before the formation of local clubs.

Quota’s Presence Expands

Soon after, the organization of local clubs began with the first charter going to the Buffalo club. Clubs began to spring up around New York State and then Pennsylvania. Ora Cole, a founding five member who was Quota’s first new club organizer, traveled to club sites to assist in set-up. In the early months she alone traveled more than five thousand miles by rail and another three thousand miles by car.

Like all new organizations, Quota suffered initial growing pains; many women were new to the business world and service clubs were a new idea. Since only professional women were eligible for membership, balancing demands at the office with club service, not to mention family, was a challenge for many. Quota’s officers were faced with their own challenges including how to manage rapid growth and the use of paid club organizers.

Quota Grows On

At its first annual convention held in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Quotarians were faced with several changes—the original board of directors recommended that an entirely new board be selected, and it was evident that a central headquarters office should be set up to manage all activities of Quota. Publication of the Quotarian was temporarily suspended during this time of rapid change, but in 1921 was picked up again, when the Quota Club of Scranton stated its willingness to underwrite the magazine for the next year.

That next issue of the Quotarian provided a snapshot of the women who were Quota presidents at that time. Occupations ranged from owner of “the largest retail shoe store in Scranton” to a concert harpist, an osteopath, a city official, and a general secretary of a local YMCA—in all a reflection of the diversity of Quota’s early members.

By the fourth annual convention held in Allentown, Pennsylvania, membership had risen to over one thousand women, and clubs had been established in Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, and Ohio. Service work directed at girls was adopted as a major initiative. All clubs were urged to identify underprivileged girls and support them to remain in school longer or assist them in attending college or attaining special training. Clubs expanded upon this idea and the program flourished.

Now, five years into its existence, Quota was really growing—doubling its members by its tenth anniversary with clubs as far south as Georgia, through the Midwest, and into the Northeast. The realization of the international dream came in 1925 with the formation of a club in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, and in 1926 in the province of Saskatchewan.

A Permanent Home Is Found

In 1927, Quota received the attention of U.S. President Calvin Coolidge, who sent his greetings to that year’s convention attendees. Headquarters was on the move to the nation’s capital—Washington, D.C.—and a permanent home. Each year, headquarters had moved with the current president and now with a pledge of support from each club ($1,700 total), Quota would have a permanent home from which to do business. By 1929’s annual convention in Worcester, Massachusetts, Quota International could boast a membership of 2,500—a real achievement in only ten years!

  • To learn more about Quota’s early years, click here* to view the publication, Quota’s Seventy Years of Service, 1919-1989.
  • To learn how Quota International got its name, click here.
  • To read a profile about Quota International Founder Wanda Frey Joiner, click here.
  • To learn more about or donate to the Quota International fund named in honor of Quota Founder Wanda Frey Joiner, click here.

*To view or print these publications, you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader. Download a free copy.

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