The First Decade…

Quota Centennial Banner BOLD

Written by Beris Pritchard, SPA Liaison

Almost immediately after the reorganization that took place at Quota’s first convention in Scranton, Pennsylvania in April 1920, another agitation arose – an attempt to affiliate Quota Club International with the Business and Professional Women’s Club.   To research this opportunity two Quota Club members were sent to the Business and Professional Women’s Club state meeting in Pittsburgh to observe.  The matter was given serious consideration at Quota’s second convention, held in May 1921 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania; however, at that time, the fourteen delegates and nine officers voted against such affiliations and inserted an Article into the Bylaws prohibiting Quota Clubs from affiliating with any other body.  Our current Bylaws – Article III – Section 2 C still reflect that decision, though amendments have been made over the years to align with changing times and situations.

Quota’s growth continued with three new clubs in Pennsylvania – Johnstown, Reading and Harrisburg – and one in Fairmont in West Virginia.

As we celebrate our Centennial in 2019, special recognition is also due to the Johnstown Club in Pennsylvania, United States. Chartered with 37 members on April 25, 1921 by International President Jennie Lewis Evans, the Johnstown Club is currently Quota’s oldest active club. They will be celebrating the club’s 98th birthday on April 25, 2019 and are surely looking forward to their own 100 year celebration in 2021!

After being suspended due to lack of funds, the publication of the Quotarian was resumed in May, 1921 when President Mary Brookes Picken and her club in Scranton distributed a new issue which they had prepared.  Additionally, the Scranton Club also offered to underwrite the magazine for a year.   Quota International leaders accepted this offer and Laura MacFarlane was appointed editor.

The third and fourth Conventions were held in Pittsburgh and Allentown, Pennsylvania and new Quota clubs were chartered in Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and Ohio bringing the total membership to 1,008.  To encourage continued growth, each Quota Club left the convention in 1923 pledging to organize at least one new club in the coming year.  Those two conventions also brought a complete revision of the Bylaws, the establishment of a registration fee for future Conventions, and a $10 Application Fee for new members. (What is the Initiation Fee today? 100 years’ later and it’s still $10!)    In 1923 Quota Club International was also chartered in Pennsylvania, which caused some controversy around the legality of being chartered in both Pennsylvania and New York, but no resolution was found and Quota continued under both Charters until 1961.

At the 5th Convention, in Buffalo, NY in 1924, Girls’ Service Work was adopted as the major project of Quota Club International.  Clubs were encouraged to identify underprivileged girls and help them to stay in school longer, or to provide assistance with special vocational training. Clubs expanded on the idea and began mentoring girls and encouraging their future affiliation as Quotarians. (What goes around, comes around… as we now have JQ Clubs in the 21st Century!) The treasurer also reported the organization’s financial balance of $5,844.35 at convention.

In 1925, growth continued with clubs in Washington DC, Connecticut, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. But more exciting than all of these was the news of the organization of a club in Winnipeg, Canada in November! The charter for this club was presented by President Mary Russell Purman at the 1926 Convention in Philadelphia.  Quota’s Canadian expansion continued in Saskatchewan the following year.  Quota Club International was now truly International!

Mary Russell Purman

In 1927, following the Eighth Convention in Baltimore, a satirical article was published in The American Mercury entitled “The Lady Back-Slappers”.  Contrary to its intention though, the article actually provided Quota with much-appreciated national publicity, including greetings from President Calvin Coolidge who invited Quota Club International to make its Headquarters in Washington DC!  So, at the 1928 Convention in Davenport, Iowa, each Club was requested to voluntarily give $50.00 to the Quota Club International for a permanent headquarters to be established in Washington DC with a general secretary in charge. Until this time, the Headquarters office had been moved each year to the home of the President.  $1,700.00 was pledged at the Convention for this purpose and office space at 812 17th Street, NW, Washington DC became Quota’s first permanent headquarters.  On January 1, 1929, President Elizabeth J. Emens resigned from her position and took over the role of General Secretary at the new headquarters. Vice President Rietta M. Emerson then became the 7th International President of Quota Club International.

The 1929 Convention, held in Worcester, Massachusetts – the first in New England – included a celebration to mark 10 years of Quota existence, and membership of 2,500.  Catherine Olney from Worcester Club, MA was elected to take the organization into its second decade.

Sadly, the Great Depression which followed the 1929 stock market crash took its toll on Quota too.  The 1930 Convention, set to take place for the first time outside of the United States, in Winnipeg, Canada was dangerously close to being cancelled. Lacking available funds to take the International Board of Directors to Canada, it became necessary to acquire a bank loan to for this purpose.  Newly elected President Catherine and the Board faced an almost insurmountable task – stop the loss the membership and clubs and repay the US$4,000.00 bank loan (with a hefty 10% interest rate).   Cash on hand was less than US$100.00.  At that point, the Board had two avenues to follow – levy an assessment on the entire membership to clear the deficit and then liquidate, or try to save the organization.  Courageously, and with faith in the power of passionate women unified for a cause, President Catherine and the Board chose the latter and proceeded to operate at minimum costs – no funds for travel by the President; no funds for publication of The Quotarian; no funds for extension and development.  Thankfully, support from the clubs was quick and generous and Quota’s first Convention was held outside the USA in 1930 – in Winnipeg, Canada. Additionally, the bank debt was cleared just two years later!

April ……  Quota crosses the Pacific

Want to print and distribute these messages to your club?  Click HERE to access the printable PDF archive of this series.