Tuesday, August 9, 2005

LE CLUB CALUMET Vote allows women to join 

Staff Writer, Kennebec Journal

Copyright © 2005 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.

 AUGUSTA -- Women of Franco-American ancestry can now join LeClub Calumet.

Members of the private club along West River Road voted 69-53 Monday night to allow women to become regular members. The historic action comes 13 years after the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the men-only club, founded in 1923, could keep women from joining the ranks.

Nancy Ellis of Farmingdale recalled Monday night that she was denied membership in 1988.

Over the next four years, the Maine Human Rights Commission and Kennebec County Superior Court sided with her cause, but the state supreme court found that the men's club could continue to exclude her and other women.

"I think it's fantastic that they have recognized that women can be equal contributors to the club. I think it's wonderful," Ellis said.

In the 1992 ruling, the state supreme court concluded that the club failed to meet all definitions of public accommodation laws, and as a private organization could prevent women from joining.

A Calumet Club committee, charged with finding ways to increase membership, recommended last month that the bylaws be changed to admit women.

"It was time for it. I think it's time that people see a change. It's not just an old men's club. And we hope it will become a better family atmosphere," said Pat Boucher, the committee's chairman.

Women of Franco-American heritage who seek to join the club must be sponsored by a member, and recommended by two other members.

They would also pay the same one-time initiation fee and membership dues as men.

With about 700 members, club membership has been declining in recent years.

The club is also hoping to attract young men as members.

Ellis, who said she may consider joining the club, said her four year ordeal -- from 1988 to 1992 -- was stressful.

"The whole thing shocked me. We were in the 1990s," she said. Many societal barriers for women started breaking down in the 1960s and 1970s.

Ellis said she hopes one day to see a woman elected as the club's president.

Harry Roy, the current president of the club, said he supported the Monday night vote.

"I'm very happy about it. It's something that needed to be done," he said.

Roy said he intends to sponsor his daughter for membership.

Club members last considered admission for women three years ago. That question lost by six votes, Roy said.

Women have frequented the club for years as guests and wives of members. They also have worked there as bartenders and waitresses.

Other members of the committee that recommended women for admission are Andy Lacasse, Cliff Chase, Scott Allarie, Joey Gilbert and Mike Morin.

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