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The Origins of Inner Wheel

President Marge Matthews addressing
the Rotary Club of the Royal Forest of Dean.

"When Tudor came to our meeting this month he gave us a brief history of Rotary and how our own club runs in line with Rotary International and what was evident to me at the end was that Rotary is geared up to fundraising, whereas in Inner Wheel, although some fundraising is done, there is more focus on the original objects of Inner Wheel. A brief history of the birth of inner wheel will help to clarify that.

Prior to 1924 wives of many Rotarians were already volunteering their time, involved in the background, giving their support and energies to help in any service being undertaken by their menfolk, who were concerned about public welfare issues of the time.

On 27 November 1923, a meeting was held by 27 Rotary wives led by Mrs Margarette Golding in, of all places, the cooling room of Herriot’s Turkish Baths in Manchester, UK, because it was free of charge.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss forming a ladies' group run on Rotary lines, the two main objects being to foster friendship and to offer much more in the way of service, whilst sharing the same ethical values and objectives of Rotary.

So the Inner Wheel club came into being on 10 January 1924 with Margarette Golding as its first President, and the 10th January is now recognised as World Inner Wheel Day. The news of this first club in Manchester spread to other Rotary wives who had been meeting together, and by 1927 another five clubs were set up and, with the collaboration of the Rotarians of District 5, the 1st Inner Wheel District was formed. Thereafter, Districts were formed along the same lines as Rotary. By 1931 there were 56 clubs and by the end of 1932 four new districts had been formed, and then three more in 1933, so the need for a central organisation was being suggested. This took place at the conference held in Douglas on the Isle of Man when The Association of Inner Wheel Clubs in GB and Ireland came into being. Delegates from 79 clubs and 8 Districts approved and ratified the Constitution.

While this was going on in GB and Ireland, other Inner Wheel clubs were being formed globally, and in 1947 the Association's title changed to the Association of Inner Wheel Clubs (dropping GB and Ireland). Other dates and milestones followed with the first convention of the International Inner Wheel being held at the Hague in 1970.

Today International Inner Wheel is present in 103 Countries and Geographic Areas, counting almost 100,000 members, and is structured in Clubs, Districts, and National Governing Bodies, connecting together members of clubs globally all working to uphold the objects of Inner Wheel which are: TO PROMOTE TRUE FRIENDSHIP by having regular meetings with a full and varied programme, including speakers, on subjects of interest. By meeting regularly friendships are built and maintained and then extended by attending Interclubs arranged by other clubs.

TO ENCOURAGE THE IDEALS OF PERSONAL SERVICE by working together as friends. Here our clubs have an outstanding record of personal service to the community. Some examples of RFOD Inner Wheel are:

Currently as a club we provide the tea for the Alzheimer’s Monthly Memory Café and Tea Dance which is organised by the local Alzheimer’s Society and supported by local groups who give advice and support to carers.

In December we get together to wrap Christmas parcels for the mothers and children of our local Women's Refuge.

As we have done previously, this year we plan to take over the catering of the local Helping Hands group. They have run out of funding for the catering and have some rearranging to do because the average age of the people doing the catering is 80.

Last year, thanks to Rotary and specifically the profit from the half marathon teeshirt sales, we distributed generously to charity and made sure where possible this went to the local branch when a national charity was nominated. So with this in mind I would like to think we could get more involved with these charities to understand the grass roots of their running costs and the people they help. I, as well as Tudor and Jenny East, attended the renaming of the Forge Centre in Cinderford (Forest Sensory Services) which is my nominated charity for this year and I was interested to see what a small space they have to work in and what a huge contribution to the local people with Sight and Hearing problems they will be providing.

TO FOSTER INTERNATIONAL UNDERSTANDING Clubs support their own choice of overseas charities as well as providing funds and more important items of clothing/and material requirements.

Inner Wheel is not an open society and membership is largely, but not exclusively, confined to those who have a family relationship to Rotary. Currently each club can have a maximum of four honorary members, who are recognised for their support of Inner Wheel. Inner Wheel, like Rotary, is trying to maintain and increase numbers and by raising our profile and encouraging more interaction between our own clubs I am sure we will be able to achieve this. Also there is a proposal being voted on at present within Inner Wheel whereby we are seeking to open up our membership to include “invited ladies”. In other words it gives us the opportunity to invite like-minded friends to join our clubs; but this will only come into place if the majority agree.

When I joined seven years ago, after an invitation from Jenny East, there were 28 members. We are now reduced to 21 including an Honorary member, so we do need to encourage more members. With this in mind we are inviting Rotary and family members to our first speaker event in October which is a talk on Bees by our local Forest Beekeeping Club. Since I have started beekeeping a lot of people have showed a great deal of interest and I also feel that when we have a speaker the wider the audience the more impact it will have on our community."