Commodore Steve Harris – October, 2017
“Buckeye Lake Yacht Club is a man’s club; but how could man be, or do, without woman?” Commodore Kyle Armstrong wrote those words in the conclusion of his 1956 book, Story of Buckeye Lake Yacht Club.
From the beginning, in 1906, membership in the Club was open only to men. Looking at this fact from a 21st century perspective, this may seem unusual or out of place, but it was a different time — women weren’t even granted the right to vote in the U.S. until nearly 15 years later. Women weren’t allowed on the Club premises except for certain special occasions, typically holiday celebrations in the summer. This proved to be problematic for many members and in 1909, the By-Laws were amended to “allow Ladies, accompanied by members, to use the Clubhouse, porch, and island at all times,” although “Club rooms” upstairs were still restricted. With the Great War taking many Club members for service overseas in the late teens, they were further changed to allow the “wives and sweethearts” of members on active duty to attend without escorts. In the fall of 1919, in his second term (his first being in 1906), Commodore Lawrence Sackett made the unprecedented appointment of a “Ladies Committee” for the Club. Mrs. George W. (Grace) Pierce was appointed as its chairwoman. According to Armstrong, this was perhaps in recognition of the invaluable contributions the ladies had made to the Club during the war, or perhaps “influenced by their almost certain strength as voters, which actually materialized in the general election of a year later.” Either way, the ladies were now officially recognized as regularly participating guests and afforded many privileges of the Club. However, it would take nearly another eight decades for them to receive full, equal recognition at BLYC.
By the 1990s, the question of granting women membership in the Club had become a significant issue at BLYC. In the fall of 1994, a referendum by mail was sent to all active, life, and perpetual members of BLYC — approximately 80% responded. The tally showed ~60% against and on September 14th of that year, the Board voted against amending the By-Laws to allow women membership privileges. However, the issue would arise again three years later following an order from the Ohio Supreme Court that all judges in the state must resign their membership in organizations that were not gender-neutral. The issue dominated the spring and summer of 1997 and on August 14th, the Board elected to change the Constitution and By-Laws to permit gender-neutral membership. This change became effective, 20 years ago, on October 1, 1997.
As Tony Lisska stated in his 2006 book celebrating the Club’s Centennial, “This would appear to have been an issue of justice that the members of BLYC could and should have resolved on their own decades earlier. Nonetheless, the equality issue was resolved, and the contributions of women members to BLYC have been distinguished and noteworthy.” Years later, this question is, thankfully, a non-issue at BLYC. In fact, in this “anniversary” of the change, not only is BLYC being led by its second female Commodore, Rose McEntire, but also by our first female Senior Trustee, P/C Gayle Fisher-Mulvey — both of whom serve our Club with great distinction.