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Zonta Club of Auburn

Since 1919, Zonta International has been seeking to improve the status of women around the world by supporting international service projects. The combined qualities of honesty and trust, inspiration and the ability to work together are symbolized in the Zonta International emblem. This year, the Zonta Club of Auburn will be celebrating the centennial of the founding of Zonta International by taking an historic “Walk of a Hundred Years” up South Street in April, commencing at the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park and ending on the steps of Memorial City Hall.

Five women, 100 years ago, were attending a Kiwanis club meeting in Buffalo when they decided to form a new club of their own, which would become Zonta International. The clubs would be composed of professional women who were recognized as leaders and they would provide service to humanity through combined efforts. Clubs were organized in Buffalo, Rochester, Binghamton, Elmira and Syracuse. Mary E. Jenkins from Buffalo was the first elected president of the confederation. Members of Zonta throughout history would include names like Amelia Earhart, Sally Ride (first U.S. woman in space), Corazon Aquino (first woman president of the Philippines) and Georgia Neese Gray (first woman appointed U.S. treasurer).

In 1920, the first executive session of officers convened in Rochester. Many official matters were discussed, among them being the Zonta colors and emblem. Helen Fuchs Gundlach, a Buffalo Zontian, designed the emblem with the Zonta colors that were chosen, mahogany and gold. The emblem looks as though it contains the letter “Z” in the center, however it is actually the Native-American Sioux symbol for “ray of light” or “flash of radiance.” The name “Zonta” is also originated from Native-American Sioux language; it means “honest and trustworthy.” As we observe the emblem of Zonta International, there are other symbols surrounding the “Z,” which mean “to stand together,” “to carry together” and “shelter.” The overall purpose of this is to signify a radiant group of successful professionals who are loyal, honest, trustworthy and inspired to advance the status of women.

The name “Zonta International” was officially adopted in 1930 and, the following year, the word “Zonta” was registered with the trademark division of the U.S. government. Zonta’s first international project had actually taken place in 1923, when they funded to care for 115,000 orphaned children and women in Turkey. By 1970, Zonta became worldwide when six African nations had joined the organization.

In late April, we will be celebrating the centennial anniversary and recognizing the month Zonta Club of Auburn was chartered over 90 years ago, with our “Walk of a Hundred Years.” The Zonta torch will be carried and handed off in 10 segments of the distance between Harriet Tubman Home and city hall. This celebration will be open to the public, and we hope to have many women of our community join our members for each “decade” of the walk. A reception of hors d’oeuvres will follow at Next Chapter Brewpub in Genesee Mall. Please stay tuned for more information from us regarding this event. For more information regarding Zonta International, please go to our website, zonta.org, or send us an email at zontaclubofauburn@gmail.com.

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Casie Doolittle is a member of the Zonta Club of Auburn. Kathleen Barnard and Bonny Blair contributed to this article. For more information, visit zonta.org or zontadistrict2.org.

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