The 1920’s (the “Roaring Twenties) was a time of prosperity and new opportunities for young women. The most important event for women was on August 6, 1920, when the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote, was signed into law. In 1929, women earned 39% of the college degrees earned in the United States. Noted suffragist, Alice Paul, proposed the Equal Rights Amendment, which failed to be ratified and Carrie Chapman Catt formed the League of Women Voters. Other notable women include:
• Gertrude Ederle was the first woman to swim the English Channel.
• Helen Wills was the 7-time singles tennis champion of the US Open and 8 time
champion of Wimbledon.
• Women compete for the first time in Olympic field events.
• Dorothy Parker was a popular poet and witty screenwriter.
• Zora Neal Hurston became a famous Renaissance writer.
• Edna St. Vincent Millay, feminist and poet who was the third woman to receive
the Pulitzer Prize.
• Artist Georgia O’Keefe gains popularity.
• Nellie Tayloe Ross, from the state of Wyoming, becomes the first woman
governor in the United States.
The Zonta Club of St. Louis was organized as a member of the Confederation of Zonta Clubs on November 13, 1925. Twenty-two St. Louisans were invited as eligible for membership. Three representatives of the Confederation were present. The club was the first club west of the Mississippi River. Within six months the club gave their first contributions for charitable work. An interesting planned service project was to adopt a baby. The project was abandoned because legally a group of women could not do so. Other club activities included:
• Raising funds for service projects through card parties. Money raised was used to build and equip a cabin (named Zonta Cabin) at the Girl Scout Camp and guaranteed the maintenance of one scout each week during the eight-week period of the Camp.
• In 1929, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers invited Miss Amelia Earhart to St. Louis to tell them of her experiences on her transatlantic flight. Miss Earhart, a member of the Boston Zonta Club, replied that she would come only on the condition that St. Louis Zontians were included in the invitation.
The Great Depression essentially ended the economic gains made during the 1920s. By 1932 there was a shortage of jobs and women were discouraged from “taking jobs” from men. Some states passed laws against hiring women. But despite low wages and miserable conditions, women had to work to support their families. By 1938 more than eight hundred women belonged to unions and in spite of the economy women continued to excel:
• Jane Addams, the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize for her work with the poor in Chicago.
• First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt holds her own press conference, allowing only women reporters to attend.
• Francis Perkins becomes the first US cabinet member as Secretary of Labor.
• Hattie Wyatt Caraway of Arkansas becomes the first woman elected to the US Senate.
• Marian Anderson sings at the Lincoln Memorial.
• In 1932, Amelia Earhart, a Zontian, becomes the first woman to fly solo across The Atlantic Ocean. She disappeared in 1937 while attempting to circumnavigate the
globe. A great loss for Zonta and the world.
The education of young women was important to the club and during the lean years of the Depression, funds were used to assist high school girls by providing lunch money, car/bus fare, and a few needed clothes. One girl was given, upon graduation, a scholarship to Rubicam Business College. (Note: Upon graduation, the girl was immediately placed in a secretarial position and paid the club back money advanced to her training.) In 1939 the club held a vocational conference for Senior high school girls and their parents. The purpose of the conference was to help girls decide on a career by talking to the women executives present who represented fifty occupations. Four girls were placed in jobs immediately as a result of that meeting. During the difficult times following the 1929 stock market crash, the Zonta Club of St. Louis continued serving the community by assisting other organizations:
• A stove was given to the Salvation Army.
• Crippled Children’s Hospital was given aid.
• In 1932 Zonta International accepted the club’s invitation to hold the twelfth annual International Convention in St. Louis.