Garrick Club Votes to Admit Women as Members After 193 Years

The Garrick Club, a 193-year-old private members' club in London, has voted to allow women to join as members for the first time. Dame Judi Dench is set to become the first female member, marking a significant step towards gender equality in exclusive social circles.

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Aqsa Younas Rana
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Garrick Club Votes to Admit Women as Members After 193 Years

Garrick Club Votes to Admit Women as Members After 193 Years

The Garrick Club, a prestigious private members' club in London, has voted to allow women to join as members for the first time in its 193-year history. The decision was made following a private meeting near the club's Covent Garden headquarters, with approximately 60% of the club's 1,500 members supporting the change.

The club, named after actor and playwright David Garrick, has faced increasing pressure in recent months and years to change its all-male policy. In 2022, a lawyer who initially ruled that the club could bar women changed his mind, stating that there was no legal justification to remain men-only. A poll of members in November found 51% in favor of admitting women, but club rules required a two-thirds majority to change its position.

Why this matters: This decision marks a significant step towards gender equality in exclusive social circles, highlighting the need for traditional institutions to adapt to modern values. The Garrick Club's move may also inspire other male-dominated clubs and organizations to reevaluate their membership policies, promoting a more inclusive and diverse social landscape.

Notable members of the Garrick Club include King Charles III, Brian Cox, and Benedict Cumberbatch. Speakers in favor of the change included Stephen Fry, James Naughtie, Jonathan Sumption, and Nigel Havers. Actress Juliet Stevenson expressed interest in becoming a member, stating, "Any club that is dedicated to [the theatre and arts] community must by definition be open to all."

Dame Judi Dench is set to become the first female member of the Garrick Club, making history once again. Dench has previously visited the club as the plus one of her late husband, Michael Williams. Stars such as Stephen Fry and Nigel Havers reportedly spoke in favor of her joining, with Brian Cox being a big advocate for letting women into the club. Former UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd and Channel 4 News Presenter Cathy Newman are also being considered as potential first female members.

The decision has not been without controversy. Cabinet Secretary Simon Case quit the club in March after being questioned by MPs about his involvement. In April, a High Court judge was removed from overseeing a case involving an alleged rape victim due to his membership of the Garrick Club. Labour's Rachel Reeves welcomed the decision, saying, "It's not my kind of vibe, I won't be queuing up to join, but well done the Garrick Club for catching up." Jemima Olchawski, CEO of the Fawcett Society, stated, "This decision shouldn't be controversial, it's just common sense. There was no good reason to refuse women membership, and we're delighted that Garrick members agree."

The Garrick Club's decision to admit women as members marks a significant step forward for the institution, which has been a bastion of Britain's establishment for nearly two centuries. With approximately 40% of members still opposing the change, it is clear that the club's transition to a more inclusive membership will be a gradual process. However, the admission of high-profile figures like Dame Judi Dench as the first female members sends a strong message about the club's commitment to equality and recognition of the importance of including women in exclusive social circles.

Key Takeaways

  • The Garrick Club, a 193-year-old London club, has voted to admit women as members for the first time.
  • Approximately 60% of the club's 1,500 members supported the change, exceeding the required two-thirds majority.
  • Dame Judi Dench is set to become the first female member, with other notable women being considered.
  • The decision marks a significant step towards gender equality in exclusive social circles.
  • The club's move may inspire other male-dominated clubs and organizations to reevaluate their membership policies.