A Difficult Past, but a Bright Future: Addressing Uncomfortable History

Logan Rotary experienced and adapted to a changing social landscape over the past century. As a result, the Rotary clubs of yesterday were much different than those of today. Past club culture often featured instances of sexism and racism. However, as the United States became more inclusive, Rotary also followed that trend. The reason to include descriptions of events that may make a modern reader uncomfortable is not to disparage Rotary in any way. Rather, this segment highlights Rotary’s evolution through the years as it has become a more open and respectful organization for all people.

Logan Rotary Club Christmas Party Invitation, 1954
Rotary Ann Christmas Party invitation, 1954 [click to enlarge]
(Utah State University, Merrill-Cazier Library, Special Collections and Archives, Manuscript Collection 234, Box 1, Folder 3.)

For most of the first seventy-five years, the Club’s historical records display an overall absence of women except for a general mention of the female auxiliary, “Rotary Anns.” One woman, Betty T. Daines (wife of Merrill C. Daines), enthusiastically supported the Logan club even though Rotary excluded her from membership for most of her life. Betty eventually joined Rotary in the early 1990s, and before passing away in 2012, requested that her status as a Rotarian be listed in her obituary.[1] This story suggests that women were present, as wives and auxiliaries, despite an absence of records. Any information regarding a Logan Rotary Ann’s auxiliary club, or detailed accounts of members’ wives’ association with the club, has been lost to history.

101 Best Stunts page 24, 1933
101 Best Stunts excerpt detailing pranks on “colored members,” 1933 [click image to enlarge]
(Utah State University, Merrill-Cazier Library, Special Collections and Archives, Manuscript Collection 234, Box 3, Item 2.)

The Logan Rotary Club papers also feature a shocking image reflecting an offensive part of American and Utah culture—Rotary members dressed in blackface conducting a minstrel show.[4] Minstrel shows, which glorified plantation slavery and reinforced stereotypical views of black Americans, were popular during the Reconstruction and Jim Crow periods and became a celebrated phenomenon in Utah well into the 1950s.[5] Early Rotary culture encouraged members to engage in all manner of hijinks to foster fellowship and camaraderie among the club. Logan Rotarians likely put on the minstrel show in the 1920s in an attempt to entertain their fellow members.

Rotarians are quick to remedy mistakes. Immediately after women joined the organization, the sexist jokes ceased in the newsletters. Today, new documents donated to the Rotary collection in the Utah State University Merrill-Cazier Library's Special Collections and Archives contain the views and perspectives of both men and women, and other than the minstrel photo, it appears that racially motivated humor failed to gain a significant foothold in the club’s culture. The club’s international projects also show genuine collaboration between Logan residents and diverse people and cultures in Mexico, Peru, and elsewhere. Today’s Rotarians are working to build a more accepting organization and recognize that inclusion makes the club a better place.

[1] Glatfelter interview. “Betty T. Daines (1924–2012),” obituary, Herald-Journal, June 21, 2012.
[2] Logan Rotary Club, Rotator, club newsletter, Merrill-Cazier Library Special Collections and Archives, book collection 979.206 R74.
[3] “ ’49ers Party,” photographs, 1950, LRCP, Scrapbook 1, 50a-63.
[4] “Logan Rotary Club Minstrel,” photograph, c. 1920s, LRCP, Scrapbook 1, 50.
[6] Michael Hicks, “Ministering Minstrels: Blackface Entertainment in Pioneer Utah,” Utah Historical Quarterly 58 no. 1 (Winter 1990): 62.