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Inner Wheel History

Inner Wheel has had a presence in New Zealand since 1936. We have kept a record of the Past Presidents' goals and achievements, along with the theme and Conferences organized in their term, dating back to 1992, which can be found here.

Inner Wheel is formed

Inner Wheel began in Manchester on 15 November 1923. A meeting of wives of Rotarians was convened at a bath house (chosen for the best of reasons – it was free) to establish a 'Ladies’ Rotary Club'. Rotary International would not countenance such a name so, at a second meeting on 10 January 1924, the name ‘Inner Wheel’ was adopted, which is why we celebrate `International Inner Wheel Day’ each January 10. Mrs Margarette Golding, a nurse, business woman and the wife of a Manchester Rotarian is the founder of Inner Wheel.

Clubs sprang up all over Great Britain and Ireland so the ‘Association of Inner Wheel Clubs Great Britain and Ireland’ was launched in 1934. In 1967, International Inner Wheel came into being, with the first Board comprised mainly of Scandinavian and English members.

The first Board meeting was conducted in Copenhagen in October 1967 under President Lavender Weightman. Other countries established Inner Wheel clubs, among the first being Australia, Norway, South Africa and New Zealand.

Inner Wheel NZ begins

Napier was New Zealand's first Inner Wheel Club, begun after Mrs Laura Tekla Holland, of Danish ancestry, travelled to a Rotary conference in Scandinavia with her husband. She learnt about Inner Wheel on board ship and called a meeting of Rotary wives in Napier on her return, on November 27 1936.

Napier was New Zealand’s solitary club for many years until Taumarunui formed in 1947. The 1960’s saw clubs set up in Belfast, Christchurch South, Christchurch East, Dunedin South, Fitzroy and Turangi. Visits by international Presidents, including Lavender Weightman encouraged expansion.

New Zealand’s first District, NZ298, was formed in 1971. The 1970’s saw a burgeoning of Inner Wheel, particularly in the South Island, with 29 clubs chartered between 1969 and 1976. The first North Island District, NZ293, was formed in 1976 and, as in the South, expansion followed with 15 clubs chartered between 1976 and 1980. District NZ293 divided in 1981 into NZ293 and NZ 294, while District NZ297 was formed in 1982 and District NZ291 was split off NZ293 in 1989. In 2020 NZ293 closed and all clubs integrated into the 4 remaining Districts.

New Zealand has played a strong role in international affairs of Inner Wheel, way out of proportion to the country’s size. Ruth Gallagher was the first Inner Wheel Board Member in 1973. Since that time we have had continuous representation on the International Board and have produced three International Presidents – Alison Dowson (1988-1989), Beth McNeill (1996-1997) and Carole Young (2012-2013).

By 1990, New Zealand had 2500 Inner Wheel members in 84 clubs in five Districts and the workload of the Board Member had increased markedly.

National Council is formed

Co-ordinating the activities of all Districts was a daunting task for one person. A presentation was made to the Nelson conference in 1984 and, following this, an ad hoc committee was formed under the chairmanship of Alison Dowson to investigate the viability of a National Council.

The committee report regarding the formation of a national council, made to the 1987 conference in Tauranga, provoked lively debate. The move towards a National Council proved controversial and it was not until 1990, at the Invercargill conference, that a majority of delegates voted to form a national body. The inaugural meeting took place on the Sunday morning of the Conference - October 14 1990 at 7.00am. After a lengthy gestation, the National Council was born.

Forming New Clubs

Inner Wheel has recognised the need to remain relevant for today and has encouraged women to form their own Clubs. Aotea (NZ291) and Otautahi Canterbury (NZ297) were chartered by groups of younger women in March and November 2008 respectively, and encompass larger areas of the country than other more traditional city-based Clubs. IWNZ welcomed the Braided Rivers Club (NZ297) in July 2023, focused on connecting women between the ages of 23 and 40 years of age in the Mid-Canterbury region.

We welcome suggestions and ideas to open new clubs in many local communities across NZ.

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