A brief history
Inner Wheel is now one of the largest women’s voluntary service organisations operating in the world, with a voice at the United Nations and providing support for many around the world. Inner Wheel is active in over 103 countries with over one hundred thousand members.
In New Zealand, we now have 58 clubs spread throughout New Zealand and split into five Districts. These clubs include two in the Pacific Islands - in Fiji and New Caledonia - part of District NZ291. With almost 2000 members, Inner Wheel is still strong within New Zealand and becoming stronger with new clubs being formed with younger members.
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.
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, 298,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, 293, was formed in 1976 and, as in the South, expansion followed with 15 clubs chartered between 1976 and 1980. District 293 divided in 1981 into 293 and 294, while District 297 was formed in 1982 and District 291 was split off 293 in 1989.
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, Beth McNeill 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.
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.
National Council is formed
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.
Inner Wheel has recognised the need to remain relevant for today and has begun inviting younger women to form their own "New Generation" Clubs. Aotea Auckland (NZ291) being the first to be chartered in March 2008 followed by Otautahi Canterbury (NZ297) in November 2008. in 2010 two Clubs were formed in NZ294 - Manawatu Central Connection and Capital City in Wellington. Since then IWNZ has welcomed further new clubs- Waimea Nelson (NZ297) in September 2013 and IW Club of Counties (NZ291) in December 2013 and Tauranga Central (NZ293) in April 2016.
- Blakiston, E. (1980). Inner Wheel in New Zealand'. Tauranga, New Zealand:Don Kale Printing Co. Ltd.
- Foster, H. (1993). International Inner Wheel - The First 25 Years. Great Britain:Dixon & Stell Ltd.
- Wilson, A. (Ed.) (2002). Presidential Perspectives. National Council, Inner Wheel New Zealand