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Ralph Nader > In the Public Interest > Opening Jaycee Doors to Women

Young Men Can Change the World” is the motto of the new Junior -Chamber of Commerce. With 6,366 affiliated local Jaycee organizations and a membership of 307,092 young men between the ages of 21 and 36, the Junior Chamber prides on promoting civic improvement projects in towns and cities throughout the country. But ever since its founding over I’ 50 years ago, Young women have been prohibited from joining the organization
According to Article 1 of the Bylaws of the United States Jaycees, a Jaycee organization Is defined as a “constructive action organization of young men who devote a portion of their time to community service in the public interest, developing young men as leaders of their community.” All local chapters who wish to be affiliated with the national Jaycees, use the Jaycee name and receive the services of the national organization, must comply with the “young men only” requirement for membership.

It is remarkable that an organization with such a universal creed of citizenship and dedication to what it terms “genuine Americanism” should exclude women from member ship, Young women In business and the professions should be to join the Jaycees on an equal status with men, the organization’s dedication to civic interest. But only recently has any local chapter dared to challenge this sexual discrimination and admit women. The Rochester (N.Y.) Jaycee chapter, one of the largest in the country, did admit women and its charter was promptly revoked by the state and national Jaycees.

Other chapters—in Seattle, Lea, Beaton, Hartford, Philadelphia and Baltimore—are about to admit women for the first time. Lawsuits me being. considered to freemen& this end in Philadelphia and Hartford. The national Jaycees plan to request funds for its programs from the government anti the Ford Foundation. Such funding may be Jeopardized by the Jaycees’ adherence to an outmoded “men only” policy.

At a time when there is much work to be done to break down harriers to women in the professional and business world, it is imperative that one of the nation’s largest business organizations welcome to its membership women who can help do just that. If individuals In the business community are to work for meaningful change, are to generate new Ideas and. open broader opportunities to minorities, it Is likely that they win pioneer these areas when they are young and before they. move into the older chamber of commerce circles which focus on the status quo. That is why the stale prejudices of the past and the treatment of women as ornaments must be rejected by the Jaycees.

As a former Jaycee, I have observed some very fine projects which local Jaycees have undertaken against civic corruption, pollution, health and safety hazards in the community. On the other hand, much Jaycee work is insignificant;; resolutions substitute for action. But the Jaycees have potential. To realize it, the local Jaycees should actively recruit a diversity of members, and that includes women and blacks.

The national Jaycee organization, headquartered in Tulsa, Okla., has long prided itself on the leadership taken by local chapters. That pride will continue to be seriously tarnished until the national leadership has amended the restrictive bylaws against the admission of women to affiliated chapters.