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200-year-old elite London men's club votes to accept women

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The Garrick is a drinking and dining club tucked away on a side street in Central London. For years it's been a haunt for Britain's top politicians, actors and lawyers, at least the men. Women have not been allowed to join until now, as NPR's Fatima Al-Kassab reports from London.

FATIMA AL-KASSAB, BYLINE: On its website, London's exclusive Garrick Club says it was founded in 1831 by a group of literary gentlemen under the patronage of the king's brother, the Duke of Sussex. It says the club was founded as a place where actors and men of refinement and education might meet. In recent times, its members have included top judges, rock stars, members of the British government and King Charles. Not on the star-studded list of members, though, are any women. That can now change.

Nearly 200 years after it first opened its doors, members voted Tuesday night to allow women in for the first time. The decision was made in a closed meeting and after hours of debate. It followed weeks of controversy over the club's restrictive entry requirements, which were revealed by the Guardian newspaper last month. The negative publicity caused some members to leave. Simon Case, the head of the U.K. civil service, did so after uncomfortable questions by members of Parliament.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LIAM BYRNE: Can you foster a genuine culture of inclusiveness while being a member of an all-male club like the Garrick?

(LAUGHTER)

BYRNE: Is that a good signal to send to the machine?

SIMON CASE: I have to say, my position on this one is also clear, is that if you believe profoundly in reform of an institution, by and large it's easier to do if you join it to make the change from within rather than chuck rocks from the outside.

AL-KASSAB: Women will still be outside for some time. They need to be nominated by a current member, then join members at a dinner at the club and then have their nomination discussed by committee members. And the whole process can take years.

Fatima Al-Kassab, NPR News, London.

(SOUNDBITE OF MELANIE MARTINEZ SONG, "VOID") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Fatima Al-Kassab
[Copyright 2024 NPR]