Garrick Club Votes to Admit Women After 193-Year Exclusion

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In a landmark decision, members of the historically male-only Garrick Club have voted to open their doors to women for the first time in its 193-year history.

The pivotal vote, held on Tuesday evening, saw 60 per cent of the club’s 1,500 members in favour of the long-awaited change.

Amidst the iconic setting of the club’s Covent Garden address, distinguished by its pale pink and green silk tie, members convened to deliberate on the future of their exclusive establishment. The historic significance of the occasion was not lost on those present, with the decision being hailed as a momentous step forward.

Following a two-hour session of impassioned arguments both for and against the inclusion of women, prominent figures including actors Nigel Havers and Stephen Fry, and former Supreme Court justice Lord Sumption, voiced their support for the change.

The use of remote voting proved instrumental in garnering support, particularly among younger members who were seen as proponents of the reform. Despite attempts to block the vote through various amendments, the motion ultimately prevailed, signalling an end to the club’s long-standing single-sex policy.

The decision comes amidst heightened scrutiny of the club’s practices, with recent resignations from high-profile members and public pressure adding momentum to the push for inclusivity.

While some view the move as symbolic progress for gender equality, others caution against viewing it as a transformative step. Critics argue that the change may merely extend privilege to a select group of women, rather than addressing broader issues of social justice.

Freddie Sayers, editor-in-chief of UnHerd, a news website, cautioned against the decision to kowtow to public pressure. “Obviously it doesn’t matter to the world whether the Garrick Club accepts women members or not,” Sayers said. “What does matter is the pattern of centuries-old institutions deciding their futures in panicked response to lame campaigns in the media. In aggregate: significant and not good,” he added.

Nevertheless, the decision has been met with widespread acknowledgement of its significance, both within and beyond the club’s walls.

Rachel Reeves, Labour chancellor, called it “progress” for women. “I couldn’t believe that they were still not allowing women in, in 2024,” she told LBC radio.

She said that while there was a place for women-only refuges, hospital wards and prisons, the list of protected spaces should not include private members clubs. “I’m not going to be queueing to join up but I think it is important that all clubs and institutions welcome men and women. It’s extraordinary we are still having this debate today,” she added.

Despite differing opinions on the implications of the vote, one thing remains clear: the Garrick Club’s decision reflects a broader societal shift towards greater diversity and inclusivity, setting a precedent for other institutions to follow suit.

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