Across the world thousands of Soroptimists have marked International Women’s Day with hundreds of activities and events on and around 8 March.
In some countries just gathering like this puts their lives at risk. Events highlight the economic, political and social achievements of women, and raise awareness of work still to be done to build a better world for women and girls.
Soroptimist International of Harrogate and District celebrated this very special day on the 4th March by recognising the life and works of one of their founder members. Dr Kathleen Rutherford, MBE, Honorary Freeman of the Borough of Harrogate Town and Founder President of the Soroptimist Club of Harrogate, she devoted her life to working with disadvantaged people both nationally and globally. Club member Rachel Richardson’s who has diligently researched Dr Rutherford’s life gave a presentation that included showing the original Yorkshire TV Calendar Special programme made about her life in 1970.
Dr Kathleen, as she was usually known, was born in 1896 at a time before women had the vote and very few became medical practitioners. She was described as a legend in her own lifetime in the Calendar News documentary. She worked in medical practice with her father and brothers in Harrogate.
In 1933 Dr Kathleen became the Club’s founder President and in 1938 was elected Vice President of Soroptimist International of Great Britain & Ireland. In the 1930s she helped organise the relocation of Basque children fleeing the Spanish Civil War. A life long pacifist, she wrote to Hitler in 1935 asking him to allow German Soroptimists to attend a conference in Harrogate. In 1962 she was left a legacy of over £42000 (£750,000 in todays money). She was determined to use it help others and made significant donations to Famine Relief, War on Want, Guide Dogs for the Blind, the Save the Children fund, and Leprosy. She devoted much of her time to offering her medical expertise and knowledge to those in need across the world including Italy, Uganda, Biafra and Palestine. Dr. Kathleen joined the first official party of British doctors invited to China, paving the way for advances in medicine and global understanding. In 1970 she received the MBE from the Queen for services to medicine in under-developed countries.
Club President Sylvia Purser said:
Dr Kathleen was a wonderful woman, Doctor, and Soroptimist whose charity and vision touched and enriched lives all over the world. It gives me and my fellow Soroptimists great pleasure to celebrate her life and work at our International Women’s Day event.