A Toast to Women in Toastmasters

As I think about the upcoming District 53 conference theme “Breaking Barriers” the main notion grabbing my attention is we are celebrating 50 years of women’s membership in Toastmasters. From my perspective, it seems ludicrous that at one time this was a men-only group. We are a professional organization and very inclusive. Times were different.

This thought led me to wonder who was the first woman, and this would be a great topic for a blog post. Entering a few choice search terms into my search engine of choice, hint it rhymes with bugle, I discovered a great article in a fraction of a second from Toastmasters. It covers everything you’d want to know. I’ll provide a link to this source but let’s explore the highlights. (1)

Way back, before I was even born, in 1970 Helen Blanchard joined a Toastmasters club at the encouragement of her “fellow” members, she used the name Homer. Her joining paved the way leading to Toastmasters eventually opening up for women members. Toastmaster Blanchard later became the first Woman International President in 1985. What an inspiration!

In 2017, I first joined this organization. Women were and are well-established members. From my perspective, they are part of the foundation and the fabric that weaves us together. Many have been mentors to me for my speaking projects, and leadership.

I’d like to recognize a few women Toastmasters. Elizabeth Reed, DTM, is my longest Toastmasters mentor. She has encouraged me to take on many club leadership roles, and district roles. She is well regarded in our club as a mentor for all. Toastmaster Reed, a self-proclaimed bull in a china shop always gets things done in a way that everyone learns from. As a new member our club was struggling, and several officers had to step away. Together we took on many of the needed roles until other members were recruited. This provided much insight into how Toastmasters worked and the importance of stepping up when the chips are down. A lesson that has served me well professionally.

When I stepped up as an Area Director I served under Amy Chiu. She demonstrated lessons of organization for leaders, which was a tremendous help. I carried this lesson into my term as Division Director and continued in my professional life.

Fast forward to today and as I work with District Director Patti Walter, DTM, Program Quality Director Bettyann Peck DTM, and Region 9 Adviser Lynda Starr, DTM. They each demonstrate many great qualities of leadership for our organization and me personally.

Cheers to our ‘fellow’ women Toastmasters! You and your contributions are appreciated.


  1. https://www.toastmasters.org/magazine/magazine-issues/2020/nov/women-in-toastmasters#:~:text=In 1970—a time when,encouragement of her fellow members.