Earhart, who in 1932 became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, was then the most celebrated member of Zonta International, a group founded in 1919 to empower women. The flier was a member of Zonta’s New York chapter.
On the night of Earhart’s talk at the Seattle Civic Auditorium, Everett Zonta members were among those who dined with her at the Olympic Hotel, according to a HistoryLink essay about the 1933 event.
While the international organization marks its centennial this year, the Everett club has also reached a milestone. Chartered May 17, 1929, Zonta Club of Everett will celebrate its 90th anniversary with a dinner Friday at the Everett Golf and Country Club.
There were 18 charter members when Everett’s Zonta became the 78th club to form in 1929, said Cindy Phillips, a member since 1984. Today, 34 local women are in the club. Through scholarships and support for programs here and around the world, their mission of bettering women’s lives continues.
Locally, Phillips said, Zonta Club of Everett provides about $10,000 a year in scholarships and agency grants to “like-minded agencies,” among them the Monroe Gospel Women’s Mission and Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County.
“We actually do a meal every month for Cocoon House,” Phillips said. Members choose a menu and deliver their dishes to the shelter that serves at-risk teens.
Among the group’s annual scholarships is one for a woman in transition.
Zonta, the group’s website says, takes its name from a word meaning honest and trustworthy in Lakota, a language of the Teton Sioux people.
Carrie Blair, the Everett club’s president, learned about the group from a friend, Judith Strand.
“She mentioned something about Zonta and I said, ‘What’s that?’” Blair recalled. Learning that it helps women and girls worldwide, “I joined up right away.”
Blair, of Lake Stevens, sees current interest in equality for women. Melinda Gates’ new book, “The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World,” is highlighting gender equality in our homes and in far-flung places, she said.
The club will celebrate at Friday’s dinner, but Blair said there are other plans to mark Zonta’s 90 years here. A sculpture may be donated to an Everett park, she said.
Zonta was an early proponent of the Equal Rights Amendment. First introduced to Congress in 1923, the ERA has yet to become part of the U.S. Constitution.
Today, Zonta partners with United Nations agencies to promote human rights for women. The group has joined a Girls Not Brides partnership to end child marriage around the world. And Zonta is supporting its 30 Amelia Earhart Fellows, women from 15 countries pursuing doctoral degrees in aerospace sciences or engineering.
“I like that it’s both local and international,” said Blair, adding that some local scholarship winners become eligible for Zonta’s district and international awards.
Everett’s Isbell Juntila is the keeper of the local club’s scrapbooks and photos. She came across the 1933 newspaper article about Everett Zontians going to see Earhart.
Early on, the group consisted of women in professions. Among Everett’s 1929 charter members were a physician, a pharmacist, bankers, teachers and business owners. One was listed as “homemaker.”
Today, Phillips said, “anyone can join as long as they believe in the mission.” Everett’s club is all women, but men have joined some chapters, she said.
Originally from Alabama, Juntila joined Zonta here in 2003. Her first meeting “was a powerful experience — to see what a small group of women can do to make a huge difference,” Juntila said. “We help women who need help. We change women’s lives.”
Being a part of Zonta changed her life, too.
“I am a much smarter, wiser, stronger woman for having been involved,” Juntila said. “It gave me the courage to step out of my comfort zone.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Zonta Club of Everett is one of 1,200 Zonta chapters in 63 countries. There are some 29,000 members worldwide. Information: www.zontaeverett.org