In case you haven’t heard, today is International Women’s Day, a global holiday commemorating women’s many accomplishments. March is also Women’s History Month in the U.S., 31 days dedicated to reflecting on the often-overlooked contributions of women throughout history. While it might seem odd for a fraternal organization to talk about praising the accomplishments of women, it’s really not. Regardless of how we started, UCT today is only as strong as its many women members.
Our organization was founded in 1888 as a fraternal benefit society specifically for male commercial travelers or traveling salesmen and, like every other fraternal organization of its time, it was definitely male-centric. For a very long time, the wives, mothers, and daughters of UCT members were relegated to the sidelines or found a way to make a difference through the organization’s auxiliary.
It wasn’t until a constitutional amendment passed at the 98th UCT convention in San Diego, California, in 1981 made it “official” that women could join UCT as full-fledged members that they were able to assume leadership positions alongside their male counterparts. It’s been steady progress at the local, regional, and international levels for women members ever since. While we would love to highlight all that progress, there just isn’t enough space. However, here are some of what we consider significant female firsts in UCT history:
September 1981 – Pamela Wittler sets a UCT precedent when her application for the first individual coverage policy issued to a female is approved.
October 1981 – Buckeye Council 914 in Columbus, Ohio, becomes the first UCT local council to admit women. Mary Komives becomes the first woman local council secretary-treasurer and Evelyn Heyman the first woman local council president.
1982-1990 – UCT’s female members begin to become active in their local councils, sharing the leadership with their male counterparts by assuming the roles of secretary-treasurer, line officers and executive committee members.
May 1991 – Susan Vogel of Texoma Council 90 in Denison, Texas, becomes the first woman regional president, serving as the Texas Regional Council’s leader during 1991-1992.
July 1995 – Martha Horn of T. Glenn Joyce Council 548 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, sets a UCT precedent at the international level when she is elected UCT Secretary-Treasurer. She is the first woman to serve as an international officer.
July 2003 – Dianna Loafman of Fort Worth Downtown Council 934 in Fort Worth, Texas, sets another UCT precedent by becoming the first woman elected to the line of international officers that will eventually serve as UCT President. Dianna makes UCT history by serving in that capacity during 2007-2008.
July 2003 – Glenda Dickey of San Jose, California Council 623 becomes the second woman to serve as UCT Secretary-Treasurer on the international level.
July 2003 – Darlene Gillies of Neepawa, Manitoba Council 924 is the first woman elected to the UCT Board of Governors as a board member and is the first woman from Canada to serve at the international level.
July 2015 – Mary Applegate of Fort Myers, Florida Council 900 is elected to the line of international officers and serves as UCT President during 2019-2021, guiding the organization through a global pandemic.
July 2016 – Dianna Wolfe of Racine, Wisconsin Council 337 is elected to the line of international officers leading to UCT President, a position she currently holds. She is the first offspring of a Past International President to become UCT President.
July 2018 – Stanna Funk of Mile High Council 15 in Denver, Colorado, is elected to the line of officers leading to UCT President.
We salute you, women of UCT, this day and this month and every other month of the year! Your role in our organization’s history is a vital one that we will long celebrate, commemorate, and observe.