The early days
World War I was a major catalyst for women. They left behind their aprons to do jobs that were usually done by men. Women became part of a valued workforce, gained some independence and earned their own money.
One such woman was Edith Glanville, whose 18-year-old son died on the battlefield. Ahead of her time, she formed an association that aimed to stop all wars. A forceful lady who didn't let convention be a problem, Edith formed a Quota club in Sydney with a team of like-minded women and commenced a round-the-world journey pursuing her ambition to outlaw all wars.
Whilst in the United States, Edith attended a Soroptimist meeting. The Americans had formed the first Soroptimist Club in 1921, whilst Britain formed a similar one, and they amalgamated into the Soroptimist International Association.
So impressed by the meeting, Edith returned to Sydney, sent back the Quota charter and formed her band of followers into Soroptimist International Association of Sydney. The fledging Sydney club was claimed by the Federation of Great Britain and Ireland, and its charter finally took place in 1937.
1939 saw Soroptimism arrive on the shores of New Zealand with SI Wellington becoming the first Soroptimist club, followed by SI Christchurch in 1949 and SI Auckland shortly after.
Time for expansion
Conversation amongst members was now focused on forming a fourth Federation of Soroptimist International, but it was not until 1967 that a Pacific Federation was seriously considered.
1971 saw the first club formed in Fiji, with the charter of SI Suva. More Fijian clubs joined, and clubs continued to be charted across Australia, with clubs in Victoria, Tasmania, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia.
Finally, in 1978, the fourth Federation was formed - Soroptimist International of the South West Pacific. The inauguration ceremony was held in Adelaide, and it was such a great moment when Soroptimist International President, Hilda Richardson, handed over the Charter of the Federation to Her Excellency Maris King, and invested her with the Insignia of SISWP.
The 1990s saw more expansion and greater cultural diversification with the introduction of clubs in Malaysia, Indonesia, Solomon Islands and Mongolia. These new countries and members created opportunities to support projects whilst building friendships of understanding across cultures. Diverse cultures add a wonderful richness to our organisation, and are a benefit we continue to treasure.
In 2022, with overwhelming enthusiasm from our members, we changed our name to Soroptimist International South East Asia Pacific. Our new name describes more accurately the location of our members and the area we serve.
We presently have clubs in the following 13 countries: Australia, Cambodia, Fiji, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Singapore, Thailand.