In a landmark move the New York based Kerrymen’s Association has opened up its doors to women members for the first time since the association was founded in 1881.
“As a result of an historic vote last night by membership, a change in the Association's Constitution was approved that would include Kerry women in an inclusive Kerrymen’s Association,” Neil Patrick Callaghan posted on the organizations Facebook page last Saturday.
For the first time in 130 years women will be able to apply for membership of the county organization, which currently has over 200 active members.
The county society known formally as the Kerrymen's Patriotic and Benevolent Association of New York, acts as a social and charitable organization with their headquarters based in Yonkers, New York.
The announcement comes after years of controversy surrounding the exclusion of women from the ex-pat organization. Kerry women were eager to become members of the society, which they claimed discriminated against them.
“I am delighted, there is no doubt about it this is progress,” Maurice Brick a former president and current PRO of the association told the Irish Voice.
While some members opposed the motion, more than two thirds were in favor and so it was successfully passed. Friday nights vote was the latest effort to have women included in the long running men’s club.
“The women of Kerry have always been an integral part of our association and their contributions have been invaluable down through the years,” reflected Brick who joined the society in 1973.
“The women are a great help to us. When it comes to a lot of things women are much better able to handle it.
“Women also expressed a desire for it to change, why shouldn’t they want to be in the organization?” Brick added.
The association’s latest charity effort took the form of a benefit for Bee For Battens (beeforbattens.org <http://beeforbattens.org>), the Irish campaign, which aims to raise awareness and support, those affected by Battens Disease.
The society raised a grand total of $125,000 for the organization, which was founded by Tony and Mary Heffernan from Keel in County Kerry.
The Heffernan’s lost their only daughter Saoirse to the disease on January 18 while their son Liam (2) who was also diagnosed with the rare disorder, underwent gene transfer treatment in the U.S. in May.
“We were privileged to entertain Liam Heffernan a few weeks after his operation and his Mom and Dad at the Kerry Hall. He frolicked about being the picture of health,” Brick told the Irish Voice.
The association was founded on the premise that Irish emigrants arriving on American soil were facing decimation.
Speaking about the milestone result Joan Henchy, the PRO of the Kerry Football club welcomed the decision saying it was “long overdue”.
“For me personally it means a lot that the kids can join, everyone is delighted!” she told the Irish Voice.
“It's a social network and a connection to our heritage and our roots.
Henchy originally from Tarbert said she had expressed a desire to join the organization ten years ago.
“I give a lot of credit to those who changed their minds,” she reflected.
Concluding she said: “It now belongs to the people of Kerry.”