After an aborted attempt before the holidays to pass a motion that would allow women to become full members, the Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick of New York reconvened last week and overwhelmingly voted in favor of female membership for the first time in its 236-year history.

The final tally was 302 in favor and 150 against.  Friendly Sons members gathered at the Princeton Club on January 6 to reconsider a motion to admit women that had been approved at a November meeting, but delayed in implementation because of a procedural issue.

“The Society of the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick in the City of New York, the oldest charitable institution in New York City, is pleased to announce that the membership of the society has voted to amend its bylaws in order to permit women to apply for membership. The society is pleased to invite all women and men who are interested and eligible to submit an application for membership,” a press release from the society said.

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John A. Coleman III, the society’s president since last November, told the Irish Voice that a “rigorous” debate took place at the meeting, which was the best-attended quarterly gathering the society has ever hosted. 

“People respectfully but passionately voiced their thoughts for about an hour,” he said.  “We had so much more membership participation than last November’s meeting which I’m very pleased about.”

Friendly Sons of St. Patrick of New York vote for women members.

Friendly Sons of St. Patrick of New York vote for women members.

For the first time last year, the society approved members inviting females as guests to the annual St. Patrick’s Day dinner which was addressed by former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and Fox Business Network anchor Maria Bartiromo.  In October of 2019, then-president Kevin J. Rooney proposed that women should be allowed to join the society as full members.

“While it was perfectly acceptable to establish an all-male society in 1784 and to maintain the all-male policy for more than two centuries, cultural and social norms have changed such that organizations, clubs and associations are expected to be more inclusive. As a result, the society is presented with a unique opportunity to align its membership policy with its history of helping the disadvantaged, regardless of race, sex, color or creed and, at the same time, to properly acknowledge the positive contributions of Irish daughters, recognize their equal standing, and include them in our celebrations of Irish culture and the great charitable work performed by the society,” Rooney said in a letter to members.

Last November’s vote, which also approved women members by a two-to-one margin, was temporarily suspended because of a dispute over the proxy votes.  Coleman said that the motion would return for a vote at the January meeting.

The first female members of the society will be unveiled at the St. Patrick’s dinner on March 17 at the Sheraton Hotel.  Prospective members can join the society with two current members acting as sponsors.  The fee is $175. 

Coleman said that the society currently has over 1,000 members. Those interested in joining can visit www.friendlysonsnyc.com, or call 212-269-1770.

Also at the January meeting, the society voted to implement its inaugural Friendly Sons Scholars program, in conjunction with the Archdiocese of New York’s Inner City Scholarship Fund.  The society also plans on becoming more involved with Irish arts and cultural programs in the New York area.

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