Finally, the New York Friendly Sons of St. Patrick will allow women to attend one of their events but they'll still have to have been invited by a man!
For the very first time in its 235-year history, the men-only New York Friendly Sons of St. Patrick will allow women to attend one of their events, in this case, the St. Patrick’s dinner next March.
But there is still more work to be done, despite the well-meaning gesture.
Yes, March 2019 will mark the first time that women will be allowed to join the March anniversary gala of the club in which George Washington was an honorary member and where President Harry Truman once spoke to almost 3,000 people.
“The officers, board of stewards and I hereby encourage you to invite your wives, daughters, sisters, mothers, aunts, nieces, and female cousins, friends, and colleagues to join us for the anniversary dinner,” said Friendly Sons president Kevin Rooney in a November 2 email to members that was seen by the New York Post.
But nowhere does it say that a woman can join or invite herself, order tickets, invite other women, or indeed, bring a mother.
The invitation to women is marred by the fact that they have still to be invited by a male.
That is hardly equality or proper respect. Other organizations such as the Kerrymen's P&B Association in New York bit the bullet and allowed women to join on an equal basis when the pressure came on.
The current application form on the Friendly Sons New York website makes clear there is no way a woman can join. New members are asked are they “a son or grandson” of a current or past member.
Therein lies the rub. The Friendly Sons need to be friendlier to women instead of insisting that they can only be invited by a member who must be male.
There is even more reason to allow full membership given that New York branch is an offshoot of the Philadelphia Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, which was formed on St Patrick's Day 1771. The original Philadelphia branch had already taken the step to start admitting female members in March 2016, inducting the-then Irish Ambassador to the U.S. Anne Anderson.
Ambassador Anderson was a true trailblazer being actually inducted. New York needs to do the same -- and have a few women speakers too.
I can think of several. Historian Patricia Kennelly, an expert on the Irish and the impact of the Famine would be one. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who has Irish roots, would be another. It could really liven up the night.
I know there are men who will remark that they are entitled to their male-only club, just like the League of Women Voters or the Daughters of the American Revolution (who insist you trace your heritage to a participant in the event). But they are, in their own way, sexist and dismissive of the other sex.
But we Irish must show the way as the New York City St. Patrick's Day parade under former chairman John Lahey did so nobly by admitting gay marchers. I mean, it is only outfits like the Orange Order or the KKK who stick with men only membership.
There has certainly been progress with the Friendly Sons. In October 2017, the New York branch told IrishCentral that it was still a way from allowing female members.
“We’re a 234-year-old fraternal organization,” the branch’s President Matthew McLaughlin told IrishCentral.
“And by definition of being a fraternal organization, our members are all male.”
Personally, McLaughlin said he favored allowing women but remained coy as to whether that will happen anytime soon.
“I think it might happen someday,” he said.
It still has not happened despite the headlines to the contrary. The Friendly Sons in New York need to take that very last step.