The New York charitable and social organization for Irish-American men are set to ask their members to vote on the bylaws to allow women to join the all-male society.

The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick of New York allowed members to invite female guests to their annual St. Patrick’s dinner for the first time in 2019, and now the group is going a step further by asking members to vote on amending the bylaws which would let women to join the all-male society, the Irish Voice has learned.

The vote will take place at a Friendly Sons meeting on November 18. The proposed new bylaws – substituting the words “gentlemen” to persons, “him/his” to the applicant, and adding the words daughters and granddaughters – were sent to members earlier this month, together with a letter from Friendly Sons President Kevin J. Rooney expressing support for the change.

“I hereby move to amend the society’s bylaws so that women may be admitted to the society as members…first and foremost, from a moral and ethical point of view, I believe that admitting women as members is the right and just decision,” Rooney wrote.

“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 added, “By admitting women as members, we have the opportunity to bolster the ranks of our membership by welcoming talented and successful Irish daughters who share in our appreciation of Irish culture and wish to dedicate their time, skills, talents and finances to further promote the interests of the society.

“While members should be extremely proud of the society’s 235 year history, permitting women to join our ranks will ensure that we accomplish even more over the course of the next 235 years and, most importantly, that the society’s anniversary dinner continues to be the most sought-after, well-attended and recognized celebration of St. Patrick’s Day in the world.”

The Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick was founded in Philadelphia in 1771, and in 2016 became the first of the Friendly Sons chapters to allow women members. The Irish ambassador to the U.S. at the time, Anne Anderson, was made the first honorary female member.

This year’s Friendly Sons of St. Patrick dinner at the New York Sheraton had women guests and two female speakers as well – Fox Business Network anchor Maria Bartiromo, and the former U.S. ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley.

Haley delivered a 14 minute speech in which she praised the Friendly Sons for their inclusive approach.

“I was cracking mean to tell me that the society of men is run by a woman? Can we all just soak that in for a minute!” Haley said, referring to the woman administrator of the Friendly Sons who was thanked by Rooney for her leadership.

“I am honored to be here tonight. I want to congratulate you for inviting your wives, your daughters, your moms, any women you invited here tonight. It is a significant milestone,” said Haley, who also served as governor of her home sate of South Carolina.

“It only took 235 years. Way to go guys!”

Two long-term Friendly Sons of St. Patrick members told the Irish Voice that the vote next month would likely pass.

“There are older members so it’s not certain how they will vote, but there are a lot of younger ones too who would definitely support including women in the membership,” one source said.