May 10, 2018
A New York Times 1975 headline exclaimed, “Women are Suing Power Squadrons.” Later in the body of the news article the following was stated, “…..the all‐male boating organization is destroying itself by refusing to admit women.”
Truth being told the legal action was between one woman, Mrs. Marilyn Hinden who wanted to become a member of a New Jersey squadron and the United States Power Squadron who wanted to defend itself as a private organization for men only. The original plaintiff soon was supported in her landmark case by other women.
Prior to the New Jersey Court’s ruling, all men who passed the USPS basic boating course were invited to become members, one of Mrs. Hinden’s supporters, Mrs. Adler commented, “The only thing that could keep a person out (of USPS) was being a woman.” Notwithstanding the New Jersey Court ruling in MRS. Hinden’s favour it was not until 1982, after a special meeting of USPS delegates who then approved changes in their organization’s constitution and bylaws eliminating the male-only membership rule. With those changes women were permitted to become active members of the United States Power Squadrons.
Although many American women had long held a “woman’s certificate”, entitling them to enroll in all USPS courses, it was increasingly apparent that boating was truly becoming a family-oriented endeavor. The first female active and family members for USPS were accepted in November 1982. By the end of the century approximately one third of USPS membership were women.
The Canadian Power Squadron story was similar yet different.
Please consider the following written by P/C/C Doreen Hinksman: At last, the day in 1968 came to receive our Warrant (Brampton Squadron) – a very grand affair taking place in the officer’s mess of a local militia establishment. All paperwork was in order, and as I checked through it all, I saw the new Warrant, with all the Founding Members names listed—horror on horror—they had missed my name. I spoke right away to the Commander-elect (a Weston Squadron member) who said, “Oh, didn’t you know, as a Lady Associate you aren’t a full member, so your name isn’t listed”. I was shocked beyond belief, thinking of all the hours of work I had done, and the feeling of pride in my new Squadron, only to find out I was too lowly to even have my name on the document with my fellow students/members.
That was the beginning of my efforts over the next several years to do everything possible to change the all-male organization into one that accepted women as full partners. In fact right up to the great day in 1973 when our By-laws were amended to allow full membership status to Lady Associates if they so wished, a core of women across the country worked tirelessly to make this happen.
Also please consider P/C/C Doreen Hinksman’s article Women Get The Vote:It is hard to believe looking at the membership of CPS today that it was originally an all male organization. In fact boating itself was considered a male hobby, one that women did not pursue except perhaps as a passenger on her male companion’s boat. Many women who took our safe boating courses years ago, did not even realize that this was the case. In my particular experience, I decided to take a course because my husband and I were thinking of buying a boat. I signed up at the Boat Show and was advised of the Squadron nearest to my home, where I could register for the then Piloting Course, the entry level of CPS at that time.
As the course progressed, people came into the classroom and told us all about CPS, and that we could join the organization if we wished after passing our final exam. Not known to me at that time was that I was in a student group that was to form the nucleus of the new Squadron of Brampton, which was being planned by Weston Squadron members. Then came the shock – all the women in the class were not to be full members, but were to be Lady Associates! We could not hold office within the Squadron, could not vote, although we could work alongside the men, and even earn a Merit Mark for our efforts.
Over time many women felt this position to be untenable, and knots of women in various parts of the country began to “lobby” for a change in this policy. I became very active in working for our “cause” and wrote many letters and made many speeches concerning this inequality – I must say many of the male members agreed with us! A vote was presented to the Governing Board to allow women to become full members, which unfortunately failed. This made us all the more militant. It was around the time of the famous “womens lib” movement – burning bras etc. was rampant. Once again the Motion was coming up to allow full membership to women, and I felt I needed to make a personal statement. I was staying overnight at the hotel where the meeting was to be held, and conceived an idea. I hung a black lace bra on the door of the then Chief Commander, with a note saying “What will you do about this??” or words to that effect (it was a long time ago!) with my name and room number attached to the note.
You can imagine my dismay the next morning, finding a neatly wrapped package on my bed, with a note from the laundry department at the hotel stating “hope this is to your satisfaction, we could not find anything needing assistance”. The Chief had not even seen my note or the bra. Well needless to say if nothing else, it did give us all a good laugh.
Fortunately that meeting proved successful and we women became full members. The By-laws were amended in 1973 to allow full membership to women. It did take a while after that to bring women on to positions of Squadron and District Bridges. I am proud to say that I eventually became the first woman to serve as Chief Commander (1997 – 1999) of CPS – we came a long way baby!!!
[Author’s note – the following are excerpts from the Pacific Mainland District’s December 1973 newsletter Prop Wash regarding the same topic.]
Not quite ten years earlier, two years of discussion came to an end –not to over look the ten previous years of earlier discussions regarding women members – at the 1973 Annual Conference of Canadian Power Squadrons when delegates voted by a margin of better than five to one permitting lady graduates of the CPS Boating Course to be invited to become members.
CPS Headquarters, in a recent letter to all Registered Lady Associates stated in part: “Our by-laws still require Lady Associates, if they wish to remain as Lady Associates, to reregister on or before February 28th each year and after Headquarters receive such indication, a current year Lady Associate card is mailed direct to the Lady Associate. There is no fee charged by Headquarters to Lady Associates reregistering as Lady Associates. However, if a Lady Associate wishes membership she should apply for same through her Squadron secretary. This does not have to be done immediately, but may be done in any year at any time. Membership would entail the same fee as paid by the men and all names of members must be approved by the governing board at a Governing board meeting – the next being February 9th 1974.
Accordingly, any Lady Associate wishing membership, after applying to her Squadron Secretary and paying the required fee, would receiver her membership after Board approval and Headquarters would prepare and mail to her Squadron a new membership certificate and membership card. If a Lady has passed Advanced Grades, her Lady Associate certificate must be forwarded to Headquarters through her Squadron to facilitate the endorsement on her new certificate. (The old certificate will be returned along with the new.)
It should be noted that once a Lady Associate obtains membership she would not be permitted to return to Lady Associate status. Headquarters has also issued the necessary administrative instructions to all Squadron Commanders and Secretaries outlining the procedures to be followed once the revised membership application forms are printed and in hand. It is anticipated that the new forms will be distributed to squadrons in the very near future.
During this time for CPS other things were changing as well. Many squadrons made subtle but significant changes to their official squadron names – for example in 1977 Long Branch Power Squadron changed its name to Centennial Park Power and Sail Squadron, partly to better identify with and serve the area’s greatly expanded boating community. Later in 1985 perhaps the most dramatic change within the CPS-ECP organization was the integration of the “stink potter” and the “ragman” into one cohesive boating organization. The Canadian Power Squadron name was changed to represent both Sail and Power, as well as to recognize bilingualism as an important part of our organization’s educational responsibility. Our organization’s name was changed to Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons/Escadrilles canadiennes de plaisance (CPS-ECP).