Who We Are

Women at their best, working to help other women to be their best.

We Are Soroptimist. A global volunteer organization that provides women and girls with access to the education and training they need to achieve economic empowerment.

Soroptimist International of the Americas - Anchorage Chapter

Soroptimist was formed in 1921 in Oakland, California, at a time when women were not permitted to join service organizations. Our name, loosely translated from the Latin, means best for women. Today, we have about 30,000 members and supporters in countries across North America, Latin America and the Pacific Rim. We are one of five federations that make up Soroptimist International, which has clubs in more than 120 countries throughout the world. (soroptimist.org)

In 1945, the first chapter of Soroptimists was started in Anchorage.  From there, chapters were later opened in Fairbanks, Kodiak, Juneau, and a second in Anchorage – the Cook Inlet chapter. 

Brief Soroptimist International Background

The Soroptimist organization began in Oakland, California on October 3, 1921 as a result of meetings between Stuart Morrow, a professional organizer of men’ s service clubs (many Rotary Clubs were organized by Mr. Morrow) and our founder and first president, Violet Richardson-Ward. It was a short time after the 19th Amendment adopting women’s suffrage was signed in 1921 and women, by the necessity of the First World War were holding key jobs. Many entered the professions of nursing and law.

Others were required to manage the family business. In 1928, the American Federation of Soroptimist Clubs was formed when Soroptimists held their first International meeting in Washington D.C.

In 2005, Soroptimist’s mission was to improve the lives of women and girls, in local communities and throughout the world. In order to accomplish this goal, the organization sponsors several international programs. The organization’s major service project at that time were as follows:

  • Women’s Opportunity Awards, which assist women by giving them the resources they need to improve their education, skills and job prospects.
  • Other Soroptimist programs include:
  • Soroptimist Club Grants for Women and Girls, which are cash grants for innovative club projects.
  • Soroptimist Workplace Campaign to End Domestic Violence, an awareness campaign that targets domestic violence as a workplace concern.
  • Violet Richardson Award, which recognizes girls’ volunteer efforts.
  • Making a Difference for Women Award, a recognition program for women who help other women and girls.
  • Venture Clubs, a volunteer organization for young working women.
  • Soroptimist Disaster Relief Fund for Women and Girls, which provides funds for programs that assist women and girls after a man-made or natural disaster.

In addition, Soroptimist clubs participate in projects sponsored by the parent organization, Soroptimist International. The current project, Project Independence: Women Survivors of War, partners Soroptimist International with Women for Women International. The project assists women in war-torn countries such as Afghanistan, Bosnia and Rwanda and provides tools and resources to move the women from crisis and poverty into a civil society that promotes and protects peace, stability, and self-sufficiency.


Soroptimist International, headquartered in Cambridge, UK, is the umbrella organization for Soroptimists worldwide.
Soroptimist International has four Federations:

  • Americas (SIA)
  • Europe (SIE)
  • Great Britain & Ireland (SIGBI)
  • South West Pacific (SISWP)

SI Anchorage is part of District 1, Northwestern Region of Soroptimist International of the Americas, Inc.

SIA, Soroptimist International of the Americas includes the following 28 regions:

America del Sur, Brazil, Camino Real, Desert Cost, Eastern Canada, Founder, Golden West, Japan Chuo, Japan Higashi, Japan Kita, Japan Minami, Japan Nishi, Korea, Mexico/Centro America, Midwestern, North Atlantic, North Central, Northeastern, Northwestern, Philippines, Rocky Mountain, Sierra Nevada, Sierra Pacific, South Atlantic, South Central, Southern, Taiwan, Western Canada

SIA countries and territories are: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guam, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Taiwan, U.S.A., Venezuela.


SI Anchorage Celebrated 60 years of Soroptimist Service
November 10, 2005 together with SI Cook Inlet
Celebrating 25 years of Soroptimist Service
SI Anchorage helped charter SI Cook Inlet 25 years ago.



Seventy-six years ago, twenty-seven Anchorage business and professional women were invited by Soroptimist International of Fairbanks to organize a classified service organization. Each member was classified according to the principal and recognized activity of the governmental entity, institution, firm, or company where the member worked or was an owner. They were charged with maintaining a classified membership that was representative of the diversity of occupations and classifications in the Anchorage community.

The club was chartered October 4, 1945, by Alice Dowell Jones, Portland, OR., assisted by Peggy Lyle, SI Fairbanks. Robert Atwood, publisher of the Anchorage Times was the speaker. Doris Ervin was the charter president.

Charter Officers
  • President, Doris Ervin
  • Vice President, Rose Kapingen
  • Recording Secretary, Vida Lee
  • Corresponding Secretary, Ruth Coffey
  • Treasurer, Velma Carr
  • Directors: Honor Kempton, Gladys Swank and Myrtle Stalnaker
  • Honorary Member, Anne Shonbeck

Charter Members

  • Barbara Audett, Flower Shop;
  • Marie H. Bagoy, Greenhouse;
  • Velma E. Carr, Aeronautical Industry;
  • Ruth K. Coffey, Insurance;
  • Mary I. Crocker, Department Store;
  • Ann Curtis, Mail Order;
  • Elaine Daly, Federal Dept. of Justice;
  • Doris Ervin, Women’s Apparel;
  • Doris Faroe, Electrical Industry;
  • May George, Native Arts;
  • Hazel Guider, Education;
  • Marian Hopkins, Sporting Goods;
  • Rose Kapingen, Musical Instruments;
  • Honor Kempton, Rental Library;
  • Florence L. Kolb, Federal Land Use;
  • Jeanne Laurence, Painting;
  • Vida Deigh Lee, Printing;
  • Phyllis McCutcheon, Public Stenographer;
  • Alice Olson, Beauty Culture;
  • Florence Paddock, Paints;
  • Marguerite Renfrew, Music;
  • Theresa Liddell Reid, Lingerie;
  • Myrtle Stalnaker, Children’ s Apparel;
  • Gladys V. Swank, Gifts;
  • Mabel Vaara, Variety Store;
  • Irene Welch, Savings Bank;
  • Dorothy K. Whitney, Federal Health


The 1945-1955 Years
  • World War II Ends
  • Alaska Railroad System Rebuilt
  • United Nations Chartered, 1945
  • International Airport Officially Opened, 1951
  • Seward Idghway Completed
  • West High Opened, 1953
  • Inlet Towers And Mckay Buildings Go Up
  • Korean War


  • Doris Ervin Walkowski, 1945-1946
  • Vida Lee, 1947-1948
  • Margaret Wolfe, 1949-1950
  • Jean Jackson, 1951-1952
  • Ester Lounsbury Nugent, 1953-1954
  • Rose Kapingen, 1946-1947
  • Gladys Swank, 1948-1949
  • Phyllis McCutcheon, Mithassel, 1950-1951
  • Ruthella Wade, 1952-1953
  • Helen Chapman, 1954-1955

The little railroad town of Anchorage was starting to grow up by 1945 and aviation was fast becoming the new economic base. The population jumped to 12,000. Soldiers came to Alaska and stayed to homestead and work on building projects including Ft. Richardson, two 14 story skyscrapers and the rebuilding of the entire railroad system, owned and operated by the US Dept. of the Interior.

Some of the service projects that were funded included health, orphans and children, student scholarships, Father Dumphey’s fund and two art shows. One art show was held during the Fur Rendezvous and the other featured local artist and member Jeanne Laurence.

The organization expanded by 1952 and Soroptimist International had now grown to 841 clubs in 22 countries with over 25,000 members would wide. With the election of an international president, Soroptimist International qualified for consultative status with the United Nations.

The 1955-1965 Years
  • Kenai Oil Strike, 1957
  • Statehood, 1959
  • Alaska Methodist University Opened, 1959 (Now Alaska Pacific University)
  • New Providence Hospital Opened, 1963
  • Alaska Earthquake, 1964


  • M.M. Bagby, 1955-1956 
  • Margaret Marlatt Tuter, 1957-1958
  • Betty Avey, 1959-1960
  • Bette Gaylor, 1961-1962
  • Lois Jund, 1963-1964
  • Mary Hale, 1956-1957
  • Lorene Harrison, 1958-1959
  • Mary Bargeron, 1960-1961
  • Eleanor Sullivan, 1962-1963
  • Gana Worgum, 1964-1965

The opening of Alaska Methodist University moved SI Anchorage to raise enough for a grand piano and $20,000 for stainless steel cafeteria equipment.

Presbyterian Hospital was given an oxygen tent and a humidifier, Providence Hospital was given a defibrillator and $1000 for their pediatric playroom.

SI Anchorage shared projects with service clubs Quota and Zonta including Sunday night suppers at the YMCA and holiday celebrations at Alaska Psychiatric Hospital.

Stanley Smith, the clubs first Youth Citizenship Award winner also placed first in district competition and fourth in the Northwestern Region competition.

During this decade Soroptimist International grew worldwide to 1475 Soroptimist Clubs in 31 countries, and the organization chose December 10th as International Soroptimist Day to remember the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Friendship Links and exchange programs were introduced.

The 1965-1975 Years
  • Fairbanks Flood, 1967
  • Oil Discovered At Prudhoe Bay, 1968
  • $900 Million Oil Lease Sale
  • Eielson Airforce Base Is First Stop For Returning Vietnam Wounded
  • Alaska Native Land Claims Act, 1971
  • Pipeline Construction Begins, 1974


  • Yvonne Krotke, 1965-1966
  • Alice Spahn, 1967-1968
  • Jane Felton, 1969-1970
  • Marguerite Pederson, 1971-1972
  • Mae Larson, 1973-1974
  • Lois Young, 1966-1977
  • Betty Lambert, 1968-1969
  • Doris Ely, 1970-1971
  • Viola Green, 1972-1973
  • Louise Mills, 1974-1975

Altrussa, Quota, Soroptimist and Zonta gave their joint “Lead the Action Award” to SI Anchorage for a service project activity, including $5,000 to Booth Memorial Building Fund, $5,000 for the Salvation Army Women’s Center, a resuscitator for Anchorage Community Hospital, physical therapy equipment for Ridgeview Manor Nursing Home, funds for Fairbanks flood Relief, the Training Awards Program and continued funding of the Youth Citizenship Awards.

1975 was the twenty-year milestone for continuous support of the Festival of Music ticket sales and scholarships.

Soroptimist International activity in this decade was 1,065 clubs in 41 countries with a world-wide membership of 47,000. Soroptimist International of the Americas started a million-dollar drive to support the Youth Citizenship and the Training Awards Program

The 1975-1985 Years
  • Pipeline Construction Completed, 1976
  • Oil Flows To Valdez, 1977
  • Voters Approve Capitol Move To Willow, 1976
  • Project 80’s Construction
  • State Income Tax Repealed, 1980
  • First Permanent Fund Checks, 1982


  • Marilyn Hoblit, 1975-1976
  • Marjorie Bell, 1977-1988
  • Winnie Nowak, 1979-1980
  • Marsha Holloman, 1981-1982
  • Mae Rene Bordwell, 1983-1984
  • Julia Kincaid, 1976-1977
  • Joy Donelson, 1978-1979
  • Dorothy Carter, 1980-1981
  • Lee Vehlewald, 1982-1983
  • Sonya LaMarr, 1984-1985

This decade introduced the celebration of the United States Bicentennial, and SI Anchorage chose to establish a permanent identifying project by building a Soroptimist Plaza near the old Sydney Laurence Theater. The project investment was $37,000 and included two wooden murals carved by Mary and Jacques Regat depicting the “Women of Alaska” and a tribute to wildflower artist and charter member Jeanne Laurence entitled ” Field of Flowers.” The project also included a large clock and a time capsule. It was an extraordinary accomplishment.

SI Anchorage hosted the Northwestern Region Conference, established a Friendship Link in Australia and chartered three clubs in three years. SI Mat Su was chartered in 1978, SI Twin Cities in 1979 and SI Cook Inlet in 1980. $30,000 was raised at an art auction with SI Cook Inlet to furnish Providence House.

Soroptimist International now has 79,000 members in 82 countries worldwide.

The 1985-1995 Years
  • Libby Riddles And Susan Butcher Dominate The Iditarod For Six Years
  • Rose Kapingen Foundation Established With $27,000 Gift
  • Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, 1989
  • Redoubt And Spurr Blow Their Tops
  • SI Anchorage Celebrates 50th Anniversary, Atwood Speaks


  • Karen L. Hunt, 1985-1986
  • Sandra K. O’Neal, 1987-1988
  • Elizabeth “Pat” Kennedy, 1989-1990
  • Rita Ramos, 1991-1992
  • Christi L. Swearingen, 1993-1994
  • Karel K. Atkinson, 1995 (leaves for sabbatical in Scotland)
  • Marion Bayless, 1986-1987
  • Myrna Maynard, 1988-1989
  • Mary Kay Arthaud, 1990-1991
  • N. Jane Fisher, 1992-1993
  • Barbara Ann Block, 1994-1995

SI Anchorage organized the service projects according to Soroptimist International’s six program areas during this decade:

Economic and Social Development: Adopt a Family, Pioneer Home and Beans Cafe.

Education: Rose Kapingen Post Graduate Awards, Eleanor Sullivan Fine Arts Award, YCA, TAP and Literacy.

Environment: Volunteer Naturalists, Emergency Funds for earthquakes (Armenia, Mexico and San Francisco), Hurricane Hugo and the Oklahoma bombing. Tribute to Jeanne and Sydney Laurence.

Health: AIDS, $7,000 Kidney Dialysis Center art collection, MS, Hospice and Providence House.

Human Rights/Status of Women: Advancing the Status of Women Award, Women of Distinction Award, Women Helping Women Award, AWAIC, Clare House and the Salvation Army.

International Good Will and Understanding: Friendship Link with Dundee, Scotland; appointed by the European Federation to serve as Godmother Club for Magadan, Russia; Representation at two United Nations World Conferences on Women; Grants of Friendship and the chartering of SI Magadan, Russia and SI Kodiak in the last two years.


SI Anchorage is now part of 2,992 clubs in 112 countries with a membership of 94,470 worldwide.

The 1995-2005 Years
  • Big Lake Fire One Of Most Devastating In Alaska History, 1996
  • Canadian Fishermen Blockade Alaska Ferry In Rupert, 1977
  • Moose Becomes Official State Mammal, 1998
  • Arco Alaska Purchased By Phillips Petroleum, 2000
  • Alaskans Mourn Friends/Relatives Killed In 911 Attack, 2001
  • Windstorm Damages In South Central Equal $8.5 Million, 2003
  • Si Anchorage Celebrates 60 Years Of Service Together With
  • Si Cook Inlet Celebrating 25 Years Of Service In Anchorage


  • Sandra O’Neal/Charlotte Willingham, 1995-1996
  • Charlotte Willingham, 1996-1997
  • Leslie Schmitz, 1997-1998
  • Mary Tesch, 1998-1999
  • Kay Linton, 1999-2000
  • Barbara Block, 2000-2001
  • Maryann Foley, 2001-2002
  • Mary Tesch, 2002-2003
  • Jacque Hoflich, 2003-2004
  • Nancy Johnson, 2004-2005
  • Barbara Sweetland Smith, 2005-2006

SI Anchorage service projects in the Anchorage community during this decade included:

Economic and Social Development: Adopt a Family, Beans Cafe, Booth Bags at Christmas, Career Women Clothing Swap, Children’ s books for Ninilchik Elementary and Alaska Children’s Services, Covenant House, Pioneer Home, Safe Harbor, STAR.

Education: Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center Library, Z.J. Loussac Library Book Project with corporate partner BP, Camp $tart-Up, Easter Baskets for Booth, Eleanor Sullivan Award, Rose Kapingen Post Graduate Awards, (YCA) later Violet Richardson Award, (TAP) later Women’ s Opportunity Award and Literacy Project.

Environment: Assets Garden Project, Alaska RR Lobby Decorating, Fountain Project and dedication of the Soroptimist Plaza at the Z.J. Loussac Library, 2001 Special Olympics and World Winter Games, Mostly Music, a centenary tribute to Life Member Lorene Harrison, Kings Kingdom Playground Equipment (slide/handicapped ramp) at David Green Park – $5000, Town Square Lighting with Downtown Partnership, Tribute to Founding Members – Regat “Women of Alaska” re-dedicated and hung in the Discovery Theater Lobby of the PAC,

Health: Children’s Miracle Network Phone Bank, Cruise for Better Heart Health Luncheon with American Cancer Society, Breast Cancer Awareness Silk Scarves, “Paint the Town Purple” for domestic Violence, Providence House, Public Radio and TV phone bank.

Human Rights/Status of Women: Advancing the Status of Women Award, Women of Distinction Award, Women Helping Women Award, AWAIC Christmas Store for children $3000, Clare House, Justice Conference, Salvation Army Bell Ringing and Brother Francis Clothing Drive.

International Good Will and Understanding: Assisting Land Mine Victims, Grants of Friendship, Heifer Project (for 3rd world women heads of household with request to name the animals ” Joy” in honor of Joy Donelson), Magadan Children’s TB Hospital (heaters), Entertained 20 visitors from Magadan and Moscow for the premier of ” Damned Be You Kolyma”, Sponsored two presentations of UAA “Piece of My Heart” (about six women returning from Vietnam), raised $5000 for the UAA Drama Dept expenses to take the play to the International PODIUM Festival in Moscow.

Now, almost 100,000 Soroptimists in about 120 countries and territories contribute time and financial support to community- based and international projects benefiting women and girls.

SI Anchorage Friendship Links extend to three of the four federations:

  • SI Alamo-Danville, California, SIA SI Chotose, Japan, SIA
  • SI Dundee, Scotland, UK, SIGBI SI Maui, Hawaii, SIA
  • SI Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, Australia, SISWP SI Ormskirk, UK, SIGBI

SI Anchorage helped charter five clubs, one in the Russian Far East in cooperation with the European Federation.

SI Anchorage 1990 Variance allowed men to be invited to membership in states with public accommodation laws (thanks to a recommendation made by Judge Karen Hunt, now retired) and Colin Maynard joined SI Anchorage.

SI Anchorage Celebrated 50 years of Soroptimist Service 10/7- 9/1995

The celebration included three parts.

    Works by Jeanne Laurence, Sydney Laurence, Byron Birdsall and Mary and Jacques Regat were dedicated in the Sydney Laurence Theater Lobby of the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts.

    The Regat’s “Field of Flowers,” a large wooden mural, done in 197, 6 was part of the Soroptimist Plaza that was dedicated outside the original Sydney Laurence Theater in 1976 as a bicentennial project. When the Theater was dismantled to make way for the PAC, the weather damaged mural$ were placed in storage. Thanks to past president Joy Donelson, this mural and a larger companion piece ” Women of Alaska” were refurbished for this event.

    Honored guests included Maria Vittoria Figaia, Grant of Friendship recipient from SI Viareggio, Italy, SIE; Mena Williams from Rhyl, Wales, SIGBI; and keynote speaker Robert Atwood, retired publisher of the Anchorage Times, who was also the speaker at the chartering of SI Anchorage in 1945.

    Clubs from Anchorage, Cook Inlet, Fairbanks, Kenai-Soldotna and Mat-Su together with the international visitors Maria Vittoria Figaia and Mena Williams presented workshops on Friendship Links, the Grant of Friendship program, fund raising, health and membership.
The 2005-2021 Years
Barbara Block provided the History to this point, dutifully scouring the presidents reports for highlights and current events. At this time, this level of summary has not been done. However, in noteworthy fashion, here are a few highlights.
In 2016, Soroptimist International on Cook Inlet merged with the SI/Anchorage club due to lack of members; their name became Soroptimist International of Anchorage on Cook Inlet.
In March 2020, the Covid 19 pandemic hit and shut down cities and towns around the world. Countries closed borders and everyone was afraid because people were dying at alarming rates and dying alone because loved ones were not allowed in the hospitals. Mortuaries could not keep up, so refrigeration trucks were parked outside hospitals to collect the bodies. Businesses were closed because scientists learned that the virus spreads through the air. Economies were shutting down.
It has been a long year. While SI Anchorage celebrated 75 years in October 2020, clubs could not meet in person, so SI Anchorage has postponed its celebration. SIA National Office required clubs to meet virtually, although we had already been doing so. With Alaskan winter upon us, many of us were feeling isolated and tired. The vaccines were in the development stage by late 2020, administering the first ones by November and December.
As we rode the spike in cases over winter in Anchorage and Alaska, by February 2021, vaccines were looking very promising and rolling out on a national level; some international companies were also serving other countries. Cases had dropped again, and by March, there was talk even in the Lower 48 of opening again, maybe without masks.
In May of 2021, after many members were vaccinated, SIA National loosened restrictions and clubs could meet in person again. Therefore, in June 2021, the club will meet in person for the meeting and installation of new officers in Anchorage.