The City Club remembers Gretchen Kafoury

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

Watch: Gretchen Kafoury tells the story of how women were admitted to the Portland City Club

The Portland City Club sent along this remembrance of Gretchen Kafoury, who passed away this past weekend.

One of Kafoury's early victories, before her long and successful career as an elected official, was to integrate the Portland City Club. This is that story:


When we learned of Gretchen Kafoury's passing on Friday, our hearts went out to her family and friends. As you know, she had quite an impact on our community.

What you may not know is the impact she had on City Club.

In the early 1970s, Gretchen convened a group of women active in Portland politics, forming “Politically Oriented Women”, or “POW.” Through POW, Gretchen helped lead the women and men seeking to end City Club’s 55-year-old practice of excluding women from membership.

As part of their campaign, POW urged men to resign from City Club, or withhold their dues in protest. They lobbied the board repeatedly. They wrote nationwide to figures invited to speak before the club, asking them not to come until this exclusionary practice was changed.

In June 1971, POW began picketing every Friday outside the Benson Hotel where regular City Club meetings were held, bearing signs with the messages “Shame” and “Oink”. As “Director of Security,” Gretchen led the picketing, donning a helmet and wielding a rolling pin.

A stubborn minority of City Club members succeeded in blocking vote after vote – but in October 1973, supporters finally gained the necessary two-thirds majority to amend the bylaws. Once women were admitted, “the controversy quickly died away like a summer storm.”¹ In the next 10 years, City Club’s membership nearly doubled, with most of that growth accounted for by women members.

Gretchen joined City Club in 1976, volunteered for research projects, and spoke at Friday Forums (15th Anniversary of Admission of Women into City Club and The Kafoury Legacy: Valedictory Address).

Five weeks before her death, she was interviewed for City Club’s oral history project. Listen to what she refers to as the “The integration story.”

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