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Zonta International Official Website

Founded in November 1919 in Buffalo, NY, Zonta International is a global organization

of executives and professionals working together to

advance the status of women worldwide through service and advocacy.


With more than 30,000 members belonging to more than

1,200 Zonta Clubs in 63 countries and geographic areas worldwide.


Zontians all over the world volunteer their time, talents and support

to local and international service projects, as well as

scholarship programs aimed at fulfilling Zonta's mission and objectives.


Zonta Insignia.jpg

The Zonta insignia symbolizes

inspiration and the ability to work together for service and world understanding. 


The insignia was designed by

Buffalo Zontian and landscape painter, Helen Fuchs.

yellow rose.jpg

The yellow rose, the symbol of friendship, was chosen as Zonta's flower. 

Mahogany and gold were chosen

as Zonta's colors to symbolize

autumn, the season of Zonta's birth


    To improve the legal, political, economic, educational, health and professional status

of women at the global and local level through service and advocacy.

    To work for the advancement of understanding, goodwill and peace

through a world fellowship of executives in business and the professions.

    To promote justice and universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

    To be united internationally to foster high ethical standards,

to implement service programs, and to provide mutual support and fellowship

for members who serve their communities, their nations, and the world.



While working in a prominent role at the Buffalo Express, at a time when women rarely

held leadership positions, playwright and journalist Marian de Forest

conceived the idea of an organization that would bring together

women in executive positions.  She envisioned a strong network that would

help women reach their rightful places in the professions.

Our founder, Marian de Forest died in 1935.  She was inducted into the Western New York

Women's Hall of Fame in 1998 and the Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, NY in 2001.

Zonta's first club was chartered in Buffalo, New York on November 8, 1919.

Membership grew rapidly. By 1920, a confederation of nine Zonta clubs had formed

with 600 members, helping Shape Women's Lives in the 20th and 21st Centuries.

While Zonta shared a common vision with hundreds of women's clubs in the first part of the

20th century - encouraging women's teamwork, courage, risk-taking, and self-reliance

- it also represented something of a departure.

Zonta's strict business and classification system required

its members to be employed at least 50 percent of the time at an executive

or decision-making level in a recognized business or profession.

In addition, each club could have just one member per business classification,

a requirement that ensured clubs would consist of "experts" in a broad range of fields.


The founders foresaw the benefits of having clubs made up of

architects, artists, educators, entrepreneurs, executives, doctors,

government officials, lawyers, pilots, scientists and more.

This diverse expertise meant clubs could offer their communities and the world

optimum service, backed by a broad range of understanding and insight.

Early members were keenly aware of the challenges of carving a

place for themselves in what was still a predominantly male domain.

Many Zonta clubs actively pursued gender equity in employment opportunities.

During the 1930s, Zonta International grew to 130 clubs in six countries

spanning three continents and continued its push for gender equity in employment.

The organization also expressed support for women's reserves to the military service.

After the United States passed the "Married Persons Law," which predominantly affected wives

by prohibiting more than one family member from working for the government,

Zonta adopted a resolution to demand repeal of the law; and, in 1944,

delegates to the Zonta International Convention endorsed the elimination

of gender discrimination in job opportunities and rates of pay.


While Zonta's work to achieve gender equity in employment dates back many years,

so do its efforts in other critical areas of women's lives.


Education has been a focus since the adoption of the

Vocational Education for Girls Project, Zonta's first US service program, in 1928.

The project asked Zontians to provide information on their job descriptions,

work conditions, compensation and training requirements for a centralized

job bank available to high school libraries, universities and colleges.


Marian de Forest.jpg

Photo courtesy of Zonta International


Founded in November 1919 in Buffalo, NY.


In 1928, Zonta International moved its Headquarters to Chicago.

In 1986, the Zonta International Convention body voted to purchase

the building located at 557 West Randolph Street in Chicago.


The building was purchased by the Zonta International Foundation,

was completely renovated, and then dedicated on October 12, 1987.

Due to the generosity of Zontians from around the world, the mortgage was discharged in 1996.


In 2009, Zonta International moved its Headquarters to Oak Brook, IL, a Western suburb of Chicago.

Zonta International Plaque.jpg

Plaque located on the facade of the Statler Hotel, 107 Delaware Ave., Buffalo

© Buffalo Architecture & History, Page by Chuck LaChiusa



In 1923, Zonta International supported relief efforts to care for

115,000 orphan children in Smyrna, Turkey, an event that marked the

beginning of Zonta's dedication to helping women internationally.


As technology made the world a smaller place and Zonta clubs sprang up

around the globe, international service projects, initially dedicated to

world peace and women's role in attaining it, increased.


Action for World Peace expressed support for the fledgling

United Nations (UN) and was adopted at the 1946 Convention.

The Amelia Earhart Fellowships Program, launched in 1938,

commemorates groundbreaking aviator and Zontian Amelia Earhart.

Ellen Parks, then serving as Zonta International President, remembered,

"At that time few women considered a career in aerospace engineering,

yet not one voice of doubt was raised as to the success of such a scholarship."


Ten years later, the Z Club Program was established to promote

youth leadership and career mentorship. Today, these programs stand as

Zonta's longest running programs, two of several programs dedicated to

improving educational, leadership and youth development

opportunities for women around the world.

In 1956, when Soviet troops marched into Hungary, Zonta International worked

through the United Nations to provide food and shelter to Hungarian refugees.

Since then, Zonta has frequently funded UN projects through the International Service Fund.

Zonta projects have improved thousands of women's lives, including:

The Vocational and Teacher Training Center for Women in Ramallah, Jordan;

Mobile Medical Units to serve mothers and children in rural Ghana;

The Young Mothers Hostel Project in Uruguay; and

The Revolving Loan Fund for Village Women in the Delta and Upper Egypt.


One of the first service organizations to understand women's unique role

in achieving world peace, Zonta International continues to promote justice and

universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Zonta Clubs still select, fund and participate in community projects

fundamental to promoting women's economic self-sufficiency, political equality,

access to education and health care and the elimination of violence against women.


Each year, Zontians dedicate thousands of volunteer hours and millions of dollars

to affecting these changes, while the Zonta International programs funded by

the Zonta International Foundation impact these issues on a global level.

Amelia Earhart.jpg

Photo courtesy of Zonta International

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