Zonta International History

In, Buffalo, New York, USA in January 1919, five women attended a social meeting of Kiwani's as guests conceived the formation of a new service club.  This new club would be composed of women who were recognised leaders in their businesses and professions.  The primary purpose of the club would be to standardise and disseminate business principles and practices and to provide service to humanity through cooperative efforts.  During the spring and summer of 1919, clubs were organised in Buffalo, Rochester, Binghamton, Elmira and Syracuse, New York USA.  Under the leadership of the Charter President, Marion de Forest, a playwright and newspaper critic, the Buffalo club established specific guidelines for membership and classification.

The Confederation of Zonta Clubs was founded on 8th November 1919 in Buffalo.  Mary E Jenkins, newspaper publisher and civic leader, was elected the first President of the Confederation.  Bylaws and a constitution were drafted and adopted and selecting a name was all that remained.


Each club submitted a list of proposed names.  The final vote was almost unanimously in favour of the Binghamton Club's suggestion of "Zhonta", as it was then spelt.  A letter from the Bureau of American Ethnology of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC USA corrected the spelling to Zonta. "The word in question is from the Teton dialect of the Sioux stock of Native American languages. The word signifies "honest and trustworthy".  The name "Zonta International" was officially adopted at the 1930 convention in Seattle, Washington USA, and in September of that year, Zonta International was incorporated under that name in the state of Illinois USA.  The following year, the word "Zonta" was registered with the Trademark Division of the United States Government in Washington DC.

April of 1920 saw the first executive session of the Confederation's officers convene in Rochester, New York.  Among the considerable business conducted, the Zonta colours - Mahogany and Gold were chosen, and the Zonta emblem, designed by Buffalo Zontian and artist Helen Fuchs Gundlach was officially authorised.  In October 1920, the Presidents of all existing clubs met in Syracuse, New York, USA.  Two important recommendations came out of the meeting:  that the Zonta clubs take for their specific aim education and constructive work for the Girls and young Women and that the confederation's first convention be held in Syracuse, in May of 1921.