Soroptimist International and the Betty Loughhead Soroptimist Scholarship

Portrait of Betty Loughhead c1990
Betty Loughhead wearing the korowai, Te Amo Oranga Nui Ki Te Ao, made by Whero Bailey (Te Atiawa) in 2003 with blue and gold feathers, the Soroptimist colours.

One of NCWNZ's organisational members is the Soroptimist International of Aotearoa New Zealand (SIANZ). Soroptimist International was founded in 1921 and its motto is "A Global Voice for Women."  According to their website: "The name Soroptimist was coined from the Latin soror meaning sister, and optima meaning best. And so Soroptimist is perhaps best interpreted as ‘the best for women’." The first Soroptimist club in New Zealand was chartered in Wellington in November 1939. Within ten years clubs were established in Auckland and Christchurch, and in 1978, the New Zealand clubs joined in the founding of the Federation of the South West Pacific (SISWP) with eleven other countries in the region. One of five Federations globally, SISWP recently changed its name to Soroptimist International South East Asia Pacific. This was to reflect the thirteen countries in their Federation. SIANZ club numbers are now 20 with the recent charter of a young club, Soroptimist International Rangatahi Wellington.

Betty Loughhead joined Soroptimist International of Christchurch in 1951 and held office at all levels. She served on the Conference of Clubs of which she was Chair in 1967-69 and was President of the Soroptimists Clubs of the South West Pacific 1980 – 82. She served as a member of the International Board from 1979 – 1983. It was about this time Betty moved to the Wellington club.

In 1983 Betty began her two year term as President, Soroptimist International. She was the first New Zealander to achieve this position and many New Zealand Soroptimists attended her inauguration in Istanbul.

Soroptimist Rose
The Soroptimist Rose

During 1991 to 1995 Betty was the Editor of the International Soroptimist magazine. Betty was made an honorary member of all clubs in the South West Pacific Federation.

The Betty Loughhead Scholarship was set up in her name in 1987 to honor the first International President by a Soroptimist from the South West Pacific. Clubs throughout Aotearoa New Zealand continue to contribute to the fund. It provides a national scholarship for women over 25 studying for a qualification to enter or re-enter the workforce, or changing occupations. See more about the scholarship on their website: https://www.blsst.co.nz/about.html.

Over the decades $200,000 has been given in grants to 92 women. The trust is still going strong to this day and has enabled many women to have an opportunity to obtain a "second chance" education.

In 2014 Betty Loughhead Turland MBE, JP, passed away. She left behind a wonderful legacy of an illustrious and busy life with Soroptimism, regionally, nationally and internationally.


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