The elite Garrick Club has voted to allow female members for the first time

Members of the men-only club include King Charles, Benedict Cumberbatch and Stephen Fry

India Lawrence
Written by
India Lawrence
Contributing writer
Outside the Garrick Club in London
Photograph: ZUMA Press, Inc. / Alamy

If you’ve read the news lately, you might have heard about the Garrick Club. The 193-year-old men’s only members club, whose insiders include King Charles, Stephen Fry and Michael Gove, has come under fire for not allowing women to join. Now, after much pressure, the club has finally agreed to allow women through its doors. 

This week, members of the club voted to let women in. Just more than half of Garrick members were in favour, with the vote passing at 59.98 percent. Members reportedly spent two hours debating the admission of women before voting. The Guardian reported that Stephen Fry and journalist James Naughtie were among those who gave speeches arguing in favour of letting women join the ranks. 

‘It will become a much better club with women in it. It was a very courteous debate,’ one unnamed member told the Guardian

The newspaper first published a list of members of all the all-male club in March this year, which included actors like Hugh Bonneville, Benedict Cumberbatch, Matthew MacFayden, Damien Lewis and more. Also on the list were politicians including Oliver Dowden and Jacob Rees-Mogg. However, Amelia Gentleman, the journalist behind the exposé, failed to include former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger and Stanley Johnson, who is Gentleman’s father-in-law. 

It’s not clear how long it will be before a woman is actually inaugurated as a member into the Garrick Club. The admissions process is famously long, with names of nominees required to be written in a red leather-bound book, seconded by two pages of signatures, before they are invited in to dine at the club and membership is discussed by committee members. Unpopular nominees can also be blacklisted.

Theatre director and founder of the Women of the World Foundation Jude Kelly described feeling ‘humiliated’ on the occasions she was invited to the club for theatre-related events.

‘I’m glad that men who were previously comfortable with the club being men-only have thought again and decided that they are now uncomfortable with that arrangement,’ she told the Guardian. ‘These clubs were created as places for people who were given superior privileges. This is not the same as having an all-girls picnic or a boys-only cricket club. This is a place that sustained male power.’

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