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In 1919, American playwright Marian de Forest and five other business women chartered the first Zonta club in Buffalo, New York, USA. They conceived Zonta as an organization that would network professional women and advance women's rights. The group chose the name Zonta, which comes from a Lakota Sioux Indian word that means "honest and trustworthy." Zonta sought, and seeks, to advance the status of women through service and advocacy. The group works to improve understanding, goodwill and peace through fellowship; promotes justice and universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms; unites internationally to foster high ethical standards; and implements service programs and support for members who serve their communities.
The Zonta Club of Regina, Saskatchewan, was chartered on March 26, 1954, at a gala dinner with members from Montreal, Winnipeg and Calgary, and local dignitaries present. There were 18 charter members. The Branch, #384, existed within the Bounds of District 7 of Zonta International. Jean Downing, economist and community planner, was the first President of the Saskatchewan branch. The Regina Club would install 192 members over the years, typically maintaining an active membership of approximately 20 members.
Zonta Club of Regina was instrumental in having a Chapel added to the plans when Regina's Plains Health Centre was built, and the club completely furnished and maintained it while the Branch remained in existence. When the new Regina Public library was built, Zonta's interest in handicapped children led the group to promote the building of ramps for easy access. Zonta purchased a "chair" in the new Centre of the Arts and furnished a room in the new wing of the Pasqua Hospital. Scholarship in music and arts were acknowledged annually - Zonta provided, for example, the Gladys Christie Memorial Scholarship at Luther College. Many volunteer hours were spent with handicapped children and seniors, taking them on scenic tours, plane rides, barbeques, library trips and concert tours.
From 1976 through 1981, an annual "Canada Week" essay contest sponsored by Zonta encouraged senior citizens to submit reminiscences about their life and experiences as pioneers. Nelle L. Balkwill, Chairman of Public Affairs with the Club (and member of the Regina Canada Week Committee), submitted the resultant entries to the Saskatchewan Archives Board. Trophies were awarded to the top three entries, which were presented by the mayor of Regina (H.H.P. Baker) at a ceremony that Zonta received a grant to sponsor.
Zonta Club of Regina also hosted speakers on women's issues; participated as a group in child sponsorship programs; supported high school art programs; and operated fundraising activities. The group recruited high-profile members of the community, and tracked the activities and contributions of their members as individuals (honours, trips, activities).
Edna Deck of Regina, Saskatchewan, served as Director of Area 1 within District 7 from 1984-1986. The President of the Regina Branch at the time was Wilma Downing, a well-known high school basketball coach. Other members included Nelle Balkwill, Nadine Cooper, Peggy Crittenden, Fran Crossley, Iris Fletcher, Lena Gilbertson, Edna Haggerty, Janet Haney, Mary Harris, Marie Hoffman, Helen Keay, Bertha Kennedy, Nancy Laidlaw, Adele MacPherson, Joanne Pavelick, Hertha Pfeifer, Margaret Rankin, Lee Stan, Margaret Stevenson, and Vera Taylor.
The Zonta Club of Regina disbanded on June 1, 1987. A portion of the group decided to continue on as a new service-oriented local volunteer group, the X-Z club (from "ex-Zontians"), which started up in November of the same year.
Zonta International continued to develop into its current form, where 30 Districts are overseen by an international board. The board is elected at biennial international conventions, and consists of seven elected directors and four elected offices, who form the executive committee. Districts are overseen by a governor and lieutenant governor divided into areas and clubs, which elect directors and presidents. Districts hold annual workshops and conferences every two years.