Augusta National Golf Club, which hosts the Masters, announced last week that it will admit female members for the first time in its 80-year history. The two women who made the cut are former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and financier Darla Moore, who appeared on the cover of Fortune magazine in 1997 accompanied by the tag-line “the toughest babe in business”. Below John Sunyer lists two surviving male-only clubs and two 20th-century converts.
1. Magdalene College
Magdalene College at the University of Cambridge holds the dubious honour of being the last all-male college in the UK to surrender its garrisons to female students. When Magdalene first admitted females in 1988, a group of male students wore black armbands in protest, flew the Cambridge university flag at half-mast and carried a coffin through the college’s quadrangle. However, times have changed: today, female undergraduates at the college outnumber their male counterparts.
2. Racquet and Tennis Club
New York’s Racquet and Tennis Club was founded in 1876 and bills itself as one of only nine clubs in North America with facilities for playing the ancient sport of “real tennis” (the original indoor racquet sport from which the modern game of lawn tennis is derived). In 1987, Evelyn David – then in the top 10 of female court tennis players in the US – was refused entry to practise for the Women’s World Championship, even though she lived only a few blocks away. Today, women are allowed access for special events but they must be accompanied by male members. There certainly isn’t any splashing around in the club’s swimming pool, where male-only skinny-dipping is reportedly a popular activity.
3. Bohemian Club
When Oscar Wilde visited San Francisco’s Bohemian Club in 1882, a decade after the gentlemen’s club was founded, he observed: “I never saw so many well-dressed, well-fed, business-looking Bohemians in my life.” The club’s motto, “Weaving spiders come not here,” taken from A Midsummer’s Night Dream, reminds its 2,500 members that business and politics should be suspended while on the club’s 2,700-acre grounds. Seemingly, not all members abide by the motto: in 1942 a group assembled there to plan the Manhattan Project, leading to the production of the first atomic bomb. And in 1967 Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan reportedly settled on who would first seek the presidency there. Today, the waiting list is about 15 years’ long, according to a club spokesperson, with 20,000 “men of talent” eager to join. Women remain barred.
4. Marylebone Cricket Club
In 1998 the Marylebone Cricket Club, based at Lord’s in north-west London, ended 212 years of male exclusivity. Up until this time the Queen, as the club’s patron, had been the only woman allowed to enter the pavilion during play. Tony Lewis, former captain of England and MCC president, denied that the rule-change had been inspired by political correctness demanded by potential sponsors.