Rotary members have been addressing challenges around the world for over 110 years.

Rotary links  over 1.2 million members to form an organization of international scope. It started with the vision of one man — Paul Harris. The Chicago attorney formed the Rotary Club of Chicago on 23 February 1905, so professionals with diverse backgrounds could exchange ideas, form meaningful, lifelong friendships, and give back to their communities.

Rotary’s name came from the group’s early practice of rotating meetings among the offices of its members.

"Whatever Rotary may mean to us, to the world it will be known by the results it achieves."


Rotary founder

 
 
 
 
Rotary's founder Paul  Harris in his private office at the Law Offices of Harris, Dodds, and Brown in Chicago in 1909.
 
 
 
 
 
The first four Rotarians: Gustavus Loehr, Silvester Schiele, Hiram Shorey and Paul p. Harris. The name "Rotary" derived from the early practice of rotating meetings among members' offices.
The picture was taken between 1905-1912 in Chicago
 
 
 
 
 
The first six Presidents of Rotary International at hte 1939 Rotary convention in Cleveland, OH, USA.
 
Font row: Paul P. Harris, Glenn C. Mead.
Back row: Russsell F. Greiner, Frank L. Mulholland, Allen D. Albert, and Arch C. Klumph.

Our ongoing commitment

Rotary members have not only been present for major events in history — we’ve also been a part of them. Three key traits have remained strong throughout our history:

We’re truly international. Only 16 years after being founded, Rotary had clubs on six continents. Today, members in nearly every country work to solve some of our world’s most challenging problems.

We persevere in tough times. During World War II, Rotary clubs in Austria, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Spain were forced to disband. Despite the risks, many continued to meet informally, and after the war, Rotary members came together to rebuild their clubs and their countries.

We’re committed to service, and we’re not afraid to dream big and set bold goals. We began our fight against polio in 1979 with a project to immunize 6 million children in the Philippines. Today, polio remains endemic in only three countries — down from 125 in 1988.

Object of Rotary

The Object of Rotary is to encourage and foster the ideal of service as a basis of worthy enterprise and, in particular, to encourage and foster:

  • FIRST: The development of acquaintance as an opportunity for service;
  • SECOND: High ethical standards in business and professions; the recognition of the worthiness of all useful occupations; and the dignifying of each Rotarian’s occupation as an opportunity to serve society;
  • THIRD: The application of the ideal of service in each Rotarian’s personal, business, and community life;
  • FOURTH: The advancement of international understanding, goodwill, and peace through a world fellowship of business and professional persons united in the ideal of service.

The Four-Way Test

One of the most widely printed and quoted statements of business ethics in the world is the Rotary "4-Way Test." It was created by Rotarian Herbert J. Taylor in 1932 when he was asked to take charge of the Chicago based Club Aluminum Company, which was facing bankruptcy. Taylor looked for a way to save the struggling company mired in depression-caused financial difficulties. He drew up a 24-word code of ethics for all employees to follow in their business and professional lives. The 4-Way Test became the guide for sales, production, advertising and all relations with dealers and customers, and the survival of the company was credited to this simple philosophy.
Herb Taylor became president of Rotary International during 1954-55. The 4-Way Test was adopted by Rotary in 1943 and has been translated into more than 100 languages and published in thousands of ways. The message should be known and followed by all Rotarians.
"Of the things we think, say or do:

1. Is it the TRUTH?
2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
3. Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?
"

Four Avenues of Service

The term "Four Avenues of Service" is frequently used in Rotary literature and information. The "Avenues" refer to the four elements of the Object of Rotary: Club Service, Vocational Service, Community Service and International Service.
Although the Avenues of Service are not found in any formal part of the constitutional documents of Rotary, the concept has been accepted as a means to describe the primary areas of Rotary activity.

• "Club Service" involves all of the activities necessary for Rotarians to perform to make their club function successfully.
• "Vocational Service" is a description of the opportunity each Rotarian has to represent the dignity and utility of one's vocation to the other members of the club.
• "Community Service" pertains to those activities which Rotarians undertake to improve the quality of life in their community. It frequently involves assistance to youth, the aged, handicapped and others who look to Rotary as a source of hope for a better life.
• The Fourth Avenue, "International Service," describes the many programs and activities which Rotarians undertake to advance international understanding, goodwill and peace. International Service projects are designed to meet humanitarian needs of people in many lands.
When a Rotarian understands and travels down the "Four Avenues of Service," the Object of Rotary takes on even greater meaning.

Causes of Rotary - Areas of Focus

Rotary is dedicated to causes that build international relationships improve lives, and create a better world to support peace and end polio forever

In addition to Rotary long term commitment to the global eradication of Polio these are the seven causes supported by Rotary Foundation:

  • Peace and conflict prevention/resolution.
  • Disease prevention and treatment.
  • Water and sanitation.
  • Maternal and child health.
  • Basic education and literacy.
  • Economic and community development.
  • Supporting the Environment

Women in Rotary

Until 1989, the Constitution and Bylaws of Rotary International stated that Rotary club membership was for males only. In 1978 the Rotary Club of Duarte, California, invited three women to become members. The RI board withdrew the charter of that club for violation of the RI Constitution. The club brought suit against RI claiming a violation of a state civil rights law which prevents discrimination of any form in business establishments or public accommodations. The appeals court and the California Supreme Court supported the Duarte position that Rotary could not remove the club's charter merely for inducting women into the club. The United States Supreme Court upheld the California court indicating that Rotary clubs do have a "business purpose" and are in some ways public-type organizations. This action in 1987 allowed women to become Rotarians in any jurisdiction having similar "public accommodation" statutes.
The RI constitutional change was made at the 1989 Council on Legislation, with a vote to eliminate the "male only" provision for all of Rotary.
 
Jennifer E. Jones, a member of the Rotary Club of Windsor-Roseland, Ontario, Canada, has been nominated to become Rotary International's president for 2022-23, a groundbreaking selection that will make her the first woman to hold that office in the organization's 115-year history.

$26.50

Was the first amount donated to The Rotary Foundation in 1917.
 

$500

Was the first gift from The Rotary Foundation to the International
Society for Crippled Children in 1930

Rotary will continue to grow and help others around the world.