Union League welcomes first female president

    On Tuesday, businesswoman Joan Carter became the first woman president of the 148-year-old Union League.

    It was the sort of luncheon one would expect at Philadelphia’s tony Union League — fancy food and fancier people.

    Edward Turzanski sat at a table near the front. He said there have been misconceptions about the 148-year-old social club.  

    “There is a misconception that’s prevailed that the league is somehow exclusionary, that it is some sort of Victorian grandfathers’ club, that it does not welcome a variety of peoples,” he said. “Nothing could be further than the truth.”

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    Turzanski, a professor at LaSalle University, has been a club member for six years. Also a director, he admitted the club wasn’t always so welcoming.

    A woman sitting just a few tables away — businesswoman Joan Carter — knows about that. Carter was among the first women admitted to the league in 1986.

    “We have been a part of league life for some years now,” she said. “For some time I think we felt like women members, and now we just feel like members.”

    Tuesday, she also became the president. After accepting the symbolic gavel from former president Jack Zook, Carter gave it a triumphant rap.

     “My first act!” she declared.

    Carter said she doesn’t think of herself as a trailblazer or leader for women per se, but when she addresses the crowd she admitted it was exciting.

    “I cannot  tell you what an absolute thrill it is to be standing here as the president of the Union League of Philadelphia,” she said. “I mean, isn’t that cool?”

    About 15 percent of the League’s 3,200 members are women, and women make up 40 percent of new members.

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