One of the most profound moments in the history of the Rotary Club of Marshall Texas happened Thursday August 27, 1987, at 12:46 p.m., during the regular Meeting of the club, as reported by Laureen Tedesco of "The Marshall News Messenger".  Two women were inducted into the club--- Mrs. Carolyn Abney, and Mrs. Patti Harris.  
When Rotary International recently began admitting women, the Marshall Rotary club decided to take Initiative.  The group would take the lead in the state and invite worthy women as new members. The first of those, Carolyn Abney and Patti Harris were inducted Thursday amid applause, television cameras, laughter, and on Mrs. Harris’ part, near tears.  They were honored, the women said, to be in Rotary.
The women were invited to join the 68-year-old club by Rotarian Tony Bridge who said.  “I wanted to be the first one and Texas to sponsor a woman,” but the message of the club and both women was that they weren't just joining because they were women.  “I did not accept the nomination to a Rotary just because I am a woman” Mrs. Harris said.  “I considered it a very high honor to have been nominated for membership in the Rotary club. I plan to contribute positively to the club.  it's not just the prestigious recognition and not just because I'm a woman.”  While Rotary membership is not Mrs. Abney’s first, “first woman” post, she said she didn't join to be among the first women members and is certainly not a crusader for women's rights. Her interest is community service.
“I feel very humble in this I think it is a great honor”, Mrs. Abney said.  “I believe in their objectives and their projects are all just great.”  
“I've never brandished the women's lib. It sounds strange when I was the first woman to receive the outstanding citizen award, the first woman to head the governmental affairs committee of the Chamber of Commerce, the first woman on the city commission.  It sounds as if I may be out pushing. I am not.”
“These are the first two female members in the history of the club”, said President Hal Cornish.  “We’re delighted because it's an historic event, but more than that we're delighted because of the two individuals represented by these ladies.”  
While it didn't receive Mrs. Abney and Mrs. Harris on the basis of their sex, Marshall Rotary is to glad to have the first women in District 583 and, they believe, in the state.
“We have every reason to believe it is the first in the state”, Bridge said, as he called around to other Rotary clubs and heard of no other women in their club. “Our club decided that we would be progressive and accept the opportunity Rotary International's policy change presents to accept women members,” Cornish said.  “We have so many outstanding women in Marshall these are just the first two.  They were kind of obvious candidates for membership.  We expect many more.”
Having the first women members in the district and the state has been a goal of his, Bridge said. “I’ve been working on this for about a year, ever since it started in California.  I formed the Marshall Metro Rotary club and thought it was right for me to bring in the first women.”  In his more than 30 years in Rotary, Bridge said he has sponsored 21 new members.
He wanted women in the club he said, because he believes they have much to contribute. “I deal with women all the time in my civic endeavors. I feel that they are just top flight they can get things done many times when a man says can’t.”
But Bridge didn't just rush out and recruit women Rotarians as soon as Rotary International changed its gender policy. I picked my women very carefully because I wanted them to be the type of person that would assist the community efforts of Rotary.  These two women are certainly exemplary.  
Bridge wasn't the only one working to get women and the Marshall Rotary club.  Everyone got involved Cornish said.  “The thing I thought was so great about it was there was not a single negative vote among the club membership, so that really speaks well for the club’s attitude.”  Bridge presented the two women for induction at the lunch meeting and ask that the ceremonies time, 12:46 p.m., be recorded so if we’re ever challenged by some other upstart, they’ll know that we had the first women.
He introduced the two alphabetically but inducted them simultaneously so they both will be Rotarians at the same time.  
Mrs. Abner then ducked under Bridge’s arms to the microphone and told the club, “I won’t try to change a thing about Rotary.”  As the group laughed and applauded some saying jokingly that they might hold her to that, she said, “I have looked up to all of you for years.”  She smiled and looked up at Bridge who towered over her.  “See how look up to you.”
Mrs. Harris also spoke. “I too am deeply honored to be a member of Rotary,” she said.  “I do hope that I can make a positive contribution.  I just wish that my late mother and father were here to share this honor with me.  They were always so proud of my accomplishments”. 
Teasing was rampant about what women Rotarians’ husbands would be called:  Rotary wives are called Rotary-Ann's. Among the suggestions for Rotary husbands were Rotary-Toms and Rotary-Andys.   
The 82-year-old International organization began accepting women after a US Supreme Court judge told a California Rotary club it could not bar women who had applied for membership.  Rotary International then changed its policy to give fair and equal consideration without regard to gender,” leaving all other eligibility requirements the same.  Rotary membership requires an invitation from a Rotarian.
When a perspective member is nominated, the club checks his Classification--- the club accepts only one member of any professional category, unless the standing member allows a second one. The membership committee then checks the community, social, and business standing of the perspective, member and his general eligibility.  The nominee is interviewed and submits a written application. Names of proposed members are published, and members have 10 days to object to a nominee.  If no objections are voiced, the person is inducted. The club meets at weekly lunch meetings and puts great emphasis on attendance. It also sponsors various community projects such as the Rotary Scholarship Fund for worthy students and their college careers, and Rotary International's fund-raising effort to eradicate polio worldwide by the year 2000.
Both women said they carefully considered their decision to join, as they weren't particularly interested in being the first women.
“I was somewhat hesitant because I consider myself a low-profile type person.”  Mrs. Harris said.  “Through the chamber of Commerce, I work to coordinate the activities of the chamber, but it's been my policy and my theory to let those that volunteer have the credit and recognition for the job done because they are volunteers and I am paid staff”.
“I thought about it a long time because I didn't want it misunderstood.” Mrs. Abney said.  “I am very humbled in this. I truly am.  I’m not trying to achieve notoriety.”
Mrs. Abney joining Rotary under the classification Antiques Retailing, owns La Galleria Perroquet with her daughter Beth Furr. Mrs. Abney served three terms on the Marshall City Commission and has been active on such boards as the Regional Arts Council, Harrison County Historical Society, Harrison County Historical Commission, Greater Marshall Chamber of Commerce.  She received Marshall’s Outstanding citizens award and 1975.