IT’S one small step for womankind in South Tyneside ... but a giant leap for one of the borough’s oldest social clubs.
The Westside Club in Harton, which first opened its doors in 1934, has just elected its first female president.
That’s a huge breakthrough and great honour for 61-year-old Maureen Wallace, a regular since 1969.
Maureen said: “Yes, it’s a great breakthrough and I am very proud.
“I also know that my late husband Paul, and my late parents, would have been proud too. I definitely feel that it is breaking down a barrier.”
The Westside, originally set up as a ‘gentlemen’s club’, is something of a hidden gem.
Located above Marion’s Florists in West Avenue – which Maureen has run for the past 14 years – it’s a small venue.
But it has survived where other clubs have fallen by the wayside. It has a snooker table, a darts team, 5s and 3s, and attracts regular ‘turns’.
Best of all, it is a place where people can come to relax and feel safe.
Maureen, of Sunnirise, South Shields, added: “The club was originally set up by a group of businessmen and it used to stay open later than other pubs and clubs in the town.
“Women eventually got into the club but they would often be in the bar, with the men in the snooker room.
“Women members weren’t allowed to begin with, but then the women started to complain and that changed. When I first came here in 1969, it was so busy.
“The men would put their name on the board for snooker, but they wouldn’t get a game if they didn’t come in early enough.
“For me it’s been a family tradition coming to the club.
“My parents went, as did myself and my husband, my daughter and her husband go and so does my grandson. It’s a generational thing.
“The great thing is you feel very safe and secure here. It’s very traditional and you never feel threatened.”
Michael Joyce, chairman of the committee at the Westside Club, said: “There is certain criteria we look at when we select a president, including length of membership, work done and how much they support the club.
“Maureen has been attending for a long time and she met the criteria for president. She was the right choice, regardless of gender.”
A welcome for the new president is to be staged this Saturday, organised by Maureen, with entertainment from Hazel King.
New members are always welcome to sign up. Entry to the club is via a key, which is given to people once they become a member.
They will also receive a share in the club. Joining fees are £50, with an annual subscription of £50.
Anyone interested in being a member can contact 455 2612 or call into the club.