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Illinois boat club sets vote on allowing women

The men of the Motor Boat Club on Illinois' Lake Springfield will vote Thursday on whether to change the club’s bylaws and allow women to be members.

The policy has been on the books since the Motor Boat Club was formed in 1933, shortly after Lake Springfield was built. An effort in 2005 to allow women to be full members failed. Passage requires a two-thirds majority.

“There’s a lot of interest for women to join the club,” Gene Hayes, the club’s commodore, told The State Journal-Register newspaper. “And we need members.”

The 237-member club has lost about 100 members in the last two years. Hayes said he believes the drop in membership is largely attributable to the economy and not because of the club’s no-women policy. But he said many members have said there’s no reason that women shouldn’t be able to join.

Although they can’t be voting members, the wives of members can use Motor Boat Club facilities, which include a restaurant, beach, pavilion, playground, horseshoe pits and a sand volleyball court.

When a member dies, his widow receives a “courtesy” membership, Hayes said. Courtesy members pay no fees, but also can’t cast votes. If the couple had a boat at one of the 89 docks, a widow loses her dock rights 30 days after her husband’s death.

In another change to be considered Thursday, surviving spouses would be able to keep their dock privileges if they become members. Courtesy members also would pay $50 a year under the proposals.

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