After outcry on no-women policy, yacht club reverses course


WESTERLY, R.I. | A yacht club in the Rhode Island town where Taylor Swift owns a beach house has put a men-only policy to rest.

Members of the Westerly Yacht Club voted 310 to 82 on Wednesday to admit women as full members after coming under scrutiny and losing business from groups who said they would not patronize the club until the policy was changed. The American Civil Liberties Union also had raised the possibility of a lawsuit.

The club’s male members voted in June to uphold the no-women policy and keep women only as associate members.

“We are just delighted. We were ready to resign if it didn’t pass,” said Jane Barstow, an associate member, whose letter to the editor of the Westerly Sun last month brought the policy to the attention of the media. “For the club, I think it’s brought it into the 21st century. Truly, I don’t think it will be a huge change.”

As associate members, women were allowed to serve on committees, plan parties and attend the club without men, but they could not vote. Only wives of members could join as associates. The policy had the effect of excluding single women and lesbians.

After the outcry, the club’s leadership called another vote, saying they would allow more time for a discussion among members.

Board member Louis Misto, who pushed for the change, said members “did the right thing” after hearing all the facts.

Steven Brown, executive director of the state chapter of the ACLU said he was pleased “that the yacht club has avoided the need for any further legal or other battles over this issue.”

Julie Cardinal, who was no longer allowed to be an associate member after she got divorced, and said she took a lot of heat for publicly criticizing the policy. She said she was happy by the outcome, although she was disappointed that 82 men still voted against the change.

“There’s some gentlemen down there that simply don’t get it,” she said. “This is another step towards changing the thinking around here. I think it’s a good step.”

The club said it received two member applications from women within hours of the vote, although there is a wait list to join.