Garrick Club of London Votes to Accept Female Members for First Time

One of London’s oldest, most celebrated men’s clubs, the Garrick, voted on Tuesday to admit women as members, according to two members. The vote ended a decades-long dispute that had divided the club, generated multiple conflicting legal arguments and made life acutely awkward for some of its most prominent members.

The vote — by a margin of roughly 60 percent to 40 percent, according to the two members — will open membership to women for the first time since the club’s founding in 1831. Some members had said they planned to swiftly nominate a slate of prominent women, including the actress Judi Dench and the classics scholar Mary Beard.

The decision came after the latest round of debate, occasionally bitter, which pitted a band of committed campaigners against mostly older members, many of whom had lamented that admitting women would forever change the character of the Garrick, a bastion of the British establishment.

The club did not comment on the meeting, which lasted almost two hours, or the results of the vote, and the members asked not to be identified because they had been asked not to discuss it. They said the debate had been civil, and the vote, which was conducted electronically, had been conducted briskly.

The Garrick has long welcomed women as guests, including at a communal table in the majestic dining room in the club’s imposing building in Covent Garden. However, women were barred from the members’ lounge, known as Under the Stairs, where men gather after dinner to smoke and drink.

While the Garrick is not the only male-only club in London, it is easily the most star-studded, with a membership roster that includes the actors Brian Cox, Benedict Cumberbatch and Stephen Fry; the musicians Sting and Mark Knopfler; the BBC world affairs editor John Simpson; and Oliver Dowden, Britain’s deputy prime minister. King Charles III is an honorary member.

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