The historic El Paso Club in Colorado Springs has been an exclusive men's club for 134 years and recently voted to continue to deny women membership -- a gamble that honors tradition but could make them irrelevant in this modern era.
The Colorado Springs Gazette reports that the all-male membership overwhelmingly defeated a proposal to allow female members, with nearly 70 percent of the club voting to deny them full participation.
Longtime member Randy Kilgore said to the Denver Post:
We can't decimate a 130-year-old men's club to let in a few women. It would be the end of the club.
But the club, once the home-away-from-home for Colorado Spring's most powerful and influential citizens, as well as host to presidents, literary figures and great scientists, has been shedding members as of late. According to The Denver Post, the club is down to fewer than 300 members, having lost a quarter its members over the past decade.
Some of the members, like Marvin Strait, feel that it is more than time for the club to change its rules at risk of sliding into a "death spiral," he warned. Strait said to the Gazette:
At risk of understatement, many things have changed. And as we well know, those who cannot or will not adapt to a new and changing world are relegated to irrelevance.
The dining and billiards club, founded in 1877, has had rules limiting women's access since its inception. At one point in 1906, women were allowed limited access to a separate women's lounge but had to enter through a separate door. They could not step foot in the upstairs rooms or get a drink in the men's lounge.
And although things have changed drastically since the club's founding -- women can vote, are leading scientists, hold powerful positions in government, are CEOs of major corporations around the world -- they are still not allowed upstairs in the El Paso Club.
Influential area women spoke about their still not being able to join the men's club, including former Colorado Springs Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace who said this to the Gazette:
Why would I want to join? This is 2011, not the turn of the century. It just does not matter that much anymore.
In its heyday, the El Paso Club hosted Gen. Ulysses S. Grant for a game of poker in 1880, writer Oscar Wilde visited in 1882 and inventor Nikola Tesla ate there in 1899, according to The Denver Post.