History of Kiwanis
The first Kiwanis club was organized in Detroit, Michigan. The group received a charter from
the state of Michigan on January 21, 1915, and this is regarded as the birth date of Kiwanis.
The first clubs were organized to promote the exchange of business among the members. However,
even before the Detroit club received its state charter, the members were distributing Christmas baskets to the poor. A lively
debate ensued between those who supported community service as the Kiwanis mission and those who supported the exchange of
business. By 1919, the service advocates won the debate.
Kiwanis became international with the organization of the Kiwanis club of Hamilton, Ontario,
Canada, in 1916. Kiwanis limited its membership to the United States and Canada until 1962, when worldwide expansion was approved.
Since then, Kiwanis has spread to all inhabited continents of the globe.
Kiwanis was defined as “an organization for men” in the constitution and adopted
in 1924. In 1987, after several years of debate and growing support, women’s membership received overwhelming approval.
Six Canadians have served as Kiwanis International President. The first International President
elected from outside the two founding nations of the US and Canada was Ian Perdriau AM from Australia, who served in 1994-95.
Eyjˇlfur Sigursson of Iceland was the 1995-96 International President, and Juan F. Torres Jr., MD, of the Philippines, was
president in 2002-03.