A Keighley social club broke with 34 years of tradition this week by allowing women to become members for the first time.

St Anne's Social Club, in Spring Gardens Lane, welcomed its first female member Liz O'Brien after its committee voted in favour of admitting women members.

The decision ends a men only membership ruling that was introduced when the Catholic club first opened its doors in 1966.

Chairman Tony Steele says: "We saw this wasn't the way to be going in this day and age so we decided to open up equal membership to ladies over the age of 18.

"It is something that has been raised on several occasions and even wives had to be signed in by their husbands, which has been a bone of contention, so there was a need to move forward.

"Women and men who are practising catholics can apply for full membership on an equal basis while non practising catholics of both sexes can apply for social membership.

"When we announced the decision we had a massive response from local women and we must have sent out more than 100 application forms on the first day."

Mr Steele says another spur has been the change to diocese guidelines which advocates equal membership for both sexes.

Mr Steele adds: "We lease the premises from the diocese at Leeds and they have a set of rules that says membership should be open to all members of the parish.

"The rules have been in for a couple of years but we voted on the subject at last year's annual meeting in January and we've spent the rest of the time working out details and an action plan."

As part of the new equal structuring at the club, women will also have the chance to join the social club's committee.

Mr Steele adds: "We want to make it perfectly clear that women, like men, will have to be a full practising member for two years before taking office."

The club's committee will be holding informal interviews with around 100 women applicants in the coming weeks.

Liz O'Brien says: "I'm really pleased to be the first female member of the club and I would like to pay tribute to my mum and her friends who have pushed the committee for these changes.

"The generations of women before me have tried for a lot of years to turn things around, so a lot of the credit should go to them.

"An equal number of women go to the club so I hope that now we are members we can make it even better."

St Anne's priest, Father Patrick Delaney, says: "In the modern age we've got to remember that there shouldn't be any differential between men or women.

"It might be a very good thing for us and I support the decision made by the committee."

Keighley MP Ann Cryer says: "It is wonderful news and I would like to welcome them to the 21st century.

"I'm absolutely delighted and I'm sure that other women in the area will welcome it as well, because it is a measure that men now acknowledge women on an equal footing.

"Women often do a lot of work in these clubs and it is great that they will now be involved in the decision making process."

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