"I don't want to be described as a do-gooder, but that's what it's all about."

Whether it's handing out water to marathon runners, collecting clothes for her local women's refuge or organising emergency toiletry to be sent out to Syria, Gloria Proops is constantly putting others before herself.

But, as a member of the Bournemouth branch of women's voluntary group Soroptimists International, she insists it's just what they do.

Gloria first joined her local club in London in 1978, when she was recently divorced and looking for something worthwhile to do with her time.

Moving to Bournemouth a year ago, she immediately sought our her nearest group and has thrown herself into the club's work.

"When I think of the work that these women do,"she says, "we ought to shout from the treetops 'look what we've done - we are helping these people'."

The very first Soroptimist group was founded in 1921 in Redwood in California, when a group of women joined forces to save some Redwood trees.

"From there, we worked in a progression of areas, particularly women's interests," explains Gloria.

"Next year will be the 80th year for the Bournemouth club and my London club has just celebrated our 90th year."

Worldwide, Soroptimist International now has close to 90,000 members in more than 3,000 clubs in over 100 countries. The group's main focus is on transforming the lives of women and girls locally, nationally and globally through education, empowerment and enabling initiatives in areas including education, economic development, employment, the ending of violence, ensuring food security and access to healthcare.

"Sor in Latin means 'sister', says Gloria, "optimist is the best of people - so it's the best of sisters.

"We are not a charity, but we are always looking for money, " says Gloria.

"The hard thing is I feel like we are always asking for money and that's not what it's about - but there are so many poor people that we want to help.

"It's not looking after old ladies, it's doing something current."

One project the local club is particularly involved in is sponsoring the STEM challenge, a competition involving more than 30 local schools, encouraging more young girls to consider a career in science, technology, engineering and maths.

The Bournemouth branch currently has 35 members, but Gloria says they are always looking for more local women, particularly professionals, who want to get involved with helping both the local community and those in need of help overseas.

"There are women out there, their children have grown up, they're looking for something more, they want to feel good about what they're doing," she adds.

"I don't get out of it for me - I get the satisfaction that I'm doing something worthwhile and helping so many people. What I put into my life as a Soroptimist I absolutely get out, because I can see the results of the work.

"We work on human rights and the status of women - that's the whole ethos of Soroptimist International - we need to look after women. We are - we are succeeding, and I'm really proud."

Bournemouth Soroptimists meet one evening a month at the West Hants Club. To find out more, visit sigbi.org/bournemouth or email sigbibournemouth@hotmail.co.uk.


One prominent member of Bournemouth Soroptimists International was architect Elizabeth Whitworth Scott, who was born in the town and educated at Redmore School before attending the Architectural School in Bedford Square, London, from which she graduated in 1924.

In 1928, she won an international competition to design a new Royal Shakespeare Theatre at Stratford upon Avon, to replace one that had been destroyed by fire. The theatre was opened by the Prince of Wales on April 23, 1932 with much publicity.

Scott was criticised by a number of people who did not like her modernist work, including Edward Elgar who called her an “awful female”.

In 1936 she married George Richards, but retained her maiden name.

She also designed The Fawcett Building, Newnham College, Cambridge and worked on the Marie Curie Hospital in Hampstead which was later destroyed by enemy bombing.

Late in the 1950’s she returned to her home town, where she was employed in the Architects Department of Bournemouth Town Council, working until she was 70. The Pier Theatre there was built to her plans and opened in 1960. Although no longer used for its original purpose her exterior design remains. Boscombe Pavilion was also one of her designs.

In 1980 the Royal Shakespeare Theatre was listed as being “nationally significant”.

In 2015 Elizabeth’s portrait was selected to appear amongst other distinguished persons on the new issue of the UK Passport. This acknowledges the role she played in opening up the profession of architecture to women.