Little Yellow Dog Auction Club women

New members of the Ancient and Effervescent Order of Little Yellow Dog Auction Club, from left, Sally Bjork, Angie Dye, Jacquie Rygh and Sue Stusse, are shown Thursday. This year marks the first time women have been part of the organization, which raises money for the Journal's Goodfellows Charities. The latter purchases and distributes toys to needy children during the holidays.

Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal

SIOUX CITY | For 79 years, Jacquie Rygh couldn’t join the club her father helped found.

Like many women, Rygh worked behind the scenes. She volunteered, maintaining a Christmas tradition of giving gifts to children in need through the Journal’s Goodfellow Charities, now in its 100th year.

Her father Worth Waltermire shared in the effort of raising funds and rallying support for the cause. Back when he was nothing but a bellboy at the Martin Hotel, he started the Ancient and Effervescent Order of the Little Yellow Dog Auction Club, which has brought in thousands of dollars by auctioning off a pup each year since 1936.

Rygh volunteered with the charity, but she was always excluded from the club. Until last month.

The Ancient and Effervescent Order of the Little Yellow Dog welcomed its first women into the fold.

“It was long overdue,” said president Gregg Lucken. “We’ve had so many women who are integral in terms of fundraising and toy distribution … The women inducted into the auction club this year have a long history of being involved with our organization.”

Rygh, 84, became one of the new members after the board of directors unanimously voted to allow women into the club.

Some of the nation’s largest civic groups remained all-male until 1987, when the Lions, Kiwanis and Rotary clubs admitted women for the first time. It took a Supreme Court ruling to get women into Rotary.

Over the years, Goodfellow treasurer Sue Stusse would lean over to Rygh and say, “One of these days, I’m going to be a part of the Ancient and Effervescent Order of the Little Yellow Dog.”

“I knew it would happen,” said Stusse, who also is controller at the Sioux City Journal.

She’s spent years coordinating the toy giveaway, doing everything from ordering age-appropriate books and toys for about 8,000 children, to setting up the distribution center and sending out thank-you notes.

Her efforts were recognized and rewarded with an invitation to join the Little Yellow Dog.

“It’s an honor to be one of the first women included in this prestigious club,” Stusse said. “They’ve done so much good for Goodfellows. We look forward to doing so much more.”

Another new member, Sally Bjork, remembers going to the charity auction as a girl. Her father, the owner of a manufacturing business, belonged to the group that sponsored the event.

“When I finally realized there were no women in it, I went to him and I asked him, how come?” she said. This was about 30 years ago. He told her to take it up with the board members.

“Well, we just don’t do that,” they said.

Bjork helped in any way she could. She got increasingly involved with Goodfellows after she started working at the Journal 41 years ago. Now, each holiday season, she inputs information from hundreds of Christmas bag applications.

That put her on the list of women inducted into the club.

“I was shocked,” Bjork said. “My dad’s probably chuckling in his grave going, ‘I figured she’d get in there somehow.’”

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