Kiwanis was founded in Detroit, Michigan, on January 21, 1915. The first clubs were organized to promote the exchange of business among the members. However, the members were also 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 organization had officially changed its focus to service. Kiwanis became an international organization in 1916 with the creation of the Kiwanis Club of Hamilton, Ontario. Kiwanis limited its membership to the United States and Canada until 1962 when worldwide expansion was approved.
Until the summer of 1987, Kiwanis was a male-only organization. But after years of debate and growing support, women’s membership was approved overwhelmingly at the 72nd annual convention. Of the 32 districts in the United States, Cal-Nev-Ha shares with 5 other districts the distinction of having the highest percentage of female members (33.2%); 57% of the members of Conejo Valley Kiwanis are women.