Toastmasters History

Since Toastmasters began, more than four million men and women have benefited from the communication and leadership programs of the organisation.

The first club was formed in October 1924, when a group of men assembled by Dr Ralph C Smedley met in the basement of the Santa Ana, California YMCA.  The aim was “to afford practice and training” in the art of public speaking and in presiding over meetings and to promote sociability and good fellowship among its members.

The group took the name “Toastmasters”.

A year later, a second club was started in Anaheim, California, followed by a third in Los Angeles.  By 1930 it was apparent that a federation was necessary to coordinate activities of the clubs and to provide standard methods.  After formation of a club in Victoria, British Columbia, the group became known as Toastmasters International.

Growth was slow during the early years, but the number of clubs increased steadily. The forerunner of today’s Communication and Leadership program,Basic Training, was introduced in 1942 and has been expanded and updated many times since then to keep abreast of the times and needs of the members.

Membership in Toastmasters International increased rapidly after the end of World War II and by 1954 the number of Toastmasters clubs had approached 1500.

Gavel Clubs were formed in 1958 to accommodate groups wanting Toastmasters training but not qualified for Toastmasters membership.  These clubs provide communication and leadership training in correctional institutions, hospitals and schools.  In 1966, the Youth Leadership Program, for young people in junior and senior high school, was added to the list of established community programs being presented by Toastmasters.

In 1973, Toastmasters membership was opened to women. This change enabled everyone to benefit from the Toastmasters program of self-development. See some of the amazing women in District 69 Toastmasters.

There have been many improvements to the education program over the years to meet the ever-changing needs of the members. Leadership has become a stronger focus and this reflects in the introduction of the Competent Leadership Manual introduced in 2006.

Toastmasters International continues to grow every year and Dr Ralph C Smedley would be proud to know that, because of his dedication, millions of lives will be changed throughout the world.

Visit a Toastmasters meeting!  Toastmasters clubs meet in the morning, during lunchtime or in the evening in communities and corporations all over the world.

Find a club near you.