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Dame Judi Dench just broke a 193-year tradition aged 89

Judi Dench
Dame Judi Dench is one of the first women ever to join the Garrick Club (Picture: Samir Hussein/Getty Images)

Dame Judi Dench and Dame Siân Phillips have just become the first women to join The Garrick Club in its 193-year history, it has been reported.

In May, around 60% of members of the London private members club voted to admit women in a move that was reportedly previously blocked.

The Covent Garden’s closely-guarded members list has been a point of contention over the years, with many criticising those involved in an institution that until recently barred women.

Until now, no woman had been allowed into the Garrick unless invited in and accompanied by a man.

The Guardian have now reported that ‘some applause’ broke out at the announcement – made at the club’s annual general meeting on Monday evening – that the James Bond actress, 89, and Dune star, 91, had joined the 1,500 male members.

In 2011, members of the Garrick were so outraged by actor Hugh Bonneville suggesting Dame Joanna Lumley join the club some wrote expletives on and tore up their nomination page.

General view of the Garrick Club in Covent Garden
The Covent Garden members club has never allowed a woman to join until now (Picture: Peter Dazeley via Getty Images)
Garrick Club and Adjoining Buildings in 1860
It was founded in 1831 (Picture: Print Collector/Getty Images)

Founded in 1831, the Garrick describes itself as a place where ‘actors and men of refinement and education might meet on equal terms’.

Named after 18th century actor David Garrick, it still views itself as a club geared towards ‘the general patronage of drama’.

The Garrick retained its men only policy despite decades of pressure to allow women through its doors, and it was only after The Guardian revealed its membership list for the first time in March that the reported decision to do so came about.

Head of civil service Simon Case and MI6 chief Richard Moore resigned their membership after the list came out.

Others on the list included King Charles, Benedict Cumberbatch, Oliver Dowden, Michael Gove, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Kwasi Kwarteng, Jacob Rees-Mogg, and disgraced multimillionaire Crispin Odey.

To be admitted, a member must first write their name in a red, leather-bound book.

Sian Phillips
Dame Sian Phillips also joins Dame Judi as a member of the club (Picture: Avalon/Getty Images)

Other members must then second your nomination, with two pages of signatures required to get you to the next stage of consideration.

After that, hopefuls will be invited to dine at the club before your nomination is discussed by a committee.

But wannabe members might find themselves despised enough by existing members to have their name blacklisted.

The club’s website says: ‘It would be better that 10 unobjectionable men should be excluded than one terrible bore should be admitted.’

It hopes this will ensure ‘the lively atmosphere for which the Club was so well-known in the nineteenth century continues to invigorate members of the Club in the twenty-first century’.

The process can take at least two years, but Dame Judi and Dame Siân are said to have been fast-tracked.

Metro.co.uk reached out to The Garrick, but they declined to give comment.

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