Sixteen thousand women are abandoning a major veterans’ charity in a bitter power struggle which has seen its male leaders accused of sexism.
Half of the female members of the Royal British Legion – the UK’s best-known military charity, whose patron is Her Majesty the Queen – will have quit by this time next year, slashing its female membership from 32,000 to 16,000.
The exodus has been prompted by a major reorganisation, which will close the separate organisation for women and fold it into the main legion, which is for men.
One member, 69-year-old Rita Orange, told the newspaper: “It is definitely like the pre-Suffragette era. Men are ordering the women around.
“People are so upset. I think the branch I’m in will close next year.”
The changes – due to come into full effect in November 2017 – will see the Women’s Section of the RBL demoted to a “district” of the organisation, rather than a standalone body.
— Royal British Legion (@PoppyLegion) December 12, 2016
It will lose the ability to administer parts of its own funding, and annual membership fees will double from £8.50 to £17 ($21).
Leaders at the charity – famous for its annual poppy appeal – have reportedly tried to smooth over the damage, but have alienated so many members that the mass departure is now inevitable.
A spokesman told the Mail: “We worked closely with the Women’s Section, taking on board feedback from Women’s Section and Legion membership annual conferences this spring.”