Sexism is alive and well on the manicured greens at Augusta
"Women are persons in matters of pains and penalties, but are not persons in matters of rights and privileges."
- 1876 decision from an English court
Given that women have only been legally recognized as persons in Canada for 83 years, perhaps I shouldn't be surprised that there are still doors that are closed to us.
But it's hard to fathom that in the 21st century there are still clubs with "No girls allowed" signs on the door. And that intelligent men and women would support such clubs.
Welcome - if you're a man, that is - to the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, which has accepted male members only since it opened in 1933.
And initially only white men, at that.
Augusta's storied past records a legacy of exclusion - not only were black men not allowed to become members there until 1990, a course rule at one point stipulated that the only role for blacks at Augusta was carrying white men's clubs and following in their wake to rake up the sand traps.
On April 2 in the New York Times, Karen Crouse noted that one of the club's founders, Clifford Roberts, once vowed, "As long as I'm alive, all the golfers will be white and all the caddies will be black."
How's that for progressive policy?
Roberts is dead now, and Tiger Woods won his first Masters at Augusta in 1997 with a white caddie, so there is some justice in the world. But not for women at Augusta. Not yet.
The old boys' club issue raised its ugly head last week when news reports noted that a key corporate sponsor of the Masters tournament - tech giant IBM - has a female CEO, Virginia Rometty.
"Augusta has offered membership to the past four IBM CEOs, but because of the club's all-male policy, it is unclear if an invitation has been extended to Ms. Rometty," Spencer E. Ante and Jason Gay reported in The Globe and Mail on Monday.
Rometty, they noted, is a golfer.
Outrage at Augusta's anachronistic policy has even spilled over into American politics and has created a pair of unlikely allies: U.S. President Barack Obama and Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney both think the rule should be turfed.
Forbidding full membership to women is discrimination, pure and simple. It displays a lack of respect for women - a denial of their rights as equal members of society.
It's not that Augusta doesn't let women on the grounds, mind you. They can even play a round there if a member has invited them, but they cannot be members themselves.
It's a club that thinks it's OK for a high-powered CEO like Virginia Rometty to host guests there, but she's not welcome to actually join. (Why the heck would you want to be associated with a club that wouldn't even have you as a member?)
It's a club that doesn't seem to get the fact that if women can lead major corporations and run governments, perhaps it's time to acknowledge they are capable of whacking a few golf balls around - and paying for the privilege with their own money - too.
And we're not talking about women-only gyms here, or men's fraternal societies. There are many gender-specific groups out there that set their own rules.
We're talking about a club that touts itself as one of the premier golf courses in the world - a course that every keen golfer dreams of playing. Or at least, should be able to dream of playing.
It's also a club that is so set on keeping women out that it's breaking its own rules by not inviting IBM's CEO to become a member.
You'd expect such a legendary course to set a better example.
Interestingly, the U.K. Daily Mail reported on April 5 that IBM contributed to the abolishment of the whites-only rule at some American golf clubs when a club that banned blacks - at Shoal Creek, Ala. - was chosen to host the PGA Championship back in 1990.
"IBM played a big part in the change, joining other sponsors in putting pressure on Shoal Creek by pulling its television advertisements," the British paper noted.
Perhaps it's time IBM got all hot and bothered again and pulled its sponsorship of the Masters.
That would make the good ol' boys at Augusta stand up and take notice. It would also knock some of the tarnish off the club's legacy.
And it would send a strong, clear message to girls that they, too, have a right to dream big.
Pam Frampton is a columnist and The Telegram's associate managing editor. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: pam_frampton