Members of the exclusive Cosmos Club have voted at a crowded annual membership meeting to rescind the stern reprimand by the club's governing board against Samuel P. Hayes, the leader of the movement to admit women to the all-male bastion on Embassy Row, according to club sources.
The members also rescinded a new membership policy put forth by the club's embattled governing board, sources said. However, the governing board prevailed as members elected the slate of new officers it had supported over a slate fielded by what some called the "rebel" group.
The votes Tuesday were the culmination of the latest round in the Cosmos Club's battle over the admission of women. The conflict has raged for more than a decade behind the ornate doors of the club's mansion at 2121 Massachusetts Ave. NW, where members meet and dine in an atmosphere of scholarly gentility. The club's roster of 3,100 members includes at least one Supreme Court justice, top government officials, scientists, educators and lawyers.
This round was spurred by the board's reprimand of Hayes, a 75-year-old retired economist who is chairman of the group pressing the women's issue, and it drew in members never before involved in the controversy.
"It was probably the biggest crisis the club has ever been through," said one member, who saw the outcome as a draw -- a victory for what he called "the rebels" on two major resolutions and a defeat for them on their candidates.
The club's new secretary, Nicholas D. Ward, said club bylaws prevent anyone but the president from commenting on club business. The past and new presidents could not be reached.
The latest skirmish began in September when the board threatened to suspend or expel Hayes, accusing him of "ungentlemanly behavior." The board's list of allegations against Hayes included spreading misrepresentations, using "strident language" and "pestering members" in communications by his group supporting the admission of women. In November the board formally warned him against creating "friction" and said that future "disruptive conduct" could lead to expulsion.
Hayes, in a formal response to the board, denied the allegations, asserting that the board had singled him out for discipline because of his views, not his behavior. Several other members came to his defense, calling Hayes "a gentleman," and one labeled the charges "rubbish."
Hayes' supporters joined with others -- some of whom opposed membership for women, sources said -- and formed a new coalition. That group petitioned to place candidates on the ballot and to place three resolutions before members at Tuesday's meeting.
Fifty-four percent of the 530 voting supported Hayes, sources said.
The second resolution, which sources said won by 60 percent, rescinded a new policy asking new members to sign a statement saying they knew the club did not admit women and were not "embarrassed" by that. It also rescinded a new policy of interviewing prospective members, which some charged was a ploy to weed out those sympathetic to the women's admission issue.