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Exclusive club in London to admit women next January

LONDON — The gentlemen of The Athenaeum Club, a bastion of male exclusivity, have voted to admit women as members starting next year.

The Athenaeum, founded in 1824 for "gentlemen distinguished as liberal patrons of science, literature or the arts," issued a statement this week saying, "The club has voted to allow women members from January 1, 2002."

Women already are welcome in the club as guests in the evenings.

The brief club statement did not give a specific reason for the decision.

The clubhouse is a grand Grecian-style building, is on Pall Mall, a broad avenue lined with similar clubs where generations of men in pinstripes have sat in leather chairs, smoking cigars and drinking port.

Writer Anthony Trollope was a member of the Athenaeum, and eight of the original members became prime ministers.

The Carlton Club, another men's club whose members belong to the Conservative Party, voted in November to continue excluding women from full membership. Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is the only women ever to have been made a full member of the Carlton.