WATCH: First female Toastmaster reveals artistic expression

AT 13 years old, Rivella Lewis was offered a job at Disney Studios but her dad, "being a staunch Jewish father," wouldn't let her go, and in spite of him she has become an artist and a very successful teacher.

"Most of my students when they've entered competitions have won prizes and I teach all over the place," she said.

"I get people to paint what they want and teach then how to paint it.

"You don't realise how differently people see things, even colours, even shapes." 

In 1972 Rivella went to a Jewish Toastmasters event as a guest and was asked one of the table topic questions which required her to give a mini speech. 

"It was something i knew about so off I went," she said.

"And they asked me to join and I said 'you don't have women,' and they said 'we will be, we will be!'" 

Rivella became the first ever female member of Toastmasters International and is now a distinguished Toastmaster.

The 75-year-old said Toastmasters has brought out her artistic talents in a way she never thought possible.

"Because before that I was a mouse, I was a yes dear, no dear person," she said.

"I didn't have a thought in my head that was mine." 


In December 1969 Val Callahan, now known as Rivella Lewis, her middle and married name, joined the only sectarian Toastmasters club in the world at the time - B'nai Brith in Sydney -a Jewish Toastmasters club.

That was a special privilege in itself, but even more so, when you realise that women weren't officially allowed into Toastmasters nearly 4 years later. Because Val is both a man and a woman's name, in America, nobody questioned her gender.

Once women were allowed in 1973, her club told WHQ and owned up to the fact that she was a female `Val`.

Within less than two years from that official OK, Val went on to become the second ever Australian female Area Governor.

Not only so, she served a two years consecutive term in Sydney's Area 201 from July 1975 until June 1977.

Following that term in office she was then elected to the District 70 Executive as the New Clubs Officer, a special position created for her because she had doubled the amount of clubs in her area while in office as Area Governor.