The year is 1918, and three women from Alabama were invited to New York with women from across the country to attend a meeting of the Committee of 100. The purpose of the meeting was to plan ways to utilize the potential of woman power in support of the War Effort. The meeting was called by President Woodrow Wilson. The women attending were from Birmingham, Montgomery, and Anniston.
A year later women from across the country met in St. Louis, Missouri and formed the Business and Professional Women Inc. Alabama was there and one of the first to receive an official charter with three clubs being present – Birmingham, Montgomery, and Anniston.
During the early years, members rolled bandages, sold war bonds and stamps, marched in patriotic parades and took first aid classes. Over the years clubs formed across the nation and Alabama. BPW was involved in the early years working toward the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment which granted women the right to vote.
1930’s and 40’s
The 30’s and 40’s saw many activities such as BPW National sponsoring a Goodwill Tour of Europe, the establishing of National Business Women which is the third week of October and supported the Equal Rights Amendment. Alabama was involved in these areas nationally and at home were involved in Civil Defense activities, War Relief Societies, U. S. Bond sales, sponsored Career Girls Clinics, worked with March of Dimes and worked on efforts for women to serve on jury duty.
As a new decade arrived -1950’s- Alabama BPW was busy sponsoring Woman of the Year Banquet, U.N. Day, World Affairs, International Relations Tea, and Career Conference for Senior Girls, Civil Defense luncheon, and a fundraising project for Spastic Aid of Alabama. BPW worked on the abolition of the poll tax and fluoridation of water systems. As the 50’s went on BPW nationally formed a Foundation and Alabama began a state scholarship program for high school students going to college or trade schools.
The 1960’s saw clubs sponsoring annual “Woman of the Year”, and implemented volunteer assistance for patients at the V.A. Hospital. As the decade went on BPW sponsored programs on school dropouts, small business clinic, a fashion show, and International Teas. At the National Level Dr. Minnie Miles from Tuscaloosa served as National President and was present when President John Kennedy signed the 1963 Equal Pay Act.
1970’s, 80’s and 90’s
The 70’s saw Dorothy McDowell serve as state president and the development of the Girls Ranch partnership with the Sheriff’s Department. In the 70’s BPW was involved in Economic, Social and Political Concerns. The program focused on scholarships for needy girl, dressed dolls and manned Christmas kettles for Salvation Army, sponsored a Woman of the Year program, and supported ERA. During this time clubs actively endorsed the Girls Ranch program financially and personally. The 1970’s saw the second Alabamian – Jane Culbreath- from Leeds serve as National President. This was also the time when Alabama BPW members were first elected to major political positions in city and state government.
The 80’s was a decade focused on economics, energy, and health. Programs focused on membership drives, aerobic dancing for health, and a “hands-on” demonstration on car care. On a serious side, there were programs on alternate energy sources, recycling efforts, emphasis on health, and a program on economic emphasis with tips on investment options. This was the time when BPW took a stand on Pay Equity launching the “Red Purse” Campaign focusing emphasis on equal pay for women. The eighties saw Alabama form its state on foundation focusing on Scholarships and programs affecting Working Women.
In the 90’s Dr. Anna Vacca was elected as state president. Anna went on and in 1995 served as National President. BPW Alabama was supportive of Anna, and many members traveled to Tulsa, Oklahoma to celebrate her installation and to Washington, D.C. to see her preside. The nineties saw the passage of the Family Medical Leave Act Nationally and statewide Alabama’s involvement in Domestic Violence Issues and scholarship programs. The Foundation was involved in research on working women and sponsoring workshops on working women’s issues, sponsored research on laws affecting working women, supported the Family Coach’s program to provide dental/eye care services for women in need.
2000 and Today
As we moved into the new century members across the state became more involved in serving the needs of local communities. The focus of clubs shifted from programs to service. The organization focused on projects such as domestic violence and serving meals to a battered women’s shelter, hosting a Cinderella Closet to provide prom dresses and accessories for girls in need, hosting a birthday party at a senior assisted living home and working on supporting educational needs of the community. Clubs continued to support scholarship programs, attend state functions, and support the needs of the community. Many clubs provide assistance to local schools and libraries others sponsor mentoring programs for girls. Others serve communities in a wide array of areas from sponsoring Breast Cancer Awareness activities, Kayaking with youth, sponsoring a team or walking for a cause, providing rape kits to domestic violence centers, and the list goes on. The activities vary as the local clubs members and communities vary.
The clubs have always been involved in various civic activities to support their individual community, but they have always focused on
· Elevating the standards for women in business and the professional areas
· Supporting the issues and interests of working women
· Extend educational opportunities for women
Over the years these focus areas have been interpreted to involve:
Political areas such as women’s right to vote, serving on jury duty, eliminating poll tax, Working on candidate campaigns,
Professional areas - Economic issues such as equal pay for women, family/medical leave, medical benefits, equal employment benefits and others
Personal issues – Domestic violence, day care programs, support of senior citizens – women in all stages of life, educational opportunities, and women’s health areas
In Alabama BPW we have developed statewide programs which focus on providing assistance for Domestic Violence Centers across the state, offering scholarships programs, supporting reading programs in schools, but our efforts don’t stop there
Each of our locals are involved in their communities from supporting homeless women’s shelters, doing rape kits, sponsoring Cinderella Closet, sponsoring Relay for Life Teams, involved in Go Red Campaigns, teams for Komen Breast Cancer, Sponsoring Pink and Purple city-wide parade, the list goes on as do the interests of members and clubs across the state
We have locals in communities which come together and form three districts which then form a state organization which holds two board meetings a year and a state convention where officers are elected, and awards are distributed.
We share information in a state newsletter which is mailed four times annually
We are a diverse group of women from all ages and all professions – from insurance owners to educators, to health care professional, to homemakers we are working women at all stages.