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The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History


The BUSINESS & PROFESSIONAL WOMEN'S CLUB OF GREATER CLEVELAND (BPW), established in 1919 as the Business Women's Club of Cleveland, has fostered the expansion of educational and business opportunities for WOMEN. Different from study or social clubs, BPW offered women active in careers outside the home a place to dine and discuss professional concerns. The idea originated during World War I, when NEWTON D. BAKER†, secretary of war, called for women to aid the war effort. Though the mobilization did not take place before armistice, the resulting enthusiasm led to the founding of BPW. The club was organized by politically active women such as MARIE R. WING†, FLORENCE E. ALLEN†, FRANCES PAYNE BOLTON†, GRACE DOERING MCCORD†, and Margaret Mahoney, who invited Lena Phillips, a New York attorney and executive secretary of the newly formed National Federation of Business & Professional Women's Clubs, to address interested Cleveland women. In Nov. 1919 over 800 attended the first dinner meeting, presided over by Allen at the Statler Hotel. Within a year, over 1,500 teachers, secretaries, stenographers, bookkeepers, nurses, cashiers, librarians, accountants, buyers, advertising women, artists, and public-relations specialists belonged.

Under the name Business Women's Club of Cleveland, the organization was set up as a corporation, managed by a 19-member Board of Directors and an executive secretary. The first president was librarian Mary Rudd Cochran. The local club affiliated with the national organization and hosted a national convention in 1921. After meeting in the Statler for a few months, the club acquired the Billings mansion at 2728 Euclid, but later returned downtown, where many members worked, to the Stillman Bldg. In 1923 BPW endorsed a high school education for women in business and established scholarships. In the 1930s it participated in the national federation's survey on discrimination toward women in clerical and professional positions and joined in the national federation's endorsement of the Equal Rights Amendment (1937), the first major women's organization to do so. The club also contributed to women's serving military needs during World War II. Although membership has declined, the Business & Professional Women's Club of Greater Cleveland remained a viable organization into the 1980s.

Cleveland Business & Professional Women's Club Records, WRHS.

Last Modified: 10 Jul 1997 02:09:00 PM

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