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Dakota Datebook

A Movement of Democracy

 

While mobilizing for World War I, the United States government realized that women had many skills that could support the war effort. Consequently, the War Department established the Women’s War Council. The organization was in large part guided by the executives of the Young Women’s Christian Association. After the war, many of the women in the War Council saw that the world was changing, with women gaining political power, and soon the right to vote. They became determined to harness the energy of the women’s movement, and this led to the formation, in 1919, of the National Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs, known as BPW.

It was the first organization designed to address the needs of working women. The purpose of the club was to support and promote the interests of professional women. It worked to block legislation that limited employment opportunities for married women, and it pushed for equal pay. In 1937, it was the first organization to endorse the Equal Rights Amendment. 

On this date in 1920, it was announced that twenty professional women had formed a Valley City chapter of the club. A dinner was planned for the following week at the Rudolph Hotel. Agnes Rex, president of the Business and Professional Women’s Clubs of North Dakota, was scheduled to give the keynote speech. The program would include short talks by professional women of Valley City. The local group was described as a “movement for democracy.” All active business and professional women in the Valley City area were invited to attend. The meeting was also open to women interested in entering into the world of business.

Twenty-four years later, in 1964, there was still a great deal of work to do for women to gain equal status. In many states, a married woman needed her husband’s signature to open a checking account. The BPW successfully pushed North Dakota Governor William Guy to form a commission on the status of women. That commission initiated the repeal of a law exempting women from jury duty and the passage of an equal pay law.

 

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher

 

Sources:

Weekly Times Record. “New Club Recently Organized.” Valley City ND. 3/4/1920. Page 1.

Business and Professional Women’s Foundation. https://bpwfoundation.org/   Accessed 1/27/2021.

State Historical Society of North Dakota. “Commission on the Status of Women.” https://www.history.nd.gov/textbook/unit7_2_intro.html  Accessed 1/27/2021.

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