The Beginning (Way back in 1919)
A small group of business and professional women from Asheville, Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh, Salisbury, and Winston-Salem met in Charlotte on June 24-25, 1919 to organize the NC Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs, prior to the formation of a national federation. The North Carolina Federation was the eighth southern state to federate. Miss Julia Alexander, an attorney from Charlotte, was elected the first state president. Miss Carrie McLean, also an attorney of Charlotte, was elected national vice president from North Carolina. Other officers and directors were elected, a constitution and bylaws were adopted, and annual dues were based upon a rate of ten cents per capita, no club to pay more than five dollars. Included among the resolutions adopted was one asking the next state legislature to ratify the Susan B. Anthony amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
During the war years, the Federation made great contributions to the war effort. BPW members gave many hours of volunteer service to the Red Cross and allied agencies. A further contribution was the promotion of the war finance program in their communities and by the individual purchase of bonds by club members.
State Council for Social Legislation
The North Carolina Federation has done much to awaken its members to their privileges and responsibilities as citizens, and to promote legislation favorable to women. It was instrumental in organizing the State Legislative Council in 1920 and has retained membership in the Council ever since. The object of the Council is to coordinate the legislative efforts of member organizations that have legislative programs of their own. Since 1968 it has been known as the State Council for Social Legislation.
In the past, membership was by invitation only, to gainfully employed women under sponsorship by a member in good standing. Evolving from those rules, the Federation opened membership to all employed persons; women and men, as well as students and members at large who support the objectives of the Federation and pay dues. In 1998, the national delegation voted to open membership to all women, regardless of whether they are employed. A person may join and pay dues for BPW-NC as a member at large, without affiliation to a Local Club if they are located more than 50 miles from the closest local club.
First National and State Conventions
Miss Alexander attended the organization meeting of the National Federation in St. Louis, Missouri, in July 1919. After her return she set up the structure of the North Carolina Federation, and by the first board meeting in Salisbury on November 28, 1919, she was named chairman of the standing committees which at the time consisted of Program, Publicity, Organization, Membership, Legislation, and Thrift.
When the first NC convention met in Greensboro in June 1929, 56 delegates registered, representing clubs from several cities. This convention endorsed censorship of movies, asked the General Assembly to appropriate money for a women's dormitory at UNC, urged ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, advocated an educational loan fund, and protested against discrimination shown to unaccompanied women in hotels.
The district plan of organization was adopted in 1929. The state was divided into six districts and a chairman appointed for each district. Over the years this plan has been restructured to accommodate the changes in membership. The latest re-division returned to the six districts, with each district electing its own Director. The state organizational structure was revised in 1962 when it began operating under the president-elect system with all officers and district directors elected for one-year terms. After some experimentation, the Vice President was assigned the responsibility of coordinating the work of the districts. Each district sets its own dues and adopts its own budget.
National Business Women's Week
National Business Women's Week was observed for the first time in North Carolina in 1928. In 1932 Governor O. Max Gardner gave it his endorsement, and the General Assembly passed House Bill No. 582 officially designating March 5-11, 1933 as Business Women's Week and calling upon all North Carolinians to assist in its observance. By action of the National Federation, National Business Women's Week is now held in October of each year.
Notable Meetings in North Carolina
The BPW-NC Federation has hosted several national gatherings. It entertained the First Biennial Conference of the Southeast Region at Blue Ridge in 1932. The second Regional Conference was also held at Blue Ridge with the Tennessee Federation as the official hostess. A National Board meeting was held in Asheville in 1940. In 1964 Charlotte acted as hostess for a National Leadership Conference with members attending from several states. The North Carolina Federation hosted the National Federation's annual convention in Charlotte in 1990.
In 1950 the Federation sent an elaborate exhibit to the National Biennial Convention in San Francisco consisting of products manufactured in North Carolina. This was also done at the National Biennial Convention in Miami in 1956 and the Convention in Detroit in 1964.
A Leadership Institute conducted by a National Federation official was held at High Point College in 1943 and a similar institute at Meredith College in 1944. Thereafter the State Federation sponsored an annual summer Leadership Institute at UNC-Chapel Hill. This was discontinued in 1951 in favor of offering Leadership Training Workshops and other features at state conventions, district meetings, and later area meetings. An annual "Spotlight on Women" Conference, first held in 1956, has since been the outstanding educational feature, offered by the State Federation. In 1978 several national officers and committee members conducted a Legislative Conference in Charlotte. The year 1981 brought National President Dorine Chancellor to Chapel Hill to conduct a very successful Leadership Conference.
In 1947 the Federation adopted as a statewide project, establishment of a home for retired businesswomen. A fund for the purchase of land and construction of facilities was started, but increased so slowly over the years that the project was abandoned in 1957 for the construction of a centrally located headquarters building for the Federation. The major portion of the funds accumulated for the home project were transferred by individual and Local Club action to the headquarters project.
Dr. Rachel D. Davis of the Kinston Club donated a tract of land consisting of some four acres, located in Carrboro near Chapel Hill, to the Federation.
Groundbreaking ceremonies were held on May 15, 1960. Construction was completed in 1961 and on October 1, 1961, the building was dedicated. Miss Katherine Peden, National President and Governor Terry Sanford participated in the ceremonies, along with notable others. Approximately 700 members attended the festivities.
All indebtedness on the building was paid off by 1966, when on another October day; note-burning ceremonies and a picnic were held on the grounds with many BPW members in attendance.
For some years a Headquarters Chairman was appointed to serve on the Board each year and direct the matters arising out of the operation and maintenance of the headquarters building. This position was eliminated when the Board of Trustees was formed and assumed these responsibilities, along with the management of all of the Federation assets.
Today BPW-NC, while maintaining ownership of the building and land, shares the facility with other organizations. For this reason, BPW-NC does not hold regular business hours at the headquarters building.
Please contact the BPW-NC Property Coordinator prior to visiting, or to schedule a meeting.