The Foundation of a Legacy

While mobilizing for World War I, the U.S. Government recognized the need for a cohesive group to coordinate identification of women’s available skills and experience. A Women’s War Council, financed through a federal grant, was established by the War Department to organize the resources of professional women. The National Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs was founded on July 15, 1919.

Throughout the years, three major issues shaped the BPW’s legislative agenda:

  1. elimination of sex discrimination in employment
  2. the principle of equal pay, and
  3. the need for a comprehensive equal rights amendment


“BPW Goodwill Tour” of Europe initiated the founding of the International BPW Federation. With the theme, “Better Business Women for a Better Business World,” National Business Women’s Week was established to celebrate and dramatize the contribution of women to the country.

Women celebrate the passage of the 19th Amendment granting them the right to vote: August 26, 1920.


The national executive office relocated from New York to Washington, as BPW became more active in legislative issues. The BPW Foundation was incorporated in 1956, creating a branch to provide research information, career development programs, and scholarships to disadvantaged women, workshops and other training opportunities. The Marguerite Rawalt Resource Center opened, becoming a major resource on the history of women and women in the workplace.


The establishment of “Status of Women” commissions in the U.S. in 1963 was due largely to BPW efforts. BPW president Dr. Minnie Miles watched as President John F. Kennedy signed the 1963 Equal Pay Act into Law. President Kennedy recognized BPW’s leading role in securing passage of the Equal Pay Act by giving BPW’s National President the first pen he used when signing the Act into Law. Virginia Allan Young initiated the “Young Careerist” Program to develop the business and presentation skills of young women between 25-35 years of age. The first National Legislative Conference, held in 1963 in D.C., later developed into BPW’s current Policy & Action Conference, where members lobby Congress and the Administration on BPW’s legislative issues.

For a full timeline with historical documents, click here.

Lena Madesin Phillips
Lena Madesin Phillips
Lena Madesin Phillips (September 15, 1881 - May 22, 1955) was a lawyer and clubwoman who founded the National Business and Professional Women's Clubs in 1919 and by 1930 the International Federation of Business and Professional Women.

The Collect

With the historical context in mind, we want to share "The Collect" which was recited at the start of each BPW meeting.

Keep us, Oh God, from pettiness;
Let us be large in thought, in word, in deed.
Let us be done with fault-finding and leave off self-seeking.
May we put away all pretense and meet each other face to face
Without self-pity and without prejudice.
May we never be hasty in judgment and always generous.
Let us take time for all things;
Make us grow calm, serene, gentle.
Teach us to put into action our better impulses,
straightforward and unafraid.
Grant that we may realize it is the little things that create differences,
that in the big things of life we are at one.
And may we strive to touch and to know the great,
common human heart of us all.
And, Oh Lord God, let us forget not to be kind.
- Mary Stewart