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Celebrate Women’s History – Make History

Posted by Crystal Williams on March 17, 2014

This March, as we prepare to Celebrate Women’s History Month let’s look back at almost 100 years of  Business and Professional Women’s (BPW) Foundation’s mission to help working women. There is no doubt about the impact BPW/USA and BPW Foundation have had on Women’s History Month. First, a brief history of the occasion.

The Origins of Women’s History Month

Women’s History Month is celebrated worldwide and highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. In 1987 The United States congress officially passed a declaration for Women’s History Month in March.

Women’s History Month traces its beginnings back to the first International Women’s Day in 1911. International Women’s Day (IWD), originally called International Working Women’s Day, is marked on March 8 every year.

In February of 1980 President Jimmy Carter issued a presidential proclamation declaring the week of March 8th, 1980, as National Women’s History Week. The proclamation stated, “From the first settlers who came to our shores, from the first American Indian families who befriended them, men and women have worked together to build this nation. Too often the women were unsung and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed. But the achievements, leadership, courage, strength and love of the women who built America was as vital as that of the men whose names we know so well… I ask my fellow Americans to recognize this heritage with appropriate activities during National Women’s History Week, March 2-8, 1980. I urge libraries, schools, and community organizations to focus their observances on the leaders who struggled for equality – Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Lucy Stone, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Harriet Tubman, and Alice Paul. Understanding the true history of our country will help us to comprehend the need for full equality under the law for all our people. This goal can be achieved by ratifying the 27th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states that ‘Equality of Rights under the Law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.'” Carter was referring to the Equal Rights Amendment, which would have become the 27th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution at the time. Unfortunately it was never ratified. The actual 27th Amendment (passed after Carter’s presidency) instead focuses on Congressional salaries. Since then, it has become traditional for the President to issue a proclamation honoring Women’s History Month.

Where we stand today

In March 2011, the Barack Obama administration released a report, Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being, showing women’s status in the U.S. in 2011 and how it had changed over time. This report was the first comprehensive federal report on women since the report produced by the Commission on the Status of Women in 1963.

Highlights from the report include:

  • Education – As the report shows, women have made enormous progress on some fronts. Women have not only caught up with men in college attendance but younger women are now more likely than younger men to have a college or a master’s degree. Women are also working more and the number of women and men in the labor force has nearly equalized in recent years. As women’s work has increased, their earnings constitute a growing share of family income.
  • Income – Yet, these gains in education and labor force involvement have not yet translated into wage and income equity. At all levels of education, women earned about 75 percent of what their male counterparts earned in 2009. In part because of these lower earnings and in part because unmarried and divorced women are the most likely to have responsibility for raising and supporting their children, women are more likely to be in poverty than men. These economic inequities are even more acute for women of color.
  • Health Insurance – One out of seven women age 18-64 has no usual source of health care. The share of women in that age range without health insurance has also increased. Another startling reality is the percentage of women in this country living in (or on the verge of) poverty. A 2014 Shriver Report entitled “A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink” reveals that, in an era when women have solidified their position as half of the U.S. workforce and as two-thirds of the primary or co-breadwinners in American families, the reality is that one in three American women is living at or near the brink of poverty. That’s 42 million women and the 28 million children who depend on them, living one single incident—a doctor’s bill, a late paycheck, or a broken-down car—away from economic ruin.

BPW Foundation’s Role

Overall progress has been made for women in the work place, but the United States still has a way to go in regard to pay equality for women. As the first foundation dedicated to conducting research and providing information solely about working women, BPW Foundation (and its predecessor, BPW/USA) has played a pivotal role in many of the events shaping women’s history in this country.

In 2007 BPW Foundation conducted the first research on women veteran’s transition to civilian careers and in 2010, BPW Foundation identified mentoring as a critical need of transitioning women veterans during its inaugural Joining Forces for Women Veterans National Summit. Through information gathered at the summit, the need for mentors was identified and in 2012 BPW Foundation launched Joining Forces for Women Veterans and Military Spouses Mentoring Plus. First Lady Michelle Obama recognized this “mentorship gap” in the White House’s selection of BPW Foundation as the lead organization for a large-scale mentoring initiative to benefit women veterans and military/veteran spouses. BPW Foundation has since forged partnerships with more than 54 corporations and non-profit organizations to fulfill this mandate and at the recent White House Champions for Change: Women Veterans event The First Lady recognized BPW Foundation “for the exceptional work that they do every day for women’s veterans.”

Marching Forward

Through groundbreaking research, a network of national supporters and as a neutral convener of employers and employees, BPW Foundation is continuing to lead the way in developing and advocating for policies and programs that “work” for both women, women veterans and businesses. In the spirit of National Women’s History Month let’s take a look back at Business and Professional

Women’s historic timeline:

  • 1919 The National Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs is founded
  • 1920 BPW Goodwill Tour of Europe initiated the founding of the international BPW Federation
  • 1930 BPW/USA worked to prohibit legislation or directives denying jobs to married women
  • 1940 BPW/USA developed a classification system for women with specialized skills critical to the war effort and supported the formation of women’s branches of the Armed Forces
  • 1950 Business and Professional Women’s (BPW) Foundation was incorporated in 1956
  • 1960 President Kennedy recognized BPW/USA’s leading role in securing passage of the Equal Pay Act by giving BPA/USA’s National President the first pen he used when signing the Act into law
  • 1970 BPW/USA intensified efforts to eliminate discrimination based on sex and marital status in credit, capital, and insurance practices
  • 1980 BPW/USA launched its Red Purse Campaign with the theme “Better Pay for Women”
  • 1990 BPW/USA lobbied Congress for passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act. After nearly a decade, the FMLA passes in 1993
  • 2005-10 BPW Foundation conducts groundbreaking research on women veterans’ transition to civilian life; including the first-ever survey of 1,600 women veterans and a Summit in Washington
  • 2012 Joining Forces for Women Veterans and Military Spouses Mentoring Plus is launched and begins matching mentors with mentees. It expands to include caregivers of wounded warriors and women who have lost a loved one serving our nation.

Updated Graph BPW 3 6 14

Posted in Women's History Month | Leave a Comment »

BPW Foundation’s Joining Forces Mentoring Plus™ During Women’s History Month

Posted by YWM on March 26, 2013

Business and Professional Women’s (BPW) Foundation’s career and employment support initiative for women veterans and military/veteran spouses, Joining Forces Mentoring Plus™, was saluted by First Lady Michelle Obama and the Administration at Women’s History Month events honoring the contributions of women veterans on Tuesday, March 19.

During the morning, BPW Foundation’s Board of Trustees, Joining Forces Mentoring Plus partners, and guests participated in the White House Champions of Change: Women Veterans program where 14 women, including Joining Forces Mentoring Plus™ Advisory Council members and Community/Resource partners, were recognized for their contributions during and following military service. In her remarks, the First Lady recognized BPW Foundation “for the exceptional work that they do every day for women’s veterans.”

BPW/MD member Susan Horst, Brigadier General Wilma L. Vaught (ret), President, Women in Military Service for America Memorial and BPW Foundation Chair Barbara Henton

BPW/MD member Susan Horst, Brigadier General Wilma L. Vaught (ret), President, Women in Military Service for America Memorial and BPW Foundation Chair Barbara Henton

That evening, women veterans were honored at a VIP-packed reception hosted by BPW Foundation at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial (WIMSA). Brigadier General Wilma L. Vaught (Ret), Founder and President of WIMSA, welcomed the women veterans in attendance, acknowledging the diversity of branches, eras, ranks, and ages represented. BPW Board of Trustees’ Chair Barbara Henton recognized WIMSA as “the perfect setting to honor our women veterans’ histories and celebrate their futures.”

 Bringing a personal message of gratitude from President and Mrs. Obama, Tina Tchen, Special Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to the First Lady, thanked every woman veteran for her service. Speaking on behalf of Secretary Erick K. Shinseki, Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs Steve L. Muro reiterated the VA’s commitment to women veterans and pledged continued support of Joining Forces Mentoring Plus™ to facilitate veterans’ civilian reintegration. Attendee Department of Labor Assistant Secretary for

Tina Tchen, Assistant to President Barack Obama and Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama

Tina Tchen, Assistant to President Barack Obama and Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama

Veterans Employment and Training Services Keith Kelly reiterated his strong support for programs supporting women veterans.

Velma Hart, BPW Foundation Treasurer, welcomed the oldest living woman veteran, 105 year-old LTC Luta Mae Cornelius “Cornie” McGrath, who joined the Army in 1943, before the Women’s Army Corps was even established. Others present who play important roles in BPW Foundation efforts on behalf of women veterans included Women Joining Forces Advisory Council members Major General Dr. Irene Trowell-Harris (Ret), Director of the Center for Women Veterans at the VA, Brigadier General Evelyn “Pat” Foote (Ret), Glenna Tinney , Advocacy Program Coordinator for the Battered Women’s Justice Project, Linda Spoonster Schwartz, Commissioner and Commandant, Connecticut Department of Veteran Affairs, US Air Force (Ret), and Ginger Miller, founder of Women Veterans Interactive and a Joining Forces Community Resource Partner.

Steve L. Muro, VA Undersecretary for Memorial Affairs and BPW Foundation CEO Deborah L. Frett

Steve L. Muro, VA Undersecretary for Memorial Affairs and BPW Foundation CEO Deborah L. Frett

BPW Foundation CEO, Deborah L. Frett invited every Joining Forces Mentoring Plus™ program mentor, mentee and subject matter expert to step forward: “These women make our program a reality. They embody BPW Foundation’s mission: working women helping women work. And they are the reason that this program is enabling women veterans to succeed in civilian careers.”

Command Sergeant Major Michele S. Jones (Ret), the first woman U.S. Army Reservist to reach that position, joined Deborah Frett to toast women veteran guests, stating that her “most important title that evening was Joining Forces Mentoring Plus™ mentor.”

BPW Foundation recognized and thanked the evening’s sponsors: Alliant Credit Union Foundation, Booz Allen Hamilton, Dell/Intel, the DeLonais Foundation, CVS Caremark, ASAE CareerHQ.org, and Capital One.

Posted in Joining Forces for Women Veterans, Uncategorized, Women Veterans, Women's History Month | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Working Women Helping Women Work

Posted by YWM on March 28, 2012

by Barbara Henton, Chair, Business and Professional Women’s Foundation Board of Trustees

For nearly one hundred years, the women of the BPW/USA and Business and Professional Women’s Foundation (BPW Foundation) have been dedicated to advancing the cause of our nation’s working women.  As Women’s History Month comes to a close, it provides us an opportunity to reflect on our accomplishments, as well as an opportunity to reconcile our mission with our goals moving forward.

We began in 1919 as BPW/USA, on the heels of World War I, with a mission from the government to “coordinate identification of women’s available skills and experience.”  Since then, we have consistently provided education, outreach, and opportunity for advocacy on issues that affect working women.  In 1956, we strengthened our efforts by establishing BPW Foundation, the first non-profit research and education institution of national scope solely dedicated to the cause of working women.  In 2009, BPW/USA and BPW Foundation merged to become one powerhouse organization of working women helping women work.

I joined BPW/USA in 1984,  because it was more than just an organization where women could come together to network and have fun…it was an organization that focused on advocacy issues related to working families.  I have been proud to be a part of our efforts ever since. I began my career as a schoolteacher, but gave up that job to be with my husband as he was called to duty in the US Army. I was a military spouse for two years…just enough time to know what it is like to live on a military base, find a job in an area where you don’t know anyone, and the need to start over once the military service is completed.  As a result of these experiences, I have much admiration for the women and men who serve our country and their families. I am very proud of our organization’s outreach to help both veterans and military spouses.

My personal experiences have provided me with first-hand knowledge of the significant impact an organization like BPW Foundation can have on the lives of working women.  We are effective because we reach out to working women, identify the issues that matter, conduct the data-driven research to back up our positions, and provide opportunities for working women to self-advocate in ways that make a difference.  We continue to succeed because we are not stagnant – we are consistent in our outreach efforts, but always evolving to achieve maximum impact.

Over the past several years, BPW Foundation has been working to champion women veterans in their efforts to succeed in civilian careers.  This year, we launched a new program, Joining Forces for Women Veterans and Military Spouses Mentoring Plus™, to facilitate the career development of those women who have given so much of their lives and their loves to protect our freedom: women veterans and military wives.

BPW Foundation’s Joining Forces Mentoring Plus™ was conceived and developed to address the critical ongoing need for informed, committed mentors to position and assist women veterans and military spouses as they search for new employment, hone their career goals, and package their military skills and experiences to put them on the road to successful careers.  First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden acknowledged this “mentorship gap” when they recognized BPW Foundation’s mentoring initiative as part of the White House’s national Joining Forces effort.

I am confident about this program’s success; because, like everything else we do at BPW Foundation, we have done our homework.  Joining Forces Mentoring Plus™ builds upon the research and experience of effective mentoring programs that have successfully impacted the lives of many.  Joining Forces Mentoring Plus™ is focusing on helping thousands of women veterans and military wives by connecting them with volunteer working women mentors over a sustained period of time.  Veteran and civilian mentors of all ages across the country will provide insight, advice, and encouragement to help women veterans and military wives steer an individualized course of action in the civilian workplace.

The structure of Joining Forces Mentoring Plus™ will enable mentors and mentees to work together to design and develop the goals and benchmarks for mentee employment plans.  A rich library of online resources along with a cadre of subject matter experts will assist mentees in areas that affect workplace attainment, adjustment, retention, and/or supplier chain participation for small businesses.  With this capacity to guide women veterans in their job searches and career development, we will initially pair 1,800 mentees with mentors with a goal of 10,000 mentoring relationships in the next three years.  Ultimately, we will engage partners toward a widening target of 100,000 mentoring relationships, recognizing that more than 150,000 women are projected to leave the military over the next five years and join the more than 1.8 million existing women veterans who have proudly served our nation.

BPW Foundation’s long history of women helping women allows us to leverage the experience, expertise and resources of women in the workplace, to benefit those who have made so many personal and family sacrifices to protect our freedom: women veterans and military wives.  And so, BPW Foundation is carrying on in the tradition of nearly one hundred years of history: working women helping women work.

Meet two of our Joining Forces Mentoring Plus mentees and one of our mentors in this piece that appeared on the NBC Nightly News.

Learn how to become a mentee, mentor or subject matter expert.

Posted in Joining Forces, Joining Forces for Women Veterans, Mentoring, Military Families, Uncategorized, Women Veterans, Women's History Month | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

BPW and 75 Years of Fighting for the Equal Rights Amendment

Posted by sherrysaunders on March 15, 2012

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Equal Rights Amendment being sent to the states for ratification and we are still waiting.  BPW has been in the fight for Equal Rights even longer.

BPW and the Equal Rights Amendment

Business and Professional Women/USA and the Business and Professional Women’s (BPW) Foundation have a long history of supporting equity for women including the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).  During BPW’s 1937 National Convention, the membership endorsed the Equal Rights Amendment and adopted passage as its #1 legislative priority. BPW was just the second national women’s organization, after the National Women’s Party, to support the ERA. Since then, BPW/USA and now Business and Professional Women’s Foundation have fought tirelessly to eliminate gender discrimination in America.

BPW’s work on the ERA slowed during WWII but the organization continued to make ERA information available to other groups urging them to adopt the issue as a priority once the war was over. In 1940, BPW was instrumental in getting the Republican Party to include support for passage and ratification of the ERA into their party platform – where it remained until 1980.

Following WWII, women worked for and achieved passage of legislation that gave them additional and important legal rights, but the most important legislation the ERA did not move.

In the 1960s, John F. Kennedy appointed the first President’s Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW), chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt. The Commission successfully focused public attention on a broad range of initiatives addressing the unequal position of American women. Yet according to commission member Marguerite Rawalt, a former BPW national president and the only pro-ERA Commission appointee, the other appointees were almost all women who opposed the ERA.

In the Senate, Judiciary Chair Sam Ervin began to push for a rider to the ERA that would allow passage of laws to “protect women.”  BPW along with other organizations came out actively against the Ervin Rider.

A summit of women’s organizations was called by Rep. Martha Griffiths (D-MI.) in 1970. This meeting was hosted by and presided over by BPW.  Rep Griffiths got enough House Member’s signatures to bypass the anti ERA Judiciary committee and finally the ERA passed the House in 1971. With other women’s organizations, BPW members actively lobbied for passage of the ERA in the Senate and it was finally sent to the states in March of 1972.

BPW convened a national coalition of organizational leaders urging that they get their state organizations to participate in ERA coalitions. Ratification moved along at a respectable clip until 1974 when the ERA hit a brick wall.

At this time BPW retained an advocacy consultant and raised money dedicated to ERA passage.  An ongoing ERA assessment of $2.50 per member was added to the BPW dues structure.  BPW members worked with the White House and the Offices of First Ladies Betty Ford and Rosalyn Carter.  BPW members voted not to hold their conventions in unratified states.  BPW members worked with the International Women’s Year Commission and attended the National Women’s Conference in Texas in 1977 to bring attention to the ERA. The Texas meeting brought new enthusiasm to the ERA fight.  BPW was one of the founding members of ERA America with BPW member Mariwyn Heath serving as one of the organization’s leaders.

For five decades until her death in 2010, BPW member Mariwyn Heath was a tireless fighter for the ERA.  She served for eight years as BPW’s ERA coordinator.  In 2001, BPW/USA established the The Mariwyn Heath Equal Rights Amendment Award that was given annually to an individual or group demonstrating strong support of equal rights for women and a strong commitment to increasing visibility and awareness of the ERA, as well as passage of ERA legislation.

During 1979 BPW/USA President Julie K. Arri personally reported to President Jimmy Carter on the findings of the BPW-commissioned Lou Harris poll about attitudes in unratified ERA states.

Taking the fight to the legislators, BPW testified before Congress and state legislative committees.  In 1979 BPW established a PAC to support candidates for federal office. One of the main criteria for financial support was that the candidate support the ERA.  BPW also developed a public relations campaign in support of the ERA complete with ads for use by state organizations.

Working with other national organizations BPW was particularly active in supporting research showing that states could not rescind a state ERA vote.  BPW joined other organizations to gain Congressional passage of a bill extending the deadline for passage, which was passed in June of 1982. BPW remained on the steering committee for ERA America and was active in the nonratified states, primarily funding state coalitions.

In 2002 BPW held a Pass the ERA event at its National Conference in New Orleans. In addition to speeches and PR activities, attendees wrote members of Congress who had not yet sponsored new ERA legislation. Letters were mailed on Women’s Equality Day. August 26, 2002.

In 2003 BPW/Florida co sponsored an ERA Florida kickoff featuring ERA spokeswoman Patricia Schroeder.

BPW/USA has co-chaired the NCWO ERA Task Force and worked with leading ERA advocates to determine how best to move the issue forward legislatively.  For years, BPW has strongly advocated for ERA federal legislation, specifically both the “start over” and “3 state” bills.   The “3 state” bill states that once three more states pass the ERA then Congress would declare ratification complete.  Alternatively the start over bill proposes “an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relative to equal rights for men and women”, and would essentially start the ERA process all over again.

BPW Foundation believes that the ERA is key ensuring that women have equal rights under our constitution. It makes no sense to deny over half the US population equal legal rights.  Our country applauds the Afghans for putting women in their ruling documents and we urged that Iraq to put equality for women in their constitution, but we have made no move to include U.S women in our own Constitution.  BPW Foundation plans to see that accomplished!

Posted in Uncategorized, Women's History Month | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

International Women’s Day is just around the corner!

Posted by egehl on February 29, 2012

International Women’s Day is just around the corner and will be celebrated this year on March 8th!

International Women’s Day was first observed in the early 1900’s in an effort to draw global attention to the fight for women’s equality and rights to work, vote, hold public office, and to ultimately end gender discrimination.  In 1975, during International Women’s Year, the United Nations began celebrating March 8th as International Women’s Day.  Each year a theme is chosen and this year’s theme is “Empower Rural Women-End Hunger and Poverty”.

For women around the world, the day symbolizes an opportunity to reflect on the strides they have made and to call on new generations of women to participate in the work of making our world more gender equitable.  It’s an occasion to review how far women have come in their struggle for equality, peace and development, and an opportunity to unite, network and mobilize for meaningful change in the future.

There are many ways to honor and participate in International Women’s Day.  Personally, I support the day as a Women for Women International sponsor and donor.

I’ve sponsored 7 women survivors of war who have participated in a year-long program run by Women for Women International that educates and empowers them to improve their economic, personal, and social opportunities.  I have enjoyed playing a small role in supporting women internationally so that more doors are open to them to not only better their lives, but the lives of their families.  As a woman who has been given so many luxuries and privileges over my lifetime, I feel that it’s important that women around the world have the chance to access the same opportunities.  Women for Women International will be celebrating International Women’s Day by participating in the third annual Women in the World Summit held in New York City.

There are a variety of activities happening here and around the world in honor of International Women’s Day.  Over 1,000 events have been registered on the International Women’s Day website.  Thus far, the United States and the UK have the most events planned.

There is also still time to plan your own event!  For example, Women’s World Banking has put together a toolkit on how to organize an event on or around March 8th.  No event is too small and they can range from hosting a tea, attending a lecture, or participating in a benefit walk.  Women’s World Banking is a micro-finance network working to help women around the globe become full participants in the economies of their countries.  Learn more about the organization and view a copy of their International Women’s Day toolkit to gain ideas on what to do this year.

With the surge of social media, you can follow International Women’s Day on Twitter and there is a designated Facebook page as well.

I think the most important thing about International Women’s Day is that in addition to the equity struggles we continue to experience here at home, we need to remember the plight of women abroad who have the same needs, goals and desires as us.  However unfortunately often times they face greater barriers to achieve them. Therefore due to our unique position in the world as American women we should take active steps to support them.  You can start by participating in an International Women’s Day event in your community.

Posted in Families, Gender Discrimination, Women's History Month | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Remembering the Women of the Civil War

Posted by weeksm on March 31, 2011

Do you like stories about mystery, intrigue and suspense? Women’s involvement in the Civil War has it all! This year marks the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War.  As Women’s History Month draws to a close, I thought I would highlight just some of the interesting contributions that women made to that war effort.

The conventional gender roles during the Civil War that are usually taught in school do not tell the whole story.  When one studies the Civil War, you learn about the men’s fight – the generals, the battles, with women’s roles relegated to support efforts.  While women were instrumental as nurses, laundresses, matrons maintaining households, some women chose more cloak and dagger roles and fought in the war.

Both Confederate and Union armies denied women the right to enlist in combat roles.  However,civil war that didn’t stop some women from posing as men and joining the battle.  Estimates of the numbers of women soldiers known to serve is just under 400, with estimates of women in the ranks of the Confederate Army at as many as 250.  It is difficult to know if a larger number of women disguised themselves as men and enlisted in the service, because women soldiers were only revealed by accident or casualty.  A few examples of women soldiers include Mary Owens, Loreta Velazquez and Frances Clayton.  Mary Owens from Pennsylvania served for 18 months as John Evans and was discovered to be a woman when she was wounded in the arm.  Loreta Velazquez served the Confederacy as Lt. Harry Buford, a self-financed soldier not officially attached to any regiment.  Her memoirs revealed her service as a woman soldier.  Another example is Frances Clayton who served many months in the Missouri artillery and cavalry units.  The existence of women soldiers was no secret during or after the Civil War, as numerous newspaper articles and obituaries testified.

Other women, known as “vivandieres” followed their men to war, wearing women’s uniforms and serving in combat with their units.  Vivandieres were recruited into “Zouaves”, the European style regiments of the American Volunteer Army, which sported French-inspired uniforms. These women who served openly in front line units were extremely rare.  Mary Tepe, also known as “French Mary” was a famous Vivandiere of the Civil War and the only woman who served in the battle of Gettysburg.

Eventually, several women who served in the Union Army were officially recognized for their meritorious heroic acts with receipt of the Kearny Cross, a military decoration of the U.S. Army.  Annie Etheridge of Michigan, Marie Tepe, and Mary Taylor of Philadelphia all received the decoration.

Another woman that should be noted is Mary Edwards Walker, who is the only woman to ever receive the Medal of Honor.  Prior to the Civil War, she earned her medical degree and then volunteered with the Union Army and served as a female surgeon.  She was captured after crossing enemy lines to treat wounded civilians and arrested as a spy.  She was held as a prisoner of war until released in a prisoner exchange.

The Confederate Medal of Honor, first awarded in 1977, has also been awarded to only one woman – Juliet Opie Hopkins.  She was a nurse cited for her valor in the Battle of Seven Pines, where she was wounded while rescuing casualties.  General Robert E. Lee praised her work with the wounded and she is buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery.

Getting information about the opposition was important to both sides in the Civil War and women were involved as spies for both the Union and Confederate Armies. Sarah Emma Edmonds disguised herself as a man to serve in the Union Army, and sometimes “disguised” herself as a woman — or as a black man — to spy on the Confederate troops. After her identity was exposed, she served as a nurse with the Union.  Harriet Tubman, better known for her 19-20 trips into the South to free slaves, also served with the Union Army in South Carolina, organizing a spy network and even leading raids and spy expeditions. Belle Boyd, a Confederate spy, provided valuable information to Stonewall Jackson, who gave her captain and honorary aide-de camp positions.  Mary Elizabeth Bowser served as a maid in the Confederate White House — and, ignored while important conversations were held, she passed along important information from those conversations and from papers she found.

As Women’s History Month concludes and the United States is involved in military actions overseas, let us remember those women who bore arms and charged into battle and like the men, lived in camps, suffered in prisons and died for their respective causes…in the Civil War and in all the other wars and conflicts since. 

Posted in Women Veterans, Women's History Month | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Our History – Honoring Those Who Came Before

Posted by YWM on March 23, 2011

The history of Business and Professional Women’s Foundation began in 1919. Although the organization has transformed over time, the legacy and vision remain intact.  During Women’s History Month it is well worth remembering our history and the women on whose shoulders we stand.

In 1919 while mobilizing for World War I, the U.S. Government needed a group to coordinate identification of women’s skills and experience for use during the war effort.  A Women’s War Council, financed through a federal grant, was established by the War Department to organize the resources of professional women. From that process, the National Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs was founded on July 15, 1919.  The name later changed to BPW/USA.  


Throughout the years, three major issues shaped the legislative agenda: elimination of sex discrimination in all fields of employment, the principle of equal pay, and the need for comprehensive equal rights.

In 1928, BPW/USA launched National Business Women’s Week to acknowledge the accomplishments and contributions of workingwomen and highlight their important role in the business community. This week is still going strong and will be celebrated this year October 17-21.  

During the 1930’s, BPW/USA worked to prohibit legislation or directives denying jobs to married women and lobbied successfully to legislatively end the legal practice of workplace preference for unmarried persons and, in the case of married persons, preference for males.

At the advent of World War II, BPW/USA developed a classification system for women with specialized skills critical to the effort and supported the formation of women’s branches of the Armed Forces.

Business and Professional Women’s (BPW) Foundation was incorporated in 1956, to provide research, information, career development programs and scholarships, as well as workshops and other training opportunities for women.

President John F. Kennedy signs the 1963 Equal Pay Act into law as BPW/USA president Dr. Minnie Miles watches.

The establishment of “Status of Women” commissions in the U.S. in 1963 was due largely to BPW/USA members’ efforts. President Kennedy recognized BPW/USA’s leading role in securing passage of the Equal Pay Act by giving our National President the first pen he used when signing the Act into law.

The 1980s saw BPW/USA members tackling “comparable worth” by calling on newspapers to stop the occupational segregation in classified ads (clustering of women in a few restricted occupations of low-paying, dead-end jobs).

Workplace equity issues including sexual harassment, the glass ceiling, health care reform, dependent care, tort reform, increasing the minimum wage, lifetime economic security and pay equity continued to be our targeted issues in the 90s.  The Pay Equity Employment Act of 1994, followed by the Equal Pay Act (introduced in 1994) and the Paycheck Fairness Act (introduced in 1997) became BPW/USA’s focus legislation through the ‘90s.

In 1994, BPW/USA members lobbied Congress successfully convincing them to pass the groundbreaking Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

Looking at more recent history in 2000, BPW/USA expanded its  “Making Workplaces Work” initiative to the “Working Family Values” Program, and more recently, the theme of “Workplace Equity & Work- life Effectiveness,” with education and awareness focusing on diversity, pay equity, dependent care, workplace flexibility, and social security reform.

In 2005, BPW/USA launched Women Joining Forces: Closing Ranks, Opening Doors (WJF), a program to support women veterans as they transition from military to civilian life. This commitment made BPW/USA the first and only non-governmental agency to offer programming that supports women veterans.  To support this effort, in 2007 BPW Foundation conducted the first national survey of women veterans.  This ground-breaking research provided a unique snap shot of women veterans as they return to the civilian workplace.

In 2008, BPW/USA and BPW Foundation co-sponsored a congressional briefing about the challenges facing women veterans transitioning from active military to the civilian workforce.

BPW/USA merged with BPW Foundation in July 1, 2009. This friendly merger ensured that their joint advocacy and support for working women and families would be strengthened and continues. This merged organization represents over 146 years of combined experience fighting for women, their families and successful workplaces.

Tammy Duckworth, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs speaks at Joining Forces for Women Veterans Summit

In the fall of 2010, BPW Foundation convened a national Joining Forces for Women Veterans Summit bringing together select corporate, government, nonprofit and community leaders and women veterans to discuss the challenges and solutions to assure suitable housing, good jobs and overall success for women veterans as civilians.  Joining Forces for Women Veterans successfully heightened awareness of the unique challenges and opportunities faced by women veterans.  The resulting Summary Report is a call to action to support our women veterans and their families.

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Women Veterans – Our Invisible Sheroes

Posted by YWM on March 21, 2011

Velma Hart

This article originally appeared in Hart of the Matter© on March 18, 2011.  For more information or to contact Velma Hart, visit www.velmarhart.com.

 We welcome Business and Professional Women’s Foundation Trustee and WJ F Advisory Council member Velma R. Hart, CAE as our guest blogger today. 
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March is Women’s History Month and we have a lot to be proud of!  This year’s theme is “Our History is Our Strength” and offers a time to reflect on the women whose blood, sweat, tears, passion, courage and grace created much of what we know as the foundation of our country today. From Harriet Tubman to Clara Barton. Amelia Earhart. Marian Wright Edelman. All famous names, and all deserving of our appreciation and honor for sure.

Still, there is another group of women who are not as well recognized – whose faces and names and stories are not studied by schoolchildren, but who nonetheless played a critical role in shaping our nation’s history as well as leaving a legacy for years to come. They are women veterans and they have been invisible for far too long.

For decades, these ‘sheroes’ [women veteran heroes] have been serving proudly in the military, doing their duty for their country. Today, they represent 15% of the military and are the fastest-growing single population segment. But even with these statistics, when they return home they often fail to receive the recognition, benefits, or services they have earned.  Public and private-sector tools, services, and programs for veterans are still largely designed with men in mind and do not necessarily reflect the distinct needs of women. Also, many younger women vets tend not to self-identify as “veterans” and are therefore unaware of the benefits for which they are eligible.

To help women veterans successfully transition into civilian lives and provide them greater access to professional development and employment opportunities and other benefits, the Business and Professional Women’s Foundation (BPW) this month introduced a new nationwide campaign: Joining Forces for Women Veterans. I am a proud veteran and serve on the group’s Advisory Council, a panel of veterans and other experts with the vision and experience to help guide this initiative.

On March 15, we released a report summarizing the findings of a group of 80 leaders from the White House, federal agencies, veteran’s community, and the business and nonprofit sectors to discuss the challenges facing women veterans and plot a course for action.  This is a first step toward building a repository of information, resources, and evidence-based programs for women veterans about three key problems plaguing the women veteran population – homelessness, family and community reintegration challenges, and barriers to employment.  

As the women veteran population continues to grow, we must better recognize the challenges and commit to building the partnerships that provide solutions. Women veterans have much to contribute to the labor market and must have access to the economic mainstream, suitable housing, and the benefits they have earned.  

History teaches us that we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of our past if we do not learn the lessons they teach us.  As it pertains to women, we also know that we have not always done the right thing and have not always paid the proper respect.  I hope that we have learned those lessons to ensure we move quickly in all our efforts to take care of female veterans both now and in the future.  Like all who serve, it is the very least we can do for them, indeed should always by our very best.

To stay abreast of updates from the Joining Forces for Women Veterans initiative, please follow Joining Forces for Women Veterans on Facebook and Twitter (www.twitter.com/BPWF4WomenVets) or visit www.womenjoiningforces.org.

Posted in Women Veterans, Women's History Month | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

BPW Foundation: A Proud History of Supporting Working Women

Posted by sherrysaunders on March 10, 2011

During Women’s History Month it is only fitting that we remember the founding of  Business and Professional Women’s Foundation, the first foundation whose mission was to study, support and advocate for working women.  Check back later in the month for more BPW Foundation history tidbits.

Marguerite Rawalt signs the incorporation documents for BPW Foundation

The Business and Professional Women’s Foundation was organized in February 1956 by the BPW/USA (National Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs)  and was hailed as the first tax exempt Foundation and research center devoted exclusively to the interests and advancement of working women.

The Lena Lake Forrest Fellowship Fund of the National Federation, whose purposes were to “promote research into problems which are important to the business and professional woman and to encourage graduate study in fields of work in which the Federation would like to enlarge the activities of women,” was turned over to BPW Foundation to administration.

The first BPW Foundation grant was awarded to Dr. Margaret Cussler for research on her book, The Woman Executive.

Over the years, BPW Foundation has focused on eliminating gender bias and ensuring fair pay.  But BPW Foundation’s interests were wide-ranging as this sampling of articles and papers published in  1956 illustrate. 

While we now are all attuned to advocating for STEM and women in non-traditional careers, BPW Foundation was talking about and educating on those issues in its very first year, 55 years ago.

And the second year was just as busy and groundbreaking.  BPW Foundation conducted the survey on working women, WomanPower Survey.  They also were one of the first to look at issues surrounding older women in the workforce in Too Old for a Job? Other topics targeted in 1957 included:

The members and supporters of BPW Foundation have a long and proud history of leading the way for creating successful workplaces that “work” for both women and employers.

For more on the history of BPW Foundation, check our History Project on the BPW Foundation website.

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International Women’s Day: Its Our Day

Posted by weeksm on March 6, 2011

 March 8, 2011 marks the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day (IWD), a global day of recognition.  Thousands of events are being held around the world to celebrate women’s achievements, discuss issues and inspire women. This year’s theme for IWD is “Equal access to education, training and science and technology:  Pathway to decent work for women.”

In 1910, Clara Zetkin, leader of the “Women’s Office” for the Social Democratic Party in Germany, proposed the idea of an International Women’s Day at the 2nd International Conference of Working Women.  The conference attendees, more than 100 women from 17 countries, unanimously approved the suggestion.  The very first IWD was launched the following year on March 19th in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.  More than one million women and men attended rallies supporting women’s rights.  In 1913, IWD was moved to March 8th, which has remained the global date ever since.

In 1975, during International Women’s Year, the United Nations began celebrating March 8th as IWD. The General Assembly cited two reasons for adopting its IWD resolution:

  • To recognize the fact that securing peace and social progress and the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms requires the active participation, equality and development of women; and
  • To acknowledge the contribution of women to the strengthening of international peace and security.

The day has traditionally been marked with a message from the U.N. Secretary-General.

While women around the world have made great strides since the first IWD, women still do not receive equal pay to that of their male counterparts, they are underrepresented in business and politics, women’s education and health are worse than men’s, and rates of violence against them are higher.  BPW Foundation continues to work to transform workplaces in the United States by strengthening the capacity of organizations and businesses to create work environments that are inclusive and that value the skills and contributions of working women.

So in March, as we begin celebrations for Women’s History Month in the United States, let’s think globally.  There are 154 IWD events across America from Alaska to Florida listed on the IWD website at www.internationalwomensday.com. Be a part of the global sisterhood!

Posted in Diversity, Equal Pay, Feminism, girls, Global, Pay Equity, Successful Workplaces, Women's History Month | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »