BPW Utah History

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Organization History

Utah's first Business and Professional Women's Club was organized in Salt Lake City in 1913. In 1919 Elizabeth Fitzgerald and Daisy Booth were sent as delegates to the St. Louis convention where the National Federation was organized. The first state convention was held following the formation of the Ogden Club in 1922. Since rules required a state federation of at least three clubs, Utah remained a member-at-large of the National Organization until 1923 when the Logan Club was founded.

By 1926 the state group was promoting projects of a civic nature as exemplified by their support for a state move by buy and preserve Cove Fort and the Old State House in Fillmore. Membership continued to grow reaching a total of 580 with twenty local clubs in 1928. During this period of time local club newsletters began publication. The decision to publish a state bulletin was made in 1929, however, "Forward Together" did not see issuance until 1933.

The economic depression of the 1930s brought changes to the state and local clubs. Many groups lost treasury funds through bank failures and straitened monetary circumstances reduced club memberships. By 1934 membership was only 370 from fifteen clubs. Efforts to restore economic prosperity resulted in consideration of laws the Utah Federation found discriminatory. The group waged a fairly successful campaign against passage of laws operating to the disadvantage of women. Through measures such as local study groups, publication of a digest of state statutes as they affected women, and maintaining a legislative observer, the federation helped defeat the discriminatory "Working Wives Bill."

During the war years of the 1940s the members of the Utah BPW found a number of constructive outlets for their energies. Local groups worked as nurses aids and sewed of knitted for hospitals and individual service men. They also helped support the United Service Organization (USO) program. Twenty-three Utah BPW members enlisted in the military service, most of them nurses. For their own members, and other returning service women, the clubs offered programs to assist in the readjustment to civilian life.

Two of the state federation's major continuing projects were started in the 1940s and lasted into the 1960s. In an effort to assist the Chinese people the Utah and National Federations started the Chinese Nurse Project in 1941. The focus of the group was two-fold. The immediate need for emergency care was net with and for refugees, civilians, and soldiers. The second and continuing part of the program was the establishment and maintenance of medical schools for the Chinese nationalists of Formosa.

Lasting nineteen years, the Rheumatic Fever Project was started in 1948 upon discovery that incidence of this disease in Utah was the highest in the nation. One of the group's major efforts was to raise money to establish a research laboratory at the University of Utah. They held informational seminars for the public on prevention and care for the disease. Assistance for parents with rheumatic children was given through care clinics and establishment of a "toy library." The project was discarded in 1967 as there had been a decided reduction in disease incidence and the project was too often confused with the heart disease fund.

By the 1950s membership had topped one-thousand. Because of this increase, the state federation readjusted the four state districts, organized in 1930, into six new districts. One of the major projects undertaken during the 1950s was the "House of Hope," a rehabilitation facility for women alcoholics. The group encouraged its establishment then helped with the financial maintenance. Another big issue during this period was conservation. Local and state organizations worked toward wise use and savings of natural resources.

Investigation into Utah statutes and their application led to a project of labor-law reform for the BPW clubs. The group published pamphlets and information about labor laws and worked with the Utah Women's Legislative Council to bring about change. This led logically into the organization of the Governor's Committee on the Status of Women in the 1960s. This committee, coordinating with similar groups across the country, studied women's roles in the labor force and their legal status. Each year they made a report on their findings and recorded their recommendations for further progress.

The social upheaval of the 1960s encouraged the BPW clubs to involve themselves closely with the country's youth. Junior clubs were started in high schools and colleges. A competition was held yearly for "Young Career Women." In addition to these activities the Utah Federation held "Youth Power Conferences" involving boys as well as girls.