Held weekly dinners for the women to discuss business ideas and opportunities Hosted guest lecturers speaking on a range of topics relevant to women’s interests and national/international issues Provided its members with health and accident insurance Financially supported girls and women with their educational pursuits
Born out of preexisting Monday night dinners in the First Methodist Church of Evanston in 1921, the Business and Professional Women’s Club was a place for professional women to meet and discuss ideas and opportunities. The club hosted guest lecturers who spoke on a wide range of topics the women would be interested in–everything from economics to makeup. The club financially supported girls and women in their educational pursuits, as well as local organizations, especially those by or for women. The Business and Professional Women’s Club of Evanston was the largest branch of the organization in Illinois.
Every Monday night, the First Methodist Church of Evanston served dinner to a group of church women who were also employed and seen as professionals. Based off of the desire to create a social organization for similar professional women, the Business and Professional Women’s Club was formed on November 4, 1921. Mrs. Marian Norris was the first president, and even though the meetings were based out of a church, the group was nonsectarian and nonpartisan. At these weekly meetings, the members were able to discuss ideas and opportunities amongst each other, and were also lectured by a host of experts, oftentimes local professors. These lectures covered many topics that were both relevant to the women’s interests and to the important issues of the country and world at the time. In the 20s, just a few years after women were given the right to vote, the club hosted talks on politics, which included sample ballots and descriptions of various candidates. In the 30s there were lectures on unemployment and economics, in the 40s on juvenile delinquency, in the 50s on investment and public welfare, and in the 60s on women’s changing societal status and Near East affairs. In the 70s, the club hosted a series of lectures on rape, including legislation, and victim blaming. The club created and distributed business card-sized descriptions detailing exactly what someone should do if she is raped. Throughout the years, many lecturers encouraged women to participate in more aspects of society, including government, business, public service, and the armed forces. There were also many talks every year about countries around the world that people had visited in order to teach members about different societies and cultures. The B. & P. W. supported girls and women pursuing a higher education. It gave scholarships to Evanston Township High School girls and to women attending Kendall College in Chicago. The club also contributed money to local organizations, especially those for or by women. In 1924, the Business and Professional Women’s club became affiliated with the National Federation (which was created in 1919), in 1927 with the Illinois State Federation, and in 1931 with the International Federation. The National Federation published the newsletter “Independent Woman,” and the local chapter published “The Bulletin.” From 1930 to 1960, membership usually lied between 200 and 300, yet after that, the numbers steadily declined and eventually tapered off in the late twentieth century. Throughout its years as an organization, the club worked to make women and girls more educated, knowledgeable, and prepared to compete with anyone, regardless of gender, in the outside world.