For over one hundred years, the women of BPW have been dedicated to advancing the cause of our nation’s working women. We take great honor to reflect on the accomplishments our sisters have achieved in the past.
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.” Officially forming on July 16, 1919, BPW/USA became the first organization created to focus on the issues of working women. Since then, BPW has consistently provided education, outreach, and opportunity for advocacy on issues that affect working women.
1960's: The establishment of "Status of Women" commissions in the U.S. in 1963 was due largely to BPW efforts. President John F. Kennedy recognized BPW's leading role in securing passage of the Equal Pay Act by giving BPW/USA's National President, Dr. Minnie Miles, the first pen he used when signing the Act into law. The first National Legislative Conference, held in 1963 in Washington D.C., later developed into BPW's Policy & Action Conference, where members lobby Congress and the Administration on BPW's legislative issues.
In the 1980's, BPW tackled "comparable worth" by calling for newspapers to stop the occupational segregation in classified ads (clustering of women in a few restricted occupations of low-paying, dead-end jobs). Numerous state and municipal governments revamped their pay scales, recognizing dissimilar jobs may not be identical, but may be composed of tasks, educational requirements, experience and other characteristics that are equivalent or comparable.
In 1986, San Francisco became the first city in the nation to approve a pay equity referendum, implementing $34 million in increases for employees in female and minority-dominated jobs. Continuing with BPW's focus on workplace issues, BPW lobbied Congress for passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act, which finally passed in 1993.
1990's: Discussions on comparable worth were expanded to include enforcement and strengthening of existing Equal Pay legislation. 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's focus legislation through the '90s. Then-Secretary of Labor, Elizabeth Dole, and First Lady Barbara Bush addressed BPW's members at the White House Briefing during the 1990 "Lobby Day" event.
In 2005, BPW/USA launched Women Joining Forces: Closing Ranks, Opening Doors (WJF), a program to support female 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 female veterans.
In 2009, BPW/USA and BPW Foundation merged to become one national organization dedicated to promoting and advocating for successful workplaces for women, families and their employers.