During World War I as the United States turned to women to help in the war effort, national leaders realized that business women had not formally organized as they had in social, literary, and church clubs. Consequently, in 1919 women organized the National Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs, with a mission "to achieve equity for women in the workplace through advocacy, education, and information." In June 1919 national representative Ida Venable came to Oklahoma City to help organize local clubs, and representatives from Guthrie, McAlester, Muskogee, Oklahoma City, Okmulgee, Shawnee, and Tulsa formed the Oklahoma Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs.
Despite the fact that there were few cars or paved roads, women from Muskogee, Okmulgee, Shawnee, Oklahoma City, and Tulsa met at the Oklahoma federation's first annual convention, held in Muskogee on June 5, 1920. Laurie Bronson of Muskogee served as the first state president from 1919 to 1923. By 1925 the Oklahoma federation introduced their state newsletter, Headband and Feather (changed to Oklahoma Business Woman in 1986-87), so named because Oklahoma delegates to national conventions wore a yellow ribbon headband with a green feather. From 1929 to 1930 Oklahoma ranked eighth in the nation for membership.
In addition to raising money for scholarships and holding workshops to enhance work skills, the Oklahoma federation has worked on issues paramount to women nationwide. No longer needing to work on suffrage with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, clubs worked on equal pay and child labor laws during the early years of federation. During World War II club women worked on war bond drives and volunteered in the Red Cross. After the U.S. Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment in 1972, Oklahoma women lobbied unsuccessfully for ratification by the state. At the turn of the twenty-first century Oklahoma remained one of fifteen states that had not ratified the amendment.
From seven clubs statewide in 1920 to seventy-eight clubs in 1948-49, the Oklahoma Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs had declined to sixty-six local organizations with approximately nine hundred members at the turn of the twenty-first century. Although membership had dwindled, Oklahoma clubs continued to provide leadership and educational opportunities for working women and to influence laws that affect all Oklahoma women.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: A History of the Oklahoma Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs, 1919-1949 (N.p.: N.p., 1949). A History of the Oklahoma Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs, 1919-1993 (N.p. : N.p., 1993). "Oklahoma Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Linda D. Wilson
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