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When the US mobilized for World War I in 1917, the government found that women were organized into religious or cultural groups, or by separate professions, but not as an overall business and professional group. A Women’s War Council was established by the War Department to develop a comprehensive women’s organization, which would assist in identifying and utilizing trained womanpower in the United States.

SF/BPW began in June, 1919, and three SF/BPW members attended the organizing convention for BPW/USA in July, 1919. The local organization affiliated with BPW/USA that fall. Dues were $1 per year. Though American women did not yet have the right to vote (the 19th amendment was ratified in August 1920), these pioneering women recognized the need for an organization which would elevate the standards for, promote the interests of, and extend opportunities for education to women in business and the professions.

SF/BPW grew rapidly. The first member directory, printed in 1930-31, showed 87 members, including bookkeepers, teachers, physicians, salesladies, managers, insurance agents, and business owners. In those days of limited opportunities for women, BPW provided an invaluable source of networking, support, and leadership development training for its members.

SF/BPW has always supported educational opportunities for women. An Education Loan Fund was started in the 1920’s. When the banks closed during the depression, SF/BPW lost all its monies, including the Education Loan Fund. Undaunted, they held a rummage sale which earned $100, enough to restart the Fund. Scholarships for traditional and non-traditional students continue to be one of the important outreach projects of our club.

National Business Women’s Week was first celebrated in 1928 to dramatize the contributions of women to the business and professional life of the country.

The BPW Foundation was formed in 1956 as the first research and education institution of national scope solely dedicated to issues that affect working women. SF/BPW is a member of the BPW Foundation.

The Individual Development Program had its first class in 1969. The national course outline focused on public speaking, networking, negotiations, parliamentary procedure, and leading a meeting. Our local program evolved as more advanced content was added, and we continue this educational opportunity as the Professional Development Program.

In 1993, under the leadership of member Lucille Green, SF/BPW published the Resource Guide for South Dakota Women, a compendium of information on protecting legal and employment rights, establishing and protecting a credit history, social security benefits, and financial planning.

BPW/USA merged with the BPW Foundation in 2009, following a period of declining membership. BPW/SD disbanded at that time, but SF/BPW chose to continue as an independent organization.

The mission of SF/BPW historically was “to work to achieve equity for all women in the workplace through advocacy, education, and information.” Following a strategic planning process in 2015, the members of SF/BPW voted to update the mission statement as follows: The mission of SF/BPW is to enhance the business and leadership potential of all women through networking, professional, and personal development.