On June 7, 1919, a group of North Dakota women met in Grand Forks to discuss joining the National Federation of Business and Professional Women. This nationwide organization had seen its genesis in the Woman’s War Work Council, a body created in the wake of the United States' entry into World War I. The National Federation held its first meeting in St. Louis, Missouri, in July 1919. Agnes Rex of Grand Forks was present and was given the task of organizing clubs in North Dakota.
A state convention took place July 21, 1920, in Fargo. Five clubs were formed at this meeting: Grand Forks, Fargo, Valley City, Jamestown, and Bismarck. Agnes Rex was elected the first state BPW president. Within the following five years, clubs were also organized in Minot, Williston, Mandan, Dickinson, and Lisbon. The objectives of the group were:
1. to elevate the standards for women in business and in professional positions
2. to promote the interests of business and professional women
3. to bring about a spirit of cooperation among business women in the United States and other countries
4. to extend educational opportunities to business and professional women along the lines of industrial, scientific and vocational activities
The North Dakota Federation also published a monthly newsletter, The Gist of It, which ran from 1922 to 1932. Special Collections has cataloged holdings for this periodical (1922-1928). Another monthly newsletter, North Dakota Flickertales, began in the late 1940s. Holdings in Special Collections are incomplete (1951-1962, 1964-1976, and 1978-1979).
The Grand Forks Business and Professional Women’s Club was chartered August 18, 1919, and is the oldest club in the state. During its history, the club has sponsored numerous programs, conferences, and events. In the 1920s, the club operated a placement service for women seeking jobs and sponsored dances in 1923 to raise funds for a new snowplow for Grand Forks. In the 1950s, the club sponsored a scholarship for third year medical students. The club was active in supporting the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s and 1980s, as were both the state and national levels of the organization.
The Grand Forks Business and Professional Women’s Club has also been active in sponsoring other local chapters. The club was instrumental in forming chapters in Devils Lake and Grafton, as well as Crookston, Minnesota. The most recent club to be sponsored by the Grand Forks Club was the Grand Forks Air Force Base Business and Professional Women’s Club, founded March 20, 1968.