Historical Highlight: BPWC was Decades Ahead of Their Time
I frequently reference the old 1939 Historic Cameron Film. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it. It’s a treasure left behind by one of Cameron’s most forward thinking groups, the Business and Professional Women’s Club (BPWC). I’m sure they saw the film as a nice community project, but I doubt they had any idea it would still be such a remarkable project 80 years later.
In the early 20th century, social groups for women were common. Groups like Stitch and Chatter club, Sew and Sew club, Jenny Wren club, church groups and even the Christian Women’s Temperance Union were places women could meet and share similar interests. Some shared music, crafts, books, household tips, recipes, community news and occasionally strong political ideas with national significance.
The BPWC was a group of local women dedicated to raising scholarship funds for girls that wanted to go on to higher education and potentially become career oriented. At the time, rural education in one room school houses, often only provided education through the 8th grade. If a girl wanted a diploma she had to find a way into town everyday and getting a college degree was even more difficult. Many relied on groups like the BPWC for help.
The local Chapter was formed in the 1920s and was successful even through some of the toughest economic times. Decades before the women’s movement of the 1960s, the BPWC realized the benefits of having educational and career opportunities for girls, that were previously unavailable. Younger readers may find it hard to imagine the limited future many young women faced. Society has changed thanks to efforts of groups like the BPWC.
How does this fit the film story? In 1939 the BPWC commissioned a film company to make a documentary of Cameron as a fundraiser. The film crew spent a week here filming schools, churches, civic groups and businesses. The result was the film we now cherish. BPWC kept the 16mm master and after a conversion to video in 2007, it remains a testament to our community’s vision, pride and spirit.
As for the BPWC, they still exist under a new name called “The Friendship Learning Center” and they continue to quietly and effectively raise scholarship funds for girls seeking higher education. I’m sure donations are still welcome. They remain dedicated to their original goals and their success reminds me that in the early 1900s, the BPWC was decades ahead of their time.
As always, I appreciate your comments and story ideas.