Overview of the Collection
Scope and Content
Overview of the Collection
Title: Business Women's Legislative Council of California records.
Dates (inclusive): 1927-1943
Collection Number: mssBusiness Women's Legislative Council
Business Women's Legislative Council of California.
339 items in 1 box
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, California 91108
Phone: (626) 405-2129
Abstract: This collection consists of letters and documents that form a portion of the
Business Women's Legislative Council of California's records and chiefly document the organization, maintenance and activities
of the Council from 1929-1936 and 1938-1943.
Notable correspondence includes letters from elected officials as well as candidates in California and the governors of
nearly all states in response to questions about their positions on "equal rights for women wage-earners."
Open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information, contact Reader
The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of this material,
nor does it charge fees for such activities.
The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with
[Identification of item]. Business Women's Legislative Council of California records, The Huntington Library, San Marino,
Gift of Marjorie Longwell, July 1947.
Founded in 1927 under the leadership of Sue Brobst, the Business Women's Legislative
Council of California worked to bring about and maintain equal rights for women in
the workplace until the group folded in the mid 1940s. In its own words, the BWLCC’s
purpose was to bring about and maintain equal opportunity under the law for men and
women in the business world; and to oppose discriminatory legislation against women
engaged in gainful occupations." At its start, the organization principally
advocated against "protective laws" limiting women’s work hours to the daytime and a
maximum of eight hours per day. Passed to help wage workers, the BWLCC took offense
on principal to the law’s apparently unequal treatment of women and men. They also
argued that the law prevented women engaged in business and the professions from
putting in the long hours required for success. Like their counterparts nationally,
they received support from business interests like the Los Angeles Chamber of
Commerce and Merchants and Manufacturers Association and eventually the Republican
Party. Opposition came from those in the "labor-liberal" and "social feminist" camp
such as Franklin Roosevelt, his wife Eleanor Roosevelt, and his Secretary of Labor
Frances Perkins, who saw protective legislation for women as a key stepping stone to
legislation protecting all laborers.
At cursory glance it also seems that between the early 1930s and the late 1930s, the
membership began to include more teachers and workers. At the same time, business
and professional women’s clubs tended to drop their membership. At all times,
however, the group drew members mostly from the Los Angeles area despite its
statewide aspirations. Initially, some members came from San Diego for instance but
membership was generally concentrated in the white, Anglo, Protestant enclaves in
West Adams, Glendale and the San Gabriel Valley. In the late 1930s, the first Jewish
names appear as board members and shortly thereafter, the group expressed its desire
to cooperate regardless of "race or creed" and its interest in the political
activities of African-American and Japanese-American women’s groups. In addition to
individual memberships, the BWLCC included representative of various women’s clubs
such as, the Zonta Club of Pasadena, the Business Woman’s City Club, the Republican
Women’s Federation, the Sierra Madre’s Woman’s Club, the Women’s Lawyers Club, the
Women’s Traffic Club, the Women’s Aeronautic Association, and many chapters of the
California Federation of Business and Professional Woman’s Clubs. The organization
loosely cooperated with similar groups in other states such as New York and
Washington, as well as the International Federation of Business and Professional
Scope and Content
The collection consists of letters and documents which formed a portion of the
Business Women's Legislative Council of California's records. The items in the
collection pertain to the organization, maintenance and activities of the Council.
The records span the years from 1927 to 1943, although there is a general gap in the
files before 1929 and from 1936 through 1938. Notable
correspondence includes letters from elected officials as well as candidates in
California and the governors of nearly all states in response to questions about
their positions on "equal rights for women wage-earners." Prominent gubernatorial
signatories include Franklin D. Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot, Theodore Bilbo, and
Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. Among the many letters from California legislators, the one
from Culbert Olson is the most notable. Ephemera includes pamphlets on women’s
rights from other organizations, newspaper clippings/transcripts, convention
programs, and a typewritten tribute to Sue Brobst, BWLCC’s founder and long-time
Manuscripts comprise the bulk of the folders in the collection. The best records for
understanding the organization’s operations and culture are the meeting minutes. In
addition to supplying a running record of the organization’s history, they collate
information found in board member reports, correspondence, membership records,
resolutions and constitution. They become more detailed after 1939. The folder from
the 1935 convention is a particularly rich source of information, including a list
of the 500 members during the previous year. Membership records and applications
contain valuable information about the occupation and address of individual members
as well as a complete list of affiliated clubs. One major weakness of the collection
is that provides very little evidence in regard to the organization’s daily workings
and relevant inter-personal dynamics. The formality of the minutes, reports,
correspondents obscures these aspects of organizational life. However, the formality
itself indicates the organization’s approach within its particular social context.
Lastly, one folder contains material such as pamphlets and reports from the
International Federation of Business and Professional Women, with which the BWLCC
Major topics include women’s economic, social and legal conditions in the United
States, women’s and feminist societies, feminism’s political aspects, women’s
rights, the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, The
International Federation of Business and Professional Women, and the National
Women’s Party, as well as economic, social, and political conditions in Los Angeles
County and California.
Major participants in the collection fall into two categories. Nationally prominent
officials include Franklin D. Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot, Theodore Bilbo, Theodore
Roosevelt, Jr., and Culbert Olson. Notable BWLCC board members include Sue Brobst,
Albert Gude Lynch, Mamie L. Chase, Gertrude I. George, Frances Siener, Anne
Leidendeker, Una Winter, May G. Schaefer, Iva Kellog, Lila B. Clark, Majorie
Longwell. All held the role of president or secretary at some point and several such
as Brobst, George, Winter, and Longwell were active in many other public
organizations, before, during, and after the BWLCC’s tenure.
Grouped into folders, by document
type, the folders are in alphabetical order by and files within every folder are
National Woman's Party
Business Women's Legislative Council of California
Businesswomen -- California -- Societies, etc.
Equal rights amendments -- United States.
Women -- California -- History -- 20th century -- Sources.
Women -- Legal status, laws, etc.
Women -- Societies and clubs.
Women's rights -- United States.
Business records -- California -- 20th century.
Letters -- (correspondence) California -- 20th century.