Wild Women Of The West: Business & Professional Women’s Club

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In July 1927, Pearl Matlock, assistant manager of the Fred Harvey Company advertising department, helped organize train travel for more than 1,000 delegates of the Business and Professional Women’s Club.  The career women were making their way from New York to Oakland, California, for the national convention.  The train made stops along the way to collect representatives of the organization, and at each stop reporters were waiting to cover the momentous trip.  Pearl was one of the Harvey Company’s employees as well as the national chairwoman of the Business and Professional Women’s Club.  

By the summer of 1927, the organization had more than 45,000 members.  Its goal was to call attention to the “broadening effect of women’s contact in businesses and promote higher efficiency among them.”  An article about the event in the February 20, 1927, edition of the Albuquerque Journal explained that “Businesswomen in the East, who did not fully realize and appreciate the historic and artistic Southwest, would have an opportunity on the train trip to acquaint themselves with the progress made in that part of the country.”  

Key delegates of the Business and Professional Women’s Club acted as “conductors” when the train traveled through their respective home states.  The BPW transcontinental train was scheduled for extended stopovers in Colorado, Santa Fe, and at the Grand Canyon.  

The July 14, 1927, edition of the Arizona Daily Star covered the group’s arrival into Flagstaff on July 13.  “When the train jolted to a stop at 3 A.M., twenty BPW/AZ ‘cowboys’ dressed in ten-gallon hats, neckerchiefs, white blouses, blue, bobby skirts, guns, and holsters pretended to hold up the train,” the article explained.  “Once on board, they distributed copper and wooden souvenirs, Progressive Arizona magazine, a half a train car load of cantaloupes, and other Arizona fruit to passengers.”  

When the train arrived at the Grand Canyon at 6 A.M., Governor George W. Hunt and other staff officials welcomed the organization’s president to Arizona.  Hopi Indians performed ceremonial dances, and cowboys staged a small rodeo.  After disembarking from the train, passengers walked or drove around the canyon rim while others rode mules a short distance down the Bright Angel Trail.  The day ended when the Santa Fe Railway transported the women to a banquet at the Harvey House hotel the El Tovar.  

The first all women railroad party to cross the continental divide arrived in Oakland on July 21, 1927.  The organization’s motto “Better Business Women for a Better Business World”, typified all the club represented.  It would eventually become the largest women’s organization in the world. 

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