Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Dr. Harl Dalstrom
In 1922, a group of 121 business and professional women, members of the Omaha Business and Professional Women League, became the first women m embers of the Omaha Chamber o f Commerce, a civic group that had been promoting the growth o f the city since 1893. As women across the country, fresh from winning a seventy-year suffrage fight, were trying to move ahead yet in other areas, politically, professionally and legally, the women in the Omaha Chamber hoped to be treated as equals in the Chamber organization. They believed that when the Senior Chamber established a separate Women's Division, one in which they, the women, could administer their own projects, they would also be cooperating with the men in areas important to the city. Looking back, this cooperation turned out to be significantly gender-related. The membership of the Division grew from 121 in 1922 to over 1,000 by the midfifties and then began dropping. The members also changed: more were m arried and fewer were professional. Many joined but did not participate in committees or on projects. Initially, the group willingly took on the sponsorship and management of the Omaha Symphony Orchestra, a heavy commitment. Later projects were much less involved and time-consuming. The association o f the Women’s Division and the Senior Chamber was a long one: fifty-four years. During the time, the relationship changed until the Women’s Division em erged as a clearly subordinate, even auxiliary, group. While contributing much to their community, the women rarely got involved in the complex management, strategy and goals of the businessmen who made up the Chamber. They were, yet were not, legitimate Chamber members. When an order from the Senior Board in 1976 terminated the Division as an economic measure, the surprised women tried to convince the Chamber of the value of their projects. However, the decision was made leaving the women with a choice of joining the full Chamber or quitting their Cham ber association altogether. Some, not appreciating either option, formed the Omaha Women’s Chamber of Commerce, which still exists today.
Rotolo, Sharen A., "The women's division of the Omaha Chamber of Commerce 1922-1976" (2001). Student Work. 1290.
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