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Beth Gibson Lilja Rescues the History of MFBPW

Updated: Jan 3

“History is who we are, and why we are the way we are.” David McCullough

Saving the 100-year history of the venerable Minnesota Federation of Business and Professional Women (MFBPW) got a tremendous boost this year when Beth Gibson Lilja gave it some thought. As a long-time BPW member and photo manager and Ambassador for the photo and document web-based storage organization, FOREVER®, she realized the two entities were a match made in heaven—or at least in the Cloud.




FOREVER® provides a permanent digital home that will last for generations. It is like insurance for your photos and precious documents. Users “own” storage space forever. Items stored in FOREVER® can be accessed from any digital format, smart phone to computer. So, it is also a “living” resource you can use for daily activities, like grocery lists. (Be honest. How many times have you forgotten your grocery list at home?)


As MFBPW approached its 100th anniversary with an uncertain future, Beth realized the need. This organization’s history, dating back to the suffragette movement and so many other women’s advancements, must be preserved, protected, and promoted. Exactly what a FOREVER® account can do.


So, Beth and her company have volunteered to establish “The MFBPW Legacy Project,” which will gather, scan, curate and preserve the documents and photos available throughout MFBPW’s 100 years. Beth is notifying chapters, current and past, inviting them to share items.


One past president, E. Irene Theis, 94 years old, has already donated her BPW scrapbook. Boxes are lining Beth’s office walls. This will be a multi-year project, and volunteers are welcome. MFBPW members can contribute and view and tag others so they, too, can savor and learn from this organization’s rich history.


As the famous presidential historian, Doris Kearns Goodwin said, "What history can show is that the greatest changes that have occurred in our lives in terms of social justice and opportunity have occurred when citizen activism took place." BPW, of course, is a great example of that activism.


According to the History, Art & Archives of the United States House of Representatives, Susan B. Anthony and Ida H. Harper co-wrote, [of their women’s suffragette efforts] “In the indifference, the inertia, the apathy of women, lies the greatest obstacle to their enfranchisement.” If there is one thing BPW does NOT have, it would be “indifference, inertia and apathy.”


And the need continues today. A few examples:

  • 1 in 4 women experience severe physical or sexual violence. 72% of human trafficking cases are women and girls.

  • According to McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace 2019 Report, for every 100 men promoted to management, only 72 women were promoted.

  • Across industries, women in America earn less than men, with the most substantial gap being company management positions. In these roles, men made an average of $90,000 in 2017, compared to $57,000 for women. 63% of those earning minimum wage are women.

  • The ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) which BPW adopted as a cause in 1937, remains to be ratified. (The required 38 states have passed the ERA. The US Senate must abolish the old deadline for the ERA Amendment to be adopted nationally.)

But there is also the fun. According to MFBPW’s magazine, in 1962, the Leech Lake BPW Club met in October during Opening Duck Season...They shared the Sleepy Hollow Supper Club with duck hunters at the bar, donned in camouflage. “We were only asked about five times to, “BURN OUR BRAS.” I was proud of our club members—did not lose our cool. Talked through the request and had a very impressive evening. Hunters gave us a standing ovation...Just a piece of history,” Joyce Humphreys, Charter Member, PAP.


Ohhhh, the value, wonder and FUN of history...the amazing accomplishments of BPW...and the brilliance of FOREVER® as a way to preserve it.


If you have been involved with BPW and have items to share, or are interested in your own FOREVER® account, contact Beth: beth@gettingorganizednow or 612-616-1215.

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