History BPW

Present in over 90 countries

The first BPW gathered in 1919 in Kentucky, USA. The BPW International was founded in 1930 by the American lawyer Dr. Lena Madesin Phillips. In politically and economically difficult times, she had the vision to form an international association of professional women from all over the world.

Social policy

The goal was and is to create a better future for women with economic security and independence and a strong international, national and local network of relationships. In addition to the USA, England, France, Italy, Canada and Austria were among the founding countries. Today, there are BPW clubs in more than 100 countries.

Represented throughout Switzerland

The history of BPW Switzerland is closely linked to the fight for the women’s right to vote, equal rights and the promotion of women in professional life. Today, the association has about 2300 members and is represented by 40 clubs throughout Switzerland and in all linguistic regions.


Active for women for 100 years


  • Election of Claudine Esseiva and Beatrice Lüthi as Co-Central Presidents of BPW Switzerland.


  • Election of Claudine Esseiva as Central President of BPW Switzerland.


  • 15th European Conference in Zurich.


  • Election of Elisabeth Bosshart as Central President of BPW Switzerland.


  • Start Project Women on Board: BPW are strongly in favour of equal representation of women in executive positions.


  • President of BPW Switzerland: Monique Ryser.


  • First Equal Pay Day in Switzerland: Equal Pay Day marks the day when women stop working for free, while men receive wages from 1st January.


  • President of BPW Switzerland: Sabine Schmelzer. Gabriella Canonica was the first elected Vice President of BPW International.


  • President of BPW Switzerland: Sanja Ronga.
  • XXV International Congress in Luzern for the 75th anniversary of BPW International.


  • President of BPW Switzerland: Annette B. Isenschmid.
  • Election of Antoinette Rüegg as President of BPW International at the Congress in Melbourne.


  • International Golden Jubilee Congress of BPW International in Montreux.


  • Rosmarie Michel was the second Swiss to be elected President of the BPW International.


  • Madeleine Jaccard became the first French speaking elected Central President of BPW Switzerland. Her presidency was all about the vote on women's suffrage. At that time, BPW Switzerland already had 1800 members.


  • In 1967, under the presidency of Gertrud Waeckerlin, BPW Switzerland joined the Federation of Swiss Women's Organisations BSF (now allianceF).


  • Gertrud Waeckerlin, native from Basel, presided over BPW Switzerland. By the end of her term, there already were 16 regional Clubs.


  • Elisabeth Feller was the first Swiss woman to preside over BPW International.


  • Marta von Greyerz presided over BPW Switzerland. The most significant event of her tenure was undoubtedly the participation of BPW Switzerland in the SAFFA in 1958 in Zurich. More than 100 women's associations were involved, and more than 1.9 million women and men visited the “Schweizeische Ausstellung für Frauenarbeit” (SAFFA, English: Swiss Exhibition for Women's Work), which was exclusively organised and designed by women.


  • Over 500 BPW from about 20 countries travelled to Bern in August 1955 for the 25th anniversary of BPW International. At the official ceremony in the League of Nations’ hall, the women were outraged by the lack of the right to vote of the Swiss women and made this clear during the speech by State Councilor de Senarclens.


  • BPW Switzerland was officially admitted to the International Federation at the International Congress in London. Switzerland impressed their fellow sisters at this congress with a delegation of over 20 women.


  • In Zurich's Hotel Königsstuhl, BPW Switzerland was founded in the presence of 29 women on September 11, 1947. Thirteen women joined BPW Switzerland and elected the Horgen-based manufacturer Elisabeth Feller (1910-1973) as their first president. The close cooperation with the well-known paediatrician Marie Meierhofer resulted in a nursery that is still groundbreaking today. As an employer, Elisabeth Feller lobbied for years for the postulate “equal pay for equal work”. The successful entrepreneur was one of the first women to sit on the boards of major banks and insurance companies. Further, she committed herself with dedication for a generous development and refugee policy. She was the first non-English speaking president of the International Federation of Business and Professional Women and, within this position, a member of various departments of the UN, Vice President of the Swiss Commission for UNESCO, a member of the Swiss Commission for Technical Cooperation and the Committee of the Swiss Foundation for Technical Development.


  • Lena Madesin Philips (1880-1950) founded the BPW International in Geneva on August 30th, 1930, in the presence of 200 women from 16 countries.


  • The first BPW gathered in in Kentucky, USA.