Jackson Area Business and Professional Women was formed in April 1919, originally named Jackson Business and Professional Women. Now coming up on 100 years of education, legislative advocacy and training for women, the organization continues to be strong in its mission.
The local organization has sponsored a number of business training conferences for women, Equal Pay Day events, as well as voter registration drives and monthly programs related to health, workplace issues, education and advocacy in our community.
The Jackson Area BPW is a member of the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce. Annually the Jackson Area BPW sponsors the Brown Bag Luncheons in recognition of National Business Women’s Week. During this week, the local organization names a local Woman of Achievement who is chosen from nominations received from the general public.
The organization created the Downtown Ghosts A-Walkin’ Tour that explores the history of Jackson and Madison County through “resident ghosts.” Funds from this event go towards the Jackson Area BPW scholarship, presented annually to the non-traditional female student returning to college to better her career and educational standing.
In 2010, Jackson Sun publisher Roy Heatherly and members of the Jackson Area Business and Professional Women met to discuss what we could do to honor women in West Tennessee who are outstanding in their fields. The consensus was to create the Sterling Awards: 20 Most Influential Women in West Tennessee. Since then, 20 women have been honored each year, chosen by a Board of Selectors from around 80 nominations annually. This has become a “standing-room only” event as the awards are presented.
Now Frank Hay, the general manager of The Jackson Sun, is also working to make these awards a great success.
In 2016, Jackson Area BPW and The Jackson Sun have added the Outstanding Woman Military Veteran Award and the Sue Shelton White Award. Sue Shelton White was
Jackson BPW president from 1929-1931 and she is literally a woman who changed America. As a suffragist she led the way in Tennessee ratifying the Nineteenth Amendment so women received the right to vote. White became a good friend of Eleanor Roosevelt and was also general counsel in Washington, D.C., implementing the Social Security Act.
JABPW and other organizations are working to create a sculpture of White that will reside in the City Hall Plaza, a testament to a woman from Jackson who shaped our world.
In 2014, the state convention was held in Jackson with State President Jacque Hillman presiding over the convention at the DoubleTree Hotel, which offered two days of business training workshops and outstanding speakers: Lillie Leonardi, renowned author and retired FBI executive who was the first on site where Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, PA., and Navy Cmdr. Cathy Lovelace, who spoke on her role as a Navy nurse in the Middle East.
Jackson Area BPW members have consistently led the way in state leadership, with Beth S. Bates, past state president, and various members such as Mary Jo Middlebrooks, Jan Bynum, Martha Ervin, Carol Turpen, Wanda Stanfill and others serving as district and state officers.