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Women's Organization Fights to Maintain Advances

Oct. 8, 2006 — Cyndee Frontal wants women to remember a time when they couldnt vote, when they were not considered for corporate jobs or equal pay and when the only place for them was in the home.
Frontal, state president of the Business and Professional Women's Foundation (BPW), says her organization leads the fight to keep those days from returning.
There is definitely a myth that BPW doesnt do anything, but BPW is an advocate for working women by women, Frontal said. Our mission is to achieve equity for all women in the workplace."
BPW, Frontal said, is a force to be reckoned with.
Nationally we are a well-recognized organization and people listen when we come out as members of BPW, she said.
The national organization was founded 87 years in St. Louis, Missouri. Since then, its members have lobbied in Washington on issues ranging from voting and equal pay to funding for education campaigns on diseases such as cervical and breast cancer.
To help women better their lives, Frontal said, the organization provides scholarships both nationally and locally to help women get through college. The territory-wide chapter of BPW was founded 47 years ago by St. Croix attorney Gertrude Converse, whose work is remembered with a scholarship named in her honor.
Frontal oversees the workings of three local chapters, which act as voices for women through lobbying and community-service projects. Jackie Bass is president of BPW on St. Thomas; Marion Baptiste is president on St. Croix and Edwina Hendricks is president on St. John. On Sunday, members across the territory attended church services as a group to kick off the week-long observance of BPW Week. Other activities include social functions, which serve to recruit new members and get current members networking. Individual chapters will donate much-needed toiletries and linens to the Lucinda Millin Home for the Aged on St. Thomas and to the elderly unit at Luis Hospital on St. Croix.
"We donate whatever theyve asked of us, Frontal said.
The local chapters meet each month, she said, but on the state level meetings occur once every three months. Local chapters advocate both nationally and in their home districts because many of the same issues that affects women at home affect them nationwide, Frontal said.
We strive to maintain equity in the workplace and our organization has various committees both on the national and local level to monitor legislation that could adversely affect women, she said.
For example, Frontal said, the group learned that sick leave with pay wasnt guaranteed, as most workers believe.
It wasnt mandatory, and we were concerned about women who may get sick and forced to go to work just to get paid, she said. BPW members lobbied Congress to make sick leave with pay mandatory.
More recently the group lobbied Congress for more funding for an education campaign on cervical cancer. Some women didnt seek medical care until it was too late, Frontal said, creating widespread concern about the disease.
In February the president and other members from local chapters nationwide will converge in Washington for BPWs annual conference. Between conference sessions BPW members lobby individual representatives of Congress on issues affecting women, Frontal said.
Later this month, National President Nancy Jackson will be on island at Frontals urging to host leadership training on both St. Thomas and St. Croix. The training, which will include pointers on parliamentary rules, public speaking and the makeup of membership committees, will be held as a fund raiser for the Gertrude Converse Scholarship Fund. The training is open to all community organizations for a $25 fee.
Past scholarship fund raisers include BPWs annual toddler pageant and awards banquet.
The banquet gives us the opportunity to honor women for their contributions to the community as well as the workplace, Frontal said.
When BPW isnt lobbying, Frontal said, it frequently joins with other organizations — such as the V.I. Commission on the Status of Women and domestic-violence-prevention advocates territory wide — to advance causes for women in the Virgin Islands. In fact, she said, members plan to march in the St Croix Womens Coalition's Night Out against Domestic Violence later this month.
The leadership conference will take place over a two-day period on St. Croix and one full day on St. Thomas. Here's the schedule:
Oct. 27 Curriculum Center, St. Croix, 6 to 8 p.m.
Oct. 28 University of the Virgin Islands, St. Thomas, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Oct. 29 Curriculum Center, St. Croix, 2 to 6 p.m.
To register for the conference or to join the organization, call 773-1591 on St. Croix, 715-3342 on St. Thomas or 777-8752 on St. John.
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