Una R. Winter

Upon being elected to the presidency of the southern district of the California Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs in 1926, Una Winter stated:

I have a great dream, and it is because of this dream that I am in the Business and Professional Women’s Federation trying to do my little part toward bringing that dream into reality.

It is that all women eventually may be economically free—economically independent.  When that time comes, we will all be better women, better wives, better mothers and will bring into the world better children.  For lack of the necessities of life will not handicap us as it does now.

We will be properly compensated for whatever work we do, whether it be in the business and professional world, or whether it be in our own homes raising our own children.

I do not know how this can be brought about—far wiser heads than mine will work on this problem.

But I can see it coming slowly and surely, and our business and professional women (already being compensated for their work) will see the justice and aid the home women to secure proper and systematic compensation for the absolutely necessary and valuable work they are doing.

For the laborer is worthy of “her” hire.[1]

Una Winter is a fascinating example of a middle-class woman in the 1920s and 1930s, who adopted the goals of the Business and Professional Women’s Club and made them her life’s ambition.  She wrote letters to campaign for and protest against various economic, political, and legal issues affecting women, promoted education for women, worked to preserve and develop land for parks, and labored for international peace.[2]  Towards the end of her life, Winter collected materials on who she felt was the ultimate mentor of women—Susan B. Anthony, leader of the woman suffrage movement.  Winter placed the collection in the Huntington Library for future generations.  She also had a sequoia tree named in Anthony’s honor as well as a formal day of observance.

Not much is known about Una Winter’s early life.  Born 29 December 1872, in Big Spring, Wisconsin to Newell and Grace Holmes Richardson, Una grew up with two brothers, Roy and Earl (Earl later became famous as the inventor of the Hotpoint electric iron—known today as the General Electric iron).  Una completed high school but did not attend college.  She worked for five or six years in a lumber office and then taught in a country school which her mother urged her to do.  On 8 November 1898, she married George L. Winter.  George was born and raised in Tomah, Wisconsin.  His occupation remains a mystery.  Una never mentioned what George did for a living for the first fifteen years of their marriage.  At first, Una and George lived in Wisconsin.[3]  Later they moved to Chicago, Illinois.  Although Una and George never had any children, Una quit her job for as she explained it, “It was not customary for women, when wed to go on with their careers so I retired.”[4]  However, she did not retire from social activities.  Una became a member of the Altrui Women’s Club in Chicago and was elected president from 1912-1914.[5]

Since the early days of the Republic, women organized into associations to achieve goals when constrained by law and custom and denied access to most of the major institutions by society.  Benevolent societies, the abolition movement, and commission work during the Civil War provided women with an education, a way to socialize, and collective power to achieve their goals.  In the 1870s, ladies literary clubs for “self-culture” suddenly appeared in various parts of the country.  Women wanted an education and created these clubs because there were not enough schools to handle the demand.  However, many of the literary clubs went through a dramatic transition from an exclusive focus on self-education to a concern with civic improvement.  At some point, members in these associations felt that they had done enough for themselves and now owed something to the larger community.  And these clubs provided a safe setting in which women, especially middle-class women, could enter public life without abandoning their domestic values or taking an aggressive stance.[6]  Women’s clubs raised funds for planting trees, educational scholarships for young women, establishing libraries, and building hospitals and playgrounds.  They also pressured local governments for clean streets, drinking fountains, and better school facilities.  By the 1890s, club formation proliferated.  In 1892, Jane Croly (founder of the Sorosis Club of New York) established the General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC) to provide for the exchange of constitutions, ideas, and information among women’s clubs.  In the first year, 500 clubs belonged to the federation with over one hundred thousand members.  By the end of the century, the GFWC had one hundred sixty thousand members; and by World War I, over a million.[7]

When the GFWC was formed, women’s clubs took a step toward national politics as well.  Many women’s clubs already practiced “municipal housekeeping”—the idea that women, as the center of home life, were responsible for the moral tone in the four walls of a home and the neighborhood, town, and city.  At the biennial meetings of the GFWC, women extended this belief to the nation.  Delegates at the meetings passed resolutions for protective laws, child labor laws, pure food and drug legislation, and in 1914, woman suffrage.[8]

As her presidency ended with the Altrui Club, however, Una and George moved from Chicago to Upland, California.  They settled down as respectable middle-class residents.  George became a member of the Rotary Club, served on the Cucamonga Water company, and promoted the Boy Scouts to Mexican American boys.  George and Una bought a citrus ranch and she became the accountant.[9]  She was working in the business world again and loved it.  Una immediately joined the Pomological Club to better understand fruit-growing.[10]  When the Upland Business and Professional Women’s Club was founded, Una became a member.

By the 1920s, women’s associations changed significantly.  As voters, women freely participated in the public realm.  Women also had a much higher rate of high school and college education, a lower birth rate, more professional opportunities, and three-quarters of all adult women were not employed.  These circumstances, therefore, allowed a greater number of women to participate in clubs and address specific issues concerning women.  As a result, new organizations formed to meet these needs such as the League of Women Voters and professional clubs like Zonta International, Quota International and the National Federation of Business and Women’s Clubs (NFBPW).[11]

Lena Madesin Phillips, a lawyer, founded the club in 1919 because she wanted to bring together women and increase their sense of solidarity, while also increasing the value of women as a group to their respective communities and society at large.  The NFBPW club emphasized sorority, career development, how to fight sex discrimination in business, and professional standards of performance.  In addition, it promoted several political, legal, and economic issues: the Equal Rights Amendment, right of working wives to keep their jobs, female political representation at the local, state, and federal levels, and international peace.  Many women responded to the new Business and Professional Women’s Club (BPW) with great enthusiasm.  By 1922, 368 clubs were affiliated with the federation bringing the membership total to approximately thirty thousand women.[12]

Adda Bradford Manker, the city librarian, founded the Upland Business and Professional Business Women’s Club in May 1920 with five other women.  Manker felt there was a need for the women to have an organization through which they could work for the good of the community and to have a forum for discussing mutual interests and problems.  She first named it the Upland Business Women’s Club.  When the club became affiliated with the federation in 1923, the name was changed to Upland Business and Professional Women’s Club.  Although it is not known if Winter was a charter member, she joined the club early on for she was president of the organization from 1922-24 (when the club became part of the federation).  The first few projects the club worked on related to civic improvements.  It created a ladies lounge in Atwood’s Department Store to provide a rest stop for women from the surrounding citrus ranches when in town.  Later the lounge turned into a “community cottage” for local associations to meet and conduct business.  The club also urged the city of Upland to buy land in San Antonio Heights for a park and raised money to develop Upland’s Memorial Park.[13]  Once the Upland BPW affiliated itself with the federation, it immediately widened its outlook and adopted the federation’s goals.

Even though Winter joined other organizations and served in executive positions such as the Upland Woman’s Club, she always devoted herself first to BPW for as she explained in an interview for a newspaper, she loved the business world:

An office girl!  In a lumber company—of all places in the world!  Why can’t she do like her girl friends and neighbors and be a teacher if she has to be new-fangled and do something!

“It wasn’t that they thought I couldn’t do it, you know,” explained [Una Winter] the new president of the southern district, California Federation Business and Professional Women’s Clubs.  “But it seemed so unnecessary to these good folk that I should blaze the trail in such an apparently unfeminine calling.  Well, anyway, I found the job heaps of fun and a great deal of training.”

After five or six years, Mrs. Winter left the business realm she had learned to love, and took up the calling her mother had mapped out for her—teaching.  “I hated the uncertainty of pay day.  The business world, my first love, called me again and I returned.  Then I got married.  It was not customary for women, when wed, to go on with their careers, so I retired.  For a good many years I was just Mrs. Winter, a home body with a homebody’s interests and outlook.”

“Then we moved to California! Not long after my arrival I found myself a first-aide and a custodian of the treasury for my husband and brother, then in the citrus business.  I am still at the job, which has grown and broadened, interestingly.  I do most of my work at home on my own time.  But I feel I am a real partner.”[14]

The BPW also marked the beginning of a fruitful career in club work for Winter when she reached her fifties.  A new sense of energy and purpose shows in her writings and activities for women.  In all of them, Winter passionately adopted and supported the goals of the BPW.

Winter strongly believed that women were the equals of men with “only one great difference—and that is their (women’s) instinct to place human life above property rights.”[15]  She theorized that it was women’s economic dependence on men that held them back from achieving full equality with men.  “Only economic independence will lift us out of the thralldom of the past.”[16]  Winter wrote:

I confidently expect that when the economic independence of women is established; when both those who work outside the home and those who work in it receive adequate compensation, they will be able and courageous enough to bring in our man-made civilization.

I believe these changes will be beneficial.[17]

Not all women agreed with Winter.  Whereas many women in the early twentieth century fought for equal pay for equal work and improved employment opportunities for women, they were not united on other economic issues.  Prominent women such as Eleanor Roosevelt and organizations like the League of Women Voters and Women’s Trade Union League favored protective legislation that limited the number of hours women could work, the time of day they could work, and the kinds of jobs women could fill, so as to protect women workers from exploitation.  Other organizations such as the BPW opposed protective legislation arguing that such laws deprived women of economic opportunities and served to legitimate sex discrimination.  Rather than helping women, these laws were said to economically handicap them.  Therefore, the BPW wanted equal treatment.[18]

In a letter to Eleanor Roosevelt, Winter presented three reasons for discontinuing protective laws for women.   First, she claimed that protective laws were enacted before women gained the vote and they were needed so that women were not exploited.  However, now that women had suffrage, they could demand whatever they wished.  Second, protective legislation for women was inconsistent since, as Winter pointed out, groups such as workers in the fruit and vegetable industries, nurses, or even household workers were exempt from it.  Finally, protection implied inferiority.  Women, Winter asserted, were just as physically and mentally strong as men and were as capable of looking after their best interests as men were.  Therefore, protective legislation was no longer needed.[19]

Winter did not persuade Roosevelt.  In reply, Roosevelt stated that she and Winter defined “protection” differently.  In relation to work, Roosevelt saw it as “a recognition of the fact that some women have primarily different functions from men and therefore in the competitive industrial world, need certain consideration which only a law can give them as they are not always able to achieve this by contract.”[20]

Another battle in which Winter became actively involved was the right of women to keep their jobs after marriage.  In the 1920s, the woman who wanted to combine marriage and career faced a hostile environment.  The popular preconception held by society was that employed married women, especially those working in white-collar occupations, went against their true vocation—working in the home and raising children—and therefore, threatened the stability of their families and society.  With the Depression, there was even a larger outcry against them.  Many Americans believed that they took jobs away from men and single women.[21]  One incident took place in Winter’s own backyard.  In November 1931, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors requested the heads of county departments to dismiss women with able-bodied husbands as employees as an unemployment relief measure.  Although many of the offices complied with the request, a few refused.  As a result, the county board of supervisors formed a grand jury to investigate into the employment in county offices of married women who did not depend on their earnings for support of a household.  The board still believed women took jobs away from men, who had families to support.[22]  Winter immediately responded and protested against the dismissals through letters and the local newspaper:

As a taxpayer and voter of this county, I protest the dismissal of any employee who is filling his or her position in a creditable and efficient manner.

Women are citizens, the same as men; our state constitution guarantees them the right to work in any line they choose.

Civil service rules takes no account of sex—only efficiency.

We women ask that we be given the same consideration as men; that marriage shall be no detriment to our holding our positions.

If all the married women workers who are without dependents were discharged today, that would not solve unemployment.

Unemployment’s problems can be solved only by giving every one, man and woman, an opportunity to work.[23]

Consequently, the judge on the case placed Winter’s name on the list of grand jurors and her name was drawn.  Winter joyfully served on the grand jury for she felt she must do “what I can to help women to realize that they are now citizens—with all the privileges and responsibilities that that term implies.”[24]  At the same time that Winter served her term, she heard that the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company had dismissed eight married women employees.  She fired off a protest letter to the president and vice-president of B & O Railroad arguing as she had in the San Bernardino case that “Women are citizens and tax-payers. . . . They do not ask for advantages over men—but they do ask fair play.”[25]  In the end, Winter won one battle but lost the other.  The grand jury ruled that the county could not dismiss any more married women in their employment to alleviate rising unemployment due to the Depression.[26]  In the case of the railroad, Daniel Willard, president of the company, disagreed with Winter and was not persuaded by her argument.  He continued to discharge married women in his company to give men with families a job.[27]

Winter also concerned herself with female representation in public office.  The issue of political representation united many women’s groups.  They ran their own candidates for public office, protested the paucity of female representation in public affairs, and demanded that local, state, and federal leaders appoint more women and support more women candidates.  The BPW lobbied for more women in public office and urged their members to take a greater role in public affairs.[28]  Winter gladly took up the task.  She became second vice-president of the Business Women’s Legislative Council of California, she traveled to Mexico to discuss issues of equality with Mexican women, and she sent letters of congratulations to Hattie Caraway of Arkansas on her reelection to the Senate and to Eleanor Roosevelt on the appointment of Rose Winslow to public office.[29]  However, Winter also disagreed with some of the women appointed to public office.  In keeping with the belief that women were the equals of men, Winter voiced her opinion to Mrs. Harvey Wiley, Chairman of the National Woman’s Party (NWP) about the appointment of Mrs. Morrow of New Jersey to the Senate.[30]  In this letter, Winter boldly stated that there “seems to be a glaring inconsistency on the part of some of the outstanding members and leaders of the National Woman’s Party.”[31]  In an article in the October Equal Rights magazine issued by the NWP, Winter interpreted that the leaders of the NWP tried to get Mrs. Morrow appointed to fill out her husband’s term on account of her sex.  For as she stated: “I do not approve of the appointment of wives to fill out their deceased husband’s terms in legislative bodies, unless that wife has shown the proper qualifications and demonstrated her ability along these lines.”[32]  Winter must have been relieved when Wiley responded that the NWP completely agreed that only qualified women should hold public office and not be appointed on the basis of their sex.[33]

After women won the right to vote, the NWP announced its commitment to the removal of all forms of discrimination against women.  In 1921, the NWP began a state-by state campaign for equal rights and in 1923 secured the first congressional hearings on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which stated that “men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction.”[34]  The premise was that equal treatment of the individual before the law so that working women could have “an equal chance with men to compete in the labor market for their livelihood.”[35]  When the BPW was founded in 1919, the federation immediately supported the ERA for they saw it as a logical extension of suffrage.[36]

Winter openly gave her support to the cause.  In 1931, she called for a resolution for an educational campaign during the coming year on the “equal status of men and women under the laws of the state of California,” arguing that throughout the United States there were over one thousand laws discriminating against women.  Only through the adoption of the ERA would discrimination be wiped out.  Therefore, it was the duty of the BPW to support the amendment which had been introduced into Congress and also the California legislature.[37]  Moreover, Winter wrote Alice Paul, a national leader of the NWP in 1932:[38]

The more I contemplate “Equal Rights” the more I visualize the advancement of the human race. . . . Only economic independence will lift us out of the thralldom of the past. . . . My sincere gratitude to you and your associates for opening our eyes to our “rights” and fighting the battles that will bring to us a real freedom.  We, of our Council, are trying to help you in every way we can.[39]

In addition, Winter became a member of the NWP and wrote letters of support for the ERA to Congressmen and Senators.

Although Winter fought for equality for women and spent most of her time on it, she also devoted herself to other activities—progressive education, music, preservation of trees, and the arts.  In the late 1930s Winter became president of the Susan B. Anthony Memorial Library Committee of California.  For over a decade, the committee collected letters, documents, and memorabilia on Susan B. Anthony to be placed in a library for future generations.  The material was eventually donated to the Huntington Library in San Marino.  In 1938, Winter persuaded the National Park Service to name a sequoia tree in honor of Anthony in Sequoia National Park and in 1939, she convinced the California Senate and Assembly to approve the observance of a Susan B. Anthony day every October.[40]

In the early 1950s, Winter’s health began to fail.  She continued, however, to work on her projects concerning Susan B. Anthony.  She also made an effort to attend as many club activities as possible.  Winter died in 1956.  In honor of her memory the Upland BPW developed a scholarship fund.  The Una R. Winter Memorial Scholarship presented twenty-five dollars a semester to help a deserving high school girl complete her education (it was Winter’s wish that every girl have at least a high school education, also an objective of most women’s clubs).  It was later changed to help a junior or senior at Upland College who planned to be a business or professional woman.  Later it was changed once again to help mature women attending Chaffey College reenter the business world.[41]

Winter clearly made the goals of the BPW her life’s work.  In one of her notebooks of “correspondence on Rights of Women and a few other subjects,”[42] Winter wrote under a photograph of Sue Brobst, president of the Business Women’s Legislative Council of California and also an advocate of equal rights:  “The one—to whom I owe my opportunity to enter into State, National, and Inter-National organization work.  She ‘pushed’ me into the presidency of the Southern District, Calif. Federation (1927) of Business and Professional Women’s Club—and that lead to all that follows.”[43]  How Winter met Brobst or under what circumstances is unknown but somehow Brobst convinced Winter of the need to fight for the equality of women and Winter took up the challenge.

In 1946, the Upland BPW club gave a party in Winter’s honor.  They presented her with a scrapbook of newspaper clippings, programs, and above all letters from her friends in the club listing her encouragement, dedication, and accomplishments.  As a clubwoman, Winter fought to make women the equals of men.  She was also a tireless leader, mentor, and friend.  Dana Newton, president of the California Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Club from 1939-1940, summed up Winter’s career as a clubwoman most appropriately:

We pay our highest tribute
To your devotion to our cause;
For your leadership of women
Is outstanding, and we pause,
Just to say we love you Una,
You’ve inspired us all the way
To be better business women
For the future, come what may.[44]


[1] “Pioneer Office Girl Shocked Friends, Now Dreams of Woman’s Economic Freedom,” Los Angeles Record, 27 August 1926.

[2] No real studies have been done on individual clubwomen, especially in the 1920s and 1930s.  Although Susan Ware in Beyond Suffrage looks at twenty-eight women in the 1930s, her study examines at women who made important contributions to the planning and administration of the New Deal’s social welfare programs.

[3] Max Binheim, Women of the West, (Los Angeles: Publishers Press, 1928), 98; “Pioneer Office Girl,” Los Angeles Record, 27 August 1926; “Mrs. Winter is Summoned After Active Career,” Upland News, 26 January 1956; “George L. Winter Taken by Death,” Upland News, 3 May 1951.  I am assuming Una’s parents were at least of middle-class status since Una attended high school.

[4] “Pioneer Office Girl,” Los Angeles Record, 27 August 1926.

[5] I could not find anything about the Altrui Women’s Club.  I assume this organization was similar to other women’s clubs of that period and that they worked towards improving the community.

[6] Anne Firor Scott, Natural Allies, (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1991), 2, 111-140.

[7] Nancy Woloch, Women and the American Experience, 2 vols., (New York: McGaw-Hill, Inc., 1984), 287-292.

[8] Anne Firor Scott, Natural Allies, 141; Nancy Woloch, Women and the American Experience, 290.

[9] Una’s brother Earl was also a partner in the citrus ranch.

[10] Max Binheim, Women of the West, 98; “Pioneer Office Girl,” Los Angeles Record, 27 August 1926; “Mrs. Winter,” Upland News, 26 January 1956; “George L. Winter,” Upland News, 3 May 1951.  In comparing the Winters to other citrus ranchers in the Upland region, their ranch did not show up in citrus records or exchanges.  Therefore, it is safe to assume they were of middle-class status especially since George served on the Cucamonga Water Company for 20 years and was also a member of the Upland Rotary Club.

[11] Nancy F. Cott, Grounding of Modern Feminism, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987), 89, 95-97.

[12] Ibid, 89-90.

[13] Margaret Thrasher to Upland Business and Professional Women’s Club, 1985, Upland Business and Professional Women’s Club Papers, Cooper Regional History Museum, Upland, California (hereafter cited as BPW Papers).

[14] “Pioneer Office Girl,” Los Angeles Record, 27 August 1926.

[15] Una Winter to C. C. Little, 18 February 1929, BPW Papers.

[16] Winter to Alice Paul, 28 November 1932, BPW Papers.

[17] Winter to Little, 18 February 1929, BPW Papers.

[18] Ethel Klein, Gender Politics, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1984), 19.

[19] Winter to Eleanor Roosevelt, 18 October 1932, BPW Papers.

[20] Roosevelt to Winter, 25 October 1932, BPW Papers.

[21] Nancy F. Cott, Grounding of Modern Feminism, 179-211.

[22] “Upland Women’s Leader Voices Protest Against Dismissal of Matrons From County’s Service,” The Sun, 21 November 1931.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Winter to Judge F. A. Leonard, 3 February 1932, BPW Papers.

[25] Winter to Daniel Willard and C. W. Galloway, 12 May 1932, BPW Papers.

[26] Dr. M. J. Sweeney to Winter, 11 October 1932, BPW Papers.

[27] Willard to Winter, 19 May 1932, BPW Papers.

[28] Ethel Klein, Gender Politics, 21.

[29] Winter to Senator Hattie Caraway, 25 August 1925 and Roosevelt to Winter, 28 February 1939, BPW Papers.  Hattie Wyatt Caraway was appointed to the U. S. Senate to fill out the term of her late husband, Thaddeus Caraway.  She became the first woman elected to the U. S. Senate, in a special election (1932), then ran for reelection and won, serving until 1944.  Irene M. Franck and David M. Brownstone, Women’s World (New York, HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 1995), 355.  Rose Winslow was an organizer for the Consumers’ League and National Women’s Party.  Carol O’Hare, ed., Jailed for Freedom (Oregon, NewSage Press, 1995), 193.

[30]Nothing else is known about Mrs. Morrow.

[31] Winter to Mrs. Harvey Wiley, 5 November 1931, BPW Papers.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Wiley to Winter, 10 December 1931, BPW Papers.

[34] Sara Evans, Born for Liberty (New York: The Free Press, 1989), 187.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Jane Sherron De Hart, “Rights and Representation,” U. S. History as Women’s History (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995), 217.

[37]  “Club Women Work for Fairer Laws,” The Upland News, 26 June 1931.

[38] Alice Paul (born 1885) founded the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage (later changed to the National Woman’s Party), a radical militant spin-off from the National American Woman Suffrage Association, though formally a NAWSA affiliate.  Paul also proposed the first version of the Equal Rights Amendment in 1923.  Irene M. Franck and David M. Brownstone, Women’s World, 200, 281, 292, 321.

[39] Winter to Paul, 28 November 1932, BPW Papers.  The council Una refers to is the Business Women’s Legislative Council of California.

[40] Thrasher to Upland BPW, 1985, BPW Papers.

[41] Thrasher to Upland BPW, 1985, BPW Papers.

[42] Winter, no date, BPW Papers.

[43] Winter, no date, BPW Papers.

[44] Dana Newton to Winter, 13 June 1946, BPW Papers.