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1962: Founded as Women's Economic Club
On July 30, 1962, a Detroit Free Press headline proclaimed, “New Women’s Club a Reality.” Marie Moon, charter president, stated, “The primary aim of the Women’s Economic Club is to concentrate on government and civic activities at all levels, local and international, and its programs will be designed in this direction.” In the article, all the women are referred to as “Mrs.” and Allen B. Crow, founder of the Economic Club of Detroit, offered to “counsel the fledgling club.”
According to Fran Harris, WEC President, 1981-1982, Marie Moon, Alice Snider, Thelma Murrell and Dorothy Seifert gathered a group of 23 women together to discuss the formation of a luncheon club. “Their concept of a need for women office workers and professionals to create a vibrant force for the advancement of women was most appealing,” says Fran. She also remembers that at the time the Economic Club of Detroit would not admit women members.
The Women’s Economic Club, as it was known for 42 years, officially received its charter from the National Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs (NFBPWC) in 1962. It became an independent organization with its own bylaws in 1965.
The first luncheon meeting featured Virginia Allen, first vice president of the NFBPWC, a strong supporter of the WEC. The audience reflected the restricted career options for women at the time: a few business executives and professionals and a greater number of administrative assistants.
As women entered the work force and gained stature in the business community, their need for current information, mentoring and a place to share ideas and exercise leadership skills became critical. WEC provided these opportunities, and luncheon speakers included the Who’s Who of business, government and the media. The club grew from a “fledgling club” to an organization that is considered one of the most prestigious, active, and influential women’s professional organizations in the United States.
2004-2005: Expansion and Name Change
Over the years as the WEC continued to grow in membership, its mission to help women succeed remained constant. In 2004, the organization expanded to offer programming in Lansing with the introduction of Inforum Mid-Michigan operations in Lansing A year later, in November 2005, the organization grew by 25% with the launch of Inforum West Michigan in Grand Rapids.
In 2005, members also voted to change the name of the organization to Inforum: A Professional Women’s Alliance to better reflect the mission of the organization, which is to strengthen the business environment in Michigan by creating opportunities for women to lead and succeed. Programming encompasses not only luncheons, but seminars, leadership courses, and other networking events which allow members to build alliances with colleagues into empowering combinations.
Present: Retains Tradition, Looks to Future
Inforum has matured into an extraordinarily successful organization that retains a tradition of eminence and influence. In 1962, the founders did not have a crystal ball for predicting what the original group of 23 would become, but women today clearly play significant roles in business and political arenas. The diverse membership of more than 2,000 includes government, health care, retail, the law, and non-profit organizations in Southeast, West, Southwest, Great Lakes Bay and Mid-Michigan.
Inforum will continue to evolve and serve as a linchpin in fostering and supporting women in leadership positions.