|Alta Fogal was born in Tempe in 1898. She earned a teaching degree at Tempe Normal School in 1921 and moved to Jerome where she taught in the Jerome High School for 22 years. In addition, she worked as principal of the school for 17 years.
In 1922 Alta organized the Jerome Business and Professional Women's Club. She was also a member of the National Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs which had been organized in 1918. Its mission was "to achieve equity for women in the workplace through advocacy, education and information." This was the first national organization that focused on working women's issues. During the hard times of the 1930s, when there was a strong push to deny jobs to married women, the BPW lobbied for legislation to prohibit this practice. In 1937, the BPW was one of the first women's organizations to support the Equal Rights Amendment.
Alta Fogal became the charter president of the Jerome BPW. By 1925, this club was the largest in the Arizona Federation of Business and Professional Women, with 110 members. Professions of club members included nurses, teachers, stenographers, clerks, telephone operators, saleswomen, and insurance agents. For 26 years Jerome BPW members worked to create educational opportunities and equity for women by providing scholarships, community support, and lobbying for legislative issues affecting Arizona women such as Arizona women's right to serve on juries and passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in Congress. They also organized and participated in civic improvement and community building projects. Some of these activities included sponsoring voter participation drives; the Girl Reserves and Camp Fire Girls; donating funds to restore the old Capitol building in Prescott; sewing pillows and laundry bags for tuberculosis patients at Fort Whipple; providing high school career programs; and purchasing iron lungs for polio patients. Jerome BPW members also organized yearly vaudeville shows and dances to raise funds for college scholarships for young women.
During the Depression, the Jerome BPW provided free dental treatment and milk for school children and organized an employment agency. Throughout World War II, the club's fifty-two members donated cod liver oil and glasses for children, mailed CARE packages to European countries, sewed, knitted, and crocheted Red Cross items, and mailed Christmas and Easter boxes to troops overseas. The club also provided donations to numerous agencies such as the American Red Cross, Toys for War Orphans, Chinese Nursing Project, and the Arizona Children's Home. In 1942 the Jerome BPW collected 200 pounds of silk stockings for a war drive, sold $3,500 of war bonds, and provided $1,700 in scholarships for young women.
Alta Fogal was a strong leader and member of the Jerome BPW during these years. She also served as president of the Arizona Federation of Business and Professional Women from 1925 to 1927. During her state presidency, the organization held its first district meetings to educate members about women's issues and to help them to develop speaking skills. The state organization also lobbied for several years for women's right to serve on juries and for the ERA. In 1945, the state legislature granted women the right to serve on juries, and the first all-woman jury convened immediately. All of the jurors were members of Arizona's BPW.
In 1948 the Jerome BPW disbanded due to Jerome's declining population, caused by the closing of the copper mines. Alta Fogal later moved to Phoenix where she taught until her retirement in 1963.
Visit the Old School House at 885 Hampshire Avenue in Jerome, where Alta Fogal taught. It is now the studio of artists Robin Anderson and Margo Mandette and is open every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
For more information see Arizona Federation of Business and Professional Women: Women Who Made a Difference, Vol. III.
Alta Fogal - Courtesy of Arizona Historical Society, Tempe
Old Mingus High School - Drawing courtesy of Ann Bassett, Jerome artist