RWN is a member-driven organization that promises is to enhance the professional and personal lives of women, in all stages of their careers, by affording them opportunities to support, empower and inspire each other.
That promise is the culmination of an adventure nine women embarked on 40 years ago when they saw a need for a women’s networking organization, and they decided to form one. Through the decades, RWN has evolved, taking different forms and benefiting from many leaders, but it all started on a very wintry, very Rochester kind of day…
Birth of RWN: A New Woman’s Specialty
As legend has it, the network sprang to life over a 1978 luncheon during a Rochester near-blizzard. The first meeting of what was to become RWN was a Cornell-sponsored conference on Women and Money entitled: “Life at the Top and How to Make It There.” At that time, the idea of women functioning independently in any economic sense was a revolutionary concept and the luncheon was offered as a community service program.
Although most of Rochester was closed, and all public events cancelled, this luncheon meeting attracted over 300 women who braved the storm. At that unique event, women met to transform the “old boys’” networking concept into a new woman’s specialty. “We’ll never ask you to sell chocolate bunnies or bake cookies” became an early mantra.
The conference planners became RWN’s founding mothers. A committee of caring nurturers–Janis Dowd, Eleanor (Hamilton) Cushing, Mona Miller, Pamela Peters, Jane Plitt, Louise Spivack, Carroll Tyler, Linda Cornell Weinstein, and B.J. (Weiss) Mann agreed to steer the infant RWN into society.
On April 26, 1978, the founding mothers met at the Brass Rail Room of the Top of the Plaza in Rochester to talk about their plans for RWN. To their surprise, others showed up as well–the room designed to seat 100 people was too small to seat all the women determined to have a say. And so Rochester Women’s Network was launched, with B.J. (Weiss) Mann as its first President.
By May of 1979, RWN had more than 383 members. Read more about the history of Rochester Women’s Network.