Purpose & History

Our Purpose

  • to stimulate interest in the railroad industry;
  • to foster cooperation and better understanding within the industry and its affiliates;
  • to create good public relations for the railroad industry;
  • to further educational, social and professional interests of its members;
  • to undertake charitable, benevolent and social welfare projects.

History of NARBW

A woman named Hazel Cornell from the Twin Cities worked for the great Northern Railway and in 1920 spent Christmas holidays with friends in Chicago. When returning to the Twin Cities she found herself in the Union Depot crowded with holiday travelers. Hazel finally found a seat away from the main concourse and while seated there she noticed a door across the walkway that said “FOR RAILROAD MEN ONLY”.

Naturally that peaked her curiosity, and she watched as one man after another came and went through that door. She heard the sound of voices and laughing and greeting each other and she longed to knock on the door to join in the fun.

All the way back to St. Paul the sight of that doorway, “FOR RAILROAD MEN ONLY”, burned in her mind. As the wheels clicked along the tracks she kept thinking, I’m a Railroad Woman-I’m a Railroad Woman-I’m a Railroad Woman, until the thought was so etched into her Irish heart that she knew she had to do something about it.

Part of Hazel’s railroad duties were to telephone other area railroads regarding car records. One of her regular calls was to Sarah Miles, who worked at the Consolidated Ticket Office in Minneapolis. After telling Sarah about her experience at the Chicago Depot they decided they had to do something for railroad women.

In January of 1921 Hazel’s friend Sarah organized a dinner party inviting all her telephone acquaintances who worked at various railroad offices. The monthly meetings continued and constantly grew in membership, with Sarah Miles elected as founder president.

In March 1925, the women requested and received a Charter for the State of Minnesota and became the Railway Business Women’s Assn. A second charter was issued and Chapter 2 was formed in Chicago in November 1925. In 1926 Cleveland became Chapter No. 3, followed by Cincinnati, Detroit, Buffalo, Kansas City, and etc. Chapters and memberships continued to grow.

At a Christmas party in 1939, the Twin Cities Chapter President, Nellie Karst, invited all the members of the various chapters to come to her guest ranch in Montana for a summer get-together.

Trains carried over 75 women from various chapters to the Karst Ranch in July 1940. Here it was decided to form a National organization and Hazel Cornell of the Twin Cities was elected the first National President.

On Feb. 14, 1941, under the signature of 12 Railway Business Women and the Seal from the State of Minnesota, a certificate of incorporation was issued and we became the National Association of Railway Business Women.

Today there are 19 chapters across America and hundreds of women who are the membership of NARBW. We invite you to join us.