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American Association of University Women

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American Association of University Women
Formation1881; 143 years ago (1881)
FoundersEmily Fairbanks Talbot, Marion Talbot
Ellen Swallow Richards
HeadquartersWashington, D.C., U.S.
Key people
Sally Chamberlain (CEO)

The American Association of University Women (AAUW), officially founded in 1881,[1] is a non-profit organization that advances equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, and research.[2][3] The organization has a nationwide network of 170,000 members and supporters,[3] 1,000 local branches,[3] and 800 college and university partners.[4] Its headquarters are in Washington, D.C. AAUW's CEO is Gloria L. Blackwell.


19th century[edit]

In 1881, Emily Fairbanks Talbot, Marion Talbot and Ellen Swallow Richards invited 15 alumnae from 8 colleges to a meeting in Boston, Massachusetts.[3][5] The purpose of this meeting was to create an organization of women college graduates that would assist women in finding greater opportunities to use their education, as well as promoting and assisting other women's college attendance. The Association of Collegiate Alumnae or ACA (AAUW's predecessor organization) was officially founded on January 14, 1882. The ACA also worked to improve standards of education for women so that men and women's higher education was more equal in scope and difficulty.[6]

At the beginning of 1884, the ACA had been meeting only in Boston. However, as more women across the country became interested in its work, the Association saw that expansion into branches was necessary to carry on its work. Washington, D.C., was the first branch to be created in 1884, and New York, Pacific (San Francisco), Philadelphia, and Boston branches followed in 1886.

In 1885, the organization took on one of its first major projects: they essentially had to justify their right to exist. A common belief held at the time that a college education would harm a woman's health and result in infertility. This myth was supported by Harvard-educated Boston physician Dr. Edward H. Clarke.[6] An ACA committee led by Annie Howes created a series of questions that were sent to 1,290 ACA members; 705 replies were received. After the results were tabulated, the data demonstrated that higher education did not harm women's health. The report, "Health Statistics of Female College Graduates", was published in 1885 in conjunction with the Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics of Labor. This first research report is one of many conducted by AAUW during its history.[7]

In 1887, a fellowship program for women was established. Supporting the education of women through fellowships would continually remain a critical part of AAUW's mission.

Back in 1883, a similar group of college women had considered forming a Chicago, Illinois branch of the ACA; however, they had reconsidered and formed their own independent organization. They formed the Western Association of Collegiate Alumnae (WACA) with Jane M. Bancroft as its first president. WACA was broad in purpose and consisted of five committees: fine arts, outdoor occupations, domestic professions, press and journalism, and higher education of women in the West. In 1888, WACA awarded its first fellowship of $350 to Ida Street, a Vassar College graduate, to conduct research at the University of Michigan.[8] In 1889, WACA merged with the ACA, further expanding the groups' capacity.

20th century[edit]

In 1919, the ACA participated in a larger effort led by a group of American women which ultimately raised $156,413 to purchase a gram of radium for Marie Curie for her experiments.[9]

Five U.S. voting delegates at the Paris Conference, 1922
Mrs. E.E. Brownell, 1922 President of the AAUW, S.F. Bay Branch

In 1921, the ACA merged with the Southern Association of College Women to create the AAUW, although local branches continued to be the backbone of AAUW. The policy of expansion greatly increased both the size and the impact of the Association, from a small, local organization to a nationwide network of college educated women, and by 1929, there were 31,647 members and 475 branches.[6]

During World War II, AAUW officially began raising money to assist female scholars displaced by the Nazi led occupation who were unable to continue their work. The War Relief Fund received numerous pleas for help and worked tirelessly to find teaching and other positions for refugee women at American schools and universities and in other countries. Individual branch members of AAUW also participated by signing immigration affidavits of support. During 1940, its inaugural year, the War Relief Committee raised $29,950 for distribution with 350 branches contributing.[citation needed]

The organization was "largely apolitical" until the 1960s.[10] On the other hand, women in the workforce had increased to the extent that they made up 38% of workers by the end of the 1960s. Women graduating from college were looking for good employment. Membership in 1960 was at 147,920 women, most of them middle class.[11]


AAUW is one of the world's largest sources of funding exclusively for women who have graduated from college.[12] Each year,[clarification needed] AAUW has provided $3.5 to $4 million in fellowships, grants, and awards for women and for community action projects. The Foundation also funds pioneering research on women, girls, and education. The organization funds studies germane to the education of women.[13]

The AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund (LAF), a program of the Foundation, is the United States' largest legal fund focused solely on sex discrimination against women in higher education. LAF provides funds and a support system for women seeking judicial redress for sex discrimination in higher education. Since 1981, LAF has helped female students, faculty, and administrators challenge sex discrimination, including sexual harassment, pay inequity, denial of tenure and promotion, and inequality in women's athletics programs.

AAUW sponsors grassroots and advocacy efforts, research, and Campus Action Projects and other educational programs in conjunction with its ongoing programmatic theme, Education as the Gateway to Women's Economic Security.[14] Along with three other organizations, it founded the CTM Madison Family Theatre in 1965. AAUW joined forces with other women's organizations in August 2011 to launch HERVotes[15] to mobilize women voters in 2012 on preserving health and economic rights.[16] In 2011, the AAUW Action Fund launched an initiative to encourage women to vote in the 2012 election. The campaign was aimed to increase the number of votes by women and to advance initiatives supporting education and equity for women and girls.[17][clarification needed][18]

AAUW's 2011 research report addresses sexual harassment in grades seven through 12.[19]

AAUW's national convention[20] is held biennially. AAUW sponsors a student leadership conference,[21] called the National Conference of College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL) designed to help women college students access the resources, skills, and networks they need to lead change on campuses and in communities nationwide. The student leadership conference is held annually in Washington, D.C.

Local chapters frequently host speakers who highlight a variety of topics related to women such as Molly Murphy MacGregor, a co-founder of the National Women's History Alliance.[22]

A statement by 16 women's rights organizations including the American Association of University Women, the National Women's Law Center, the National Women's Political Caucus, Girls, Inc., Legal Momentum, End Rape on Campus, Equal Rights Advocates and the Women's Sports Foundation said that, "as organizations that fight every day for equal opportunities for all women and girls, we speak from experience and expertise when we say that nondiscrimination protections for transgender people—including women and girls who are transgender—are not at odds with women’s equality or well-being, but advance them" and that "we support laws and policies that protect transgender people from discrimination, including in participation in sports, and reject the suggestion that cisgender women and girls benefit from the exclusion of women and girls who happen to be transgender."[23]

Notable members[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Empowering Women Since 1881". AAUW. Retrieved 2014-01-18.
  2. ^ Rita M. Pellen, William Miller (2006), Evolving Internet Reference Resources, Haworth Press, ISBN 978-0-7890-3025-2
  3. ^ a b c d Cullen-Dupont, Kathryn (2000). "American Association of University Women". Encyclopedia of Women's History in America (2nd ed.). Facts on File. pp. 10–11. ISBN 978-0-8160-4100-8.
  4. ^ "Who We Are". AAUW: Empowering Women Since 1881. Archived from the original on 2017-03-20. Retrieved 2017-04-11.
  5. ^ Lunardini, Christine A. (1994). What every American should know about women's history : 200 events that shaped our destiny. Holbrook, Massachusetts: Bob Adams, Inc. p. 112. ISBN 978-1-55850-417-2.
  6. ^ a b c Levine, Susan (1995). "Introduction". Degrees of Equality: The American Association of University Women and the Challenge of Twentieth-Century Feminism. Temple University Press. pp. 6, 9–11, 19. ISBN 9781566393263. American Association of University Women .
  7. ^ Health Statistics of Female College Graduates, 1885. Published by Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics of Labor.
  8. ^ Talbot, Marion and Lois Kimball Mathews Rosenberry. The History of the American Association of University Women, Cambridge, MA: Riverside Press, 1931, p, 40-45.
  9. ^ University of Alabama article accessed March 11. 2008
  10. ^ ""Things to be done which money and men will never provide": The Activism of Montana's AAUW". Women's History Matters. The Montana Historical Society. 23 December 2014. Retrieved 21 December 2015.
  11. ^ Levine, Susan (1995). "Mainstream Feminism and the New Activism, 1960-1979". Degrees of Equality: The American Association of University Women and the Challenge of Twentieth-Century Feminism. Temple University Press. pp. 140–141. ISBN 9781566393263.
  12. ^ "AAUW Fellowships and Grants". Aauw.org. Archived from the original on 2013-02-15. Retrieved 2014-01-18.
  13. ^ Sexual Harassment Support accessed March 11, 2008 Archived May 13, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ AAUW, Education as the Gateway to Women's Economic Security Archived 2007-05-04 at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ "HERVotes". HERVotes. 2013-02-28. Archived from the original on 2014-01-03. Retrieved 2014-01-18.
  16. ^ "Women's Groups Launch HERVotes" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-01-18.
  17. ^ "It's My Vote: I Will Be Heard". Youtube.com. Retrieved 2014-01-18.[dead YouTube link]
  18. ^ Scott, Beth (7 November 2012). "Women and the 2012 Election". AAUW. Archived from the original on 22 November 2019. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  19. ^ Sarah D. Sparks (7 November 2011), Many Teens Endure Sexual Harassment, retrieved 30 November 2011
  20. ^ AAUW website Archived February 2, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ 2007 Conference Archived April 5, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ "AAUW hosts Molly Murphy MacGregor to speak about women's voting rights". Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  23. ^ "Statement of Women's Rights and Gender Justice Organizations in Support of Full and Equal Access to Participation in Athletics for Transgender People" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2022-09-09. Retrieved 2023-12-11.
  24. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y Binheim, Max; Elvin, Charles A. (1928). Women of the West: A Series of Biographical Sketches of Living Eminent Women in the Eleven Western States of the United States of America. Los Angeles: Publishers Press. Retrieved August 6, 2017.Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  25. ^ Gilman, Agness Geneva; Gilman, Gertrude Marcelle (1927). "Mrs. George McCown Mathes.". Who's who in Illinois, Women-makers of History. Eclectic publishers. pp. 160–61. Retrieved 18 February 2024.
  26. ^ American National Biography Online: Moore, Eva Perry
  27. ^ "Ruth Crosby Noble, 91, former trustee". The Record. March 30, 1988 – via newspapers.com.
  28. ^ A Guide to the San Antonio Branch of the American Association of University Women Records, 1954-2009
  29. ^ "Bernice O. Redington dies in Seattle at 74 - 18 Mar 1966 - Page 31". Honolulu Star-Bulletin: 31. 1966. Retrieved 3 October 2017.
  30. ^ Muslim Feminism in History: Halidé Edib Adivar
  31. ^ "A. A. U. W. Meets". The Sun Herald. 1940-10-04. p. 5. Retrieved 2023-04-03.
  32. ^ "Biologue of Founder Violet Richardson-Ward". Archived from the original on 5 October 2017. Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  33. ^ "Doctor Mary Yost, Former Stanford Dean of Women, Is Claimed by Stroke". The Stanford Daily. 125 (24). 1954. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  34. ^ "BLANCHE DOW, LED UNIVERSITY WOMEN". NY Times. May 26, 1973. Retrieved 31 December 2019.
  35. ^ "Dr. Angie King Will Speak At NACW Sectional Luncheon". Charleston Daily Mail. Charleston, West Virginia. November 28, 1969. p. 18. Archived from the original on August 5, 2020. Retrieved August 4, 2020 – via NewspaperArchive.com.
  36. ^ "Chapter In Greenbrier Marks 25th Anniversary". Beckley Post-Herald. Beckley, West Virginia. May 13, 1974. p. 9. Archived from the original on August 5, 2020. Retrieved August 5, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.

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