American Association of University Women

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

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 150,000 members,[3] 1,500 branches,[3] and 500 college and university partners. Its headquarters are in Washington, DC.


In 1881 Marion Talbot and Ellen Swallow Richards invited 15 alumnae of eight colleges to a meeting in Boston, Massachusetts.[3] The purpose of this meeting was to create an organization for women college graduates to find greater opportunities to use their education and to open the doors for other women to attend college. The Association of Collegiate Alumnae (ACA), AAUW's predecessor organization, was officially founded on January 14, 1882. The ACA worked to improve standards of education for women so that men and women's higher education was more equal in scope and difficulty.[4]

In 1883, a similar group of college women considered forming a Chicago, Illinois branch of the ACA, then reconsidered and formed their own independent organization. The Western Association of Collegiate Alumnae (WACA) was formed with Jane M. Bancroft as its first president. The 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 1884, the ACA still met only in Boston. As more women across the country became interested in its work, the Association allowed the formation of branches. Branches were required to carry on the work of the Association.

Washington, D.C., was the first branch to be created in 1884 and New York, Pacific (San Francisco), Philadelphia, and Boston followed in 1886.

In 1887, a fellowship program for women was established. The following year, the WACA awarded its first fellowship of $350 to Ida Street, a Vassar College graduate, to conduct research at the University of Michigan.[5] Supporting the education of women through fellowships remains an integral part of AAUW’s mission today.

The WACA merged with the ACA in 1889.

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.[6]

In 1921, the ACA merged with the Southern Association of College Women to create the AAUW.[4] Branches continue to be the backbone of AAUW. This policy of expansion greatly increased both the size and the impact of the Association from small and local to a nationwide network of college educated women. By 1929, there were 31,647 members and 475 branches.[4]

In 1885, as one of its first major projects, the ACA set out to disprove the myth that a college education would harm a woman’s health and result in infertility. This was a common belief held at the time and promoted by a Harvard educated, Boston physician named Dr. Edward H. Clarke.[4] A committee led by Annie Howes created a series of questions which were sent to 1,290 ACA members. 705 replies were returned and tabulated and the result proved, not surprisingly, that 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 in a series many research studies conducted by AAUW during its history.[7]

During World War II, AAUW officially began raising money to assist female scholars displaced by the Nazi led occupation and unable to continue their work. The War Relief Fund received numerous pleas for help and worked tirelessly to find teaching and other positions for the 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.[8] In the 1960s, the amount of women in the workforce had increased, so that women made up 38% of workers by the end of the 1960s.[9] Women graduating from college were looking for employment.[9] Membership in 1960 was at 147,920 women, most of them middle class.[9]


AAUW is one of the world's largest sources of funding exclusively for women who have graduated from college.[10] 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.[11]

Headquarters of the AAUW in Washington, DC

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.[12] 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[13] to mobilize women voters in 2012 on preserving health and economic rights.[14] 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 volume and direction[clarification needed] of women’s voices.[15][clarification needed]

AAUW's 2011 research report addresses sexual harassment in grades seven through 12.[16]

AAUW's national convention[17] is held biennially. AAUW sponsors a student leadership conference,[18] 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.

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 Kathryn Cullen-DuPont (2000). "American Association of University Women". Encyclopedia of Women's History in America. Infobase Publishing. pp. 10–11. ISBN 978-0-8160-4100-8. Retrieved 28 November 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c d 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. 
  5. ^ Talbot, Marion and Lois Kimball Mathews Rosenberry. The History of the American Association of University Women, Cambridge, MA: Riverside Press, 1931, p, 40-45.
  6. ^ University of Alabama article accessed March 11. 2008
  7. ^ Health Statistics of Female College Graduates, 1885. Published by Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics of Labor.
  8. ^ ""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. 
  9. ^ a b c 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. 
  10. ^ "AAUW Fellowships and Grants". Retrieved 2014-01-18. 
  11. ^ Sexual Harassment Support accessed March 11, 2008 Archived May 13, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  12. ^ AAUW, Education as the Gateway to Women's Economic Security.
  13. ^ "HERVotes". HERVotes. 2013-02-28. Retrieved 2014-01-18. 
  14. ^ "Women's Groups Launch HERVotes" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-01-18. 
  15. ^ "It's My Vote: I Will Be Heard". Retrieved 2014-01-18. 
  16. ^ Sarah D. Sparks (7 November 2011), Many Teens Endure Sexual Harassment, retrieved 30 November 2011 
  17. ^ AAUW website Archived February 2, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  18. ^ 2007 Conference Archived April 5, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.

External links[edit]