American Association of University Women

Last updated
American Association of University Women
American Association of University Women logo.svg
Formation1881;141 years ago (1881)
Founders Marion Talbot
Ellen Swallow Richards
Headquarters Washington, D.C., U.S.
Key people
Gloria L. Blackwell (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

In 1881, Marion Talbot and Ellen Swallow Richards invited 15 alumnae from 8 colleges to a meeting in Boston, Massachusetts. [3] 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. [5]

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. [5] 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. [6]

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. [7] In 1889, WACA merged with the ACA, further expanding the groups' capacity.

20th century

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. [8]

Five U.S. voting delegates at the Paris Conference, 1922 Five U.S. voting delegates of AAUW, Paris Conference, July 1922.png
Five U.S. voting delegates at the Paris Conference, 1922
Mrs. E.E. Brownell, 1922 President of the AAUW, S.F. Bay Branch Mrs. E.E. Brownell, 1922 President of the American Association of University Women, S.F. Bay Branch, Who's who among the women of California.jpg
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. [5]

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. [9] 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. [10]


AAUW is one of the world's largest sources of funding exclusively for women who have graduated from college. [11] 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. [12]

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. [13] 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 [14] to mobilize women voters in 2012 on preserving health and economic rights. [15] 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. [16] [ clarification needed ] [17]

AAUW's 2011 research report addresses sexual harassment in grades seven through 12. [18]

AAUW's national convention [19] is held biennially. AAUW sponsors a student leadership conference, [20] 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. [21]

Notable members

See also

Related Research Articles

Radcliffe College Former womens college in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Radcliffe College was a women's liberal arts college in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and functioned as the female coordinate institution for the all-male Harvard College. Considered founded in 1879, it was one of the Seven Sisters colleges and held the popular reputation of having a particularly intellectual, literary, and independent-minded female student body.

Smith College Private womens liberal arts college in Massachusetts

Smith College is a private liberal arts women's college in Northampton, Massachusetts. It was chartered in 1871 by Sophia Smith and opened in 1875. It is the largest member of the historic Seven Sisters colleges, a group of elite women's colleges in the Northeastern United States. Smith is also a member of the Five College Consortium, along with four other nearby institutions in the Pioneer Valley: Mount Holyoke College, Amherst College, Hampshire College, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst; students of each college are allowed to attend classes at any other member institution. On campus are Smith's Museum of Art and Botanic Garden, the latter designed by Frederick Law Olmsted.

Ellen Swallow Richards American engineer and chemist (1843–1911)

Ellen Henrietta Swallow Richards was an industrial and safety engineer, environmental chemist, and university faculty member in the United States during the 19th century. Her pioneering work in sanitary engineering, and experimental research in domestic science, laid a foundation for the new science of home economics. She was the founder of the home economics movement characterized by the application of science to the home, and the first to apply chemistry to the study of nutrition.

Mary Emma Woolley 11th President of Mount Holyoke College

Mary Emma Woolley was an American educator, peace activist and women's suffrage supporter. She was the first female student to attend Brown University and served as the 11th President of Mount Holyoke College from 1900 to 1937.

Alice Freeman Palmer American educator

Alice Freeman Palmer was an American educator. As Alice Freeman, she was president of Wellesley College from 1881 to 1887, when she left to marry the Harvard professor George Herbert Palmer. From 1892 to 1895 she was dean of women at the newly founded University of Chicago.

Barbara Smith American activist and academic

Barbara Smith is an American lesbian feminist and socialist who has played a significant role in Black feminism in the United States. Since the early 1970s, she has been active as a scholar, activist, critic, lecturer, author, and publisher of Black feminist thought. She has also taught at numerous colleges and universities for 25 years. Smith's essays, reviews, articles, short stories and literary criticism have appeared in a range of publications, including The New York Times Book Review, The Black Scholar, Ms., Gay Community News, The Guardian, The Village Voice, Conditions and The Nation. She has a twin sister, Beverly Smith, who is also a lesbian feminist activist and writer.

Sexual harassment in education in the United States is an unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature that interferes with an American student's ability to learn, study, work or participate in school activities. It is common in middle and high schools in the United States. Sexual or gender harassment is a form of discrimination under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Sexual harassment involves a range of behavior from mild annoyances to unwanted touching and, in extreme cases, rape or other sexual assault.

Aurelia Henry Reinhardt American educator and social activist

Aurelia Isabel Henry Reinhardt was an American educator, activist, and prominent member and leader of numerous organizations. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley, her doctoral dissertation at Yale, and studied as a fellow at Oxford. After teaching at the University of Idaho, the Lewiston State Normal School, and with the Extension Division of the University of California, Reinhardt was elected president of Mills College in 1916, and held the position until 1943, making her the longest serving president in the history of the school.

Muriel S. Snowden

Muriel Sutherland Snowden was the founder and co-director of Freedom House, a community improvement center in Roxbury, Massachusetts. She is, together with her husband Otto P. Snowden, a major figure in Boston history and activism.

Bernice Sandler

Bernice Resnick Sandler was an American women's rights activist born in New York. Sandler is best known for being instrumental in the creation of Title IX, a portion of the Education Amendments of 1972, in conjunction with Representatives Edith Green (D-OR) and Patsy Mink (D-HI) and Senator Birch Bayh (D-IN) in the 1970s. She has been called "the Godmother of Title IX" by The New York Times.

Helen C. White American English professor

Helen Constance White was an American academic who was a professor of English at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. White twice served as the English department chair and was the first woman to become a full professor in the university's College of Letters and Science. She was also the first woman elected president of the American Association of University Professors, and a president of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), University of Wisconsin Teachers' Union, and University Club. White wrote six novels and numerous nonfiction books and articles.

Esther Caukin Brunauer was a longtime employee of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and then a U.S. government civil servant, who with her husband was targeted by Senator Joseph McCarthy's campaign against U.S. State Department officials whose loyalty to the U.S. he questioned.

Kate Claghorn American sociologist and Progressive Era activist

Kate Holladay Claghorn was an American sociologist, economist, statistician, legal scholar, and Progressive Era activist, who became one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Winifred G. Helmes

Winifred Gertrude Helmes was an American educator, historian, public servant, and author.

The Project on the Status and Education of Women (PSEW) was the first United States project focused on gender equity in education. Formed in 1971 by the Association of American Colleges (AAC), known today as the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU), PSEW worked to improve access to and equity within higher education for women, addressing the needs of university students, faculty, staff, and administrators. PSEW produced and distributed materials about the status of women in higher education, advised colleges and universities about policies related to affirmative action, women's studies programs, and hiring women faculty, and worked with policymakers to introduce legislation to improve gender equity in American higher education. PSEW's periodical, On Campus with Women (OCWW), ran from 1971-2013 through the AACU, publishing articles and research related to women in higher education. PSEW also played a significant role in the development and passage of Title IX, the portion of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972 that prohibits discrimination in education on the basis of sex.

Bernice Orpha Redington

Bernice Orpha Redington was a home economics expert and journalist, her bylines being Prudence Penny, Carolyn Cuisine and Mary Mills.

Ruth Holden

Ruth Holden was an American paleobotanist and nurse, who died in Russia during World War I.

The Caroline I. Wilby Prize was founded in 1897 in memory of Caroline I. Wilby, by her friends and former students. The prize is given annually to the student who has produced the best original work within any of the departments of Radcliffe College, Cambridge in Massachusetts. The prize is only awarded if a dissertation or thesis is considered worthy enough.

Frances Matilda Abbott American suffragist and naturalist

Frances Matilda Abbott was an American suffragist and naturalist. The first woman from Concord, New Hampshire, to receive a bachelor's degree, Abbott often wrote on suffrage for national newspapers and participated in many suffragist organizations. She also authored texts on Concord wildlife and genealogy for local audiences, leading to her inclusion on several contemporary lists of notable American women.

Kathryn McHale American educator

Kathryn McHale was an American educator and psychologist. She was general director of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) from 1929 to 1950.


  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. 1 2 3 4 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. 1 2 3 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 .
  6. Health Statistics of Female College Graduates, 1885. Published by Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics of Labor.
  7. Talbot, Marion and Lois Kimball Mathews Rosenberry. The History of the American Association of University Women, Cambridge, MA: Riverside Press, 1931, p, 40-45.
  8. University of Alabama article accessed March 11. 2008
  9. ""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.
  10. 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.
  11. "AAUW Fellowships and Grants". Archived from the original on 2013-02-15. Retrieved 2014-01-18.
  12. Sexual Harassment Support accessed March 11, 2008 Archived May 13, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  13. AAUW, Education as the Gateway to Women's Economic Security Archived 2007-05-04 at the Wayback Machine .
  14. "HERVotes". HERVotes. 2013-02-28. Archived from the original on 2014-01-03. Retrieved 2014-01-18.
  15. "Women's Groups Launch HERVotes" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-01-18.
  16. "It's My Vote: I Will Be Heard". Retrieved 2014-01-18.[ dead YouTube link ]
  17. Scott, Beth (7 November 2012). "Women and the 2012 Election". AAUW. Archived from the original on 22 November 2019. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  18. Sarah D. Sparks (7 November 2011), Many Teens Endure Sexual Harassment , retrieved 30 November 2011
  19. AAUW website Archived February 2, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  20. 2007 Conference Archived April 5, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  21. "AAUW hosts Molly Murphy MacGregor to speak about women's voting rights" . Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  22. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 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.PD-icon.svgThis article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain .
  23. American National Biography Online: Moore, Eva Perry
  24. "Ruth Crosby Noble, 91, former trustee". The Record. March 30, 1988 via
  25. A Guide to the San Antonio Branch of the American Association of University Women Records, 1954-2009
  26. "Bernice O. Redington dies in Seattle at 74 - 18 Mar 1966 - Page 31". Honolulu Star-Bulletin: 31. 1966. Retrieved 3 October 2017.
  27. Muslim Feminism in History: Halidé Edib Adivar
  28. "Biologue of Founder Violet Richardson-Ward" . Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  29. "Doctor Mary Yost, Former Stanford Dean of Women, Is Claimed by Stroke". The Stanford Daily. 125 (24). 1954. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  30. "BLANCHE DOW, LED UNIVERSITY WOMEN". NY Times. May 26, 1973. Retrieved 31 December 2019.
  31. "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
  32. "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