In 1881, Marion Talbot and Ellen H. Richards invited 15 alumnae of eight colleges to a November meeting in Boston, Massachusetts. They envisioned an organization in which women college graduates could band together to open doors of higher education to other women and to find wider opportunities to use their own learning. On January 14, 1882, the Association of Collegiate Alumnae, AAUW’s forerunner, was formally organized with 65 graduates of eight colleges and universities of founding members.
Nationally, AAUW members have examined and taken positions on the fundamental issues of the day–educational, social economic and political–for over 130 years. Their commitment to their mission is reflected in all aspects of their work. Their voice has influenced legislative debate on critical issues such as education, sex discrimination, civil rights, reproductive choice, affirmative action, Title IX, welfare reform, vocational education, pay equity, family and medical leave, and health care reform.
Their history is long and distinguished, advancing educational and professional opportunities for women in the United States and around the globe. Each year AAUW provides millions of dollars in fellowships, grants, and awards for outstanding women around the globe and for community action projects. AAUW also funds pioneering research on women, girls, and education.
Events of significance over the AAUW timeline include 1917, when college women stood vigil outside the White House, protesting the fact that women could not vote; in doing so, they became the first group ever to picket the White House for a political cause. In 1983, the Legal Advocacy Fund of AAUW achieved permanent status as an AAUW corporation; since then the fund has awarded more than $1 million in support of plaintiffs challenging sex discrimination and harassment on campuses nationwide. In 1987, the Association extended membership to men who held college degrees.
AAUW leadership programs help women and girls acquire the skills they need to succeed and assume leadership roles in their academic, professional, and personal lives. Programs include Campus Action Projects; the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders in Washington, D.C.; the Student Advisory Council; and Elect Her.
AAUW has a Legal Advocacy Fund which works to combat sex discrimination in higher education and workplace through campus outreach programs, an online resource library, and research reports. The Legal Advocacy Fund arm of AAUW also provides support to workplace sex discrimination cases that have the potential to make a difference for all women.