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American Association of University Women

Program, Membership Organizational Structure and Funding, History and Development

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) is an education organization open to women who hold baccalaureate or higher degrees from a college or university on the AAUW list of qualified institutions or from foreign institutions recognized by the International Federation of University Women. In keeping with its purpose of practical educational work, the association develops programs that enable college women to continue their intellectual growth and to further the advancement of women in universities and colleges around the world. The AAUW also supports gender-discrimination lawsuits and works to promote legislation concerning issues of importance to women, such as equity in education, family and medical leave, child day care for working parents, reproductive rights, equal pay for equal work, affirmative action, and access to adequate health care.


For more than a century the AAUW has endeavored to improve the quality and effectiveness of education for women and girls at all levels. AAUW branches across America work to discourage discrimination and promote gender-fair practices in the classroom. Members develop mentoring programs and encourage girls and women to study mathematics, science, and technology. Its members also initiate community-action projects and lobby local, state, and national legislators on women's issues. Analyzing their individual community needs, local branch members throughout the country have launched a variety of volunteer service projects embracing such activities as career guidance and scholastic counseling; working for school bond issues; cooperating with Head Start officials; and publishing valuable education information, such as lists of preschools and local compilations of scholarships and loans for prospective college students. Continuing interests of AAUW branches include mental health, aging, family-life studies, and the American judicial system. The AAUW also supports the United Nations, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Basic to the AAUW's educational activities has been a drive for adequate financing and staffing of public schools by federal, state, and local governments. A standing committee on legislation assists branches in following the progress of pertinent bills at all levels, with emphasis on aid to education, foreign assistance, international cooperation and trade agreements, assistance for the disadvantaged, consumer education, urban problems, and protection of the physical environment.

In 1958 the AAUW established the AAUW Educational Foundation, which awards nearly $3.5 million annually in fellowships and grants, making it the world's largest source of funding exclusively for women scholars. Over 7,800 awards have been made to women in 120 countries since the AAUW was founded. Notable AAUW awardees have included Marie Curie, Barbara McClintock, and Judith Resnik. Between 2001 and 2002 a total of 287 women received funding from the AAUW Education Foundation. The Education Foundation also supports numerous community-action projects and symposia, round tables, and forums that promote education and equity for women and girls.

The Education Foundation fellowship and grant programs include American Fellowships of up to $30,000 for doctoral candidates and postdoctoral researchers; Career Development Grants of up to $8,000 for college graduates who wish to advance their careers; Community Action Grants of up to $7,000 for individual or organizational research programs that promote education and equity for women; Eleanor Roosevelt Teacher Fellowships of up to $5,000 for women teachers in public schools; and International Fellowships of up to $30,000 to help women who are not U.S. citizens pursue university-level research. AAUW's Selected Professions Fellowships offer up to $20,000 to U.S. citizens who follow certain designated degree programs where women have traditionally been underrepresented, particularly architecture, computer sciences, engineering, and mathematics. In 1969 the foundation established the Coretta Scott King Fund, which gives educational grants to talented but economically disadvantaged African-American women studying in specific fields. The Education Foundation also makes one annual University Scholar-in-Residence Award of up to $50,000 to support a woman scholar doing research on gender-equity issues.

In addition, the Education Foundation makes three annual national awards to recognize outstanding achievement by women scholars; these are the AAUW Recognition Award for Emerging Scholars, the Founders Distinguished Senior Scholar Award, and the Annie Jump Cannon Award in Astronomy. The Eleanor Roosevelt Fund Award, presented biennially, honors an individual or institution for outstanding contributions to women's equity and education.

In 1981 the AAUW established the Legal Advocacy Fund to help women students and educators fight sex discrimination at colleges and universities. The fund accomplishes this goal through campus education and outreach programs, which draw attention to the problem of gender inequity at educational institutions. The fund also provides financial support for sex discrimination lawsuits and enlists volunteer attorneys and social scientists to serve as legal consultants. The Legal Advocacy Fund makes an annual $10,000 Progress in Equity Award to recognize efforts to improve the climate for women on campus. Publications from the AAUW national office include Action Alert–a monthly public policy newsletter, Outlook–a magazine with articles discussing women's rights issues and describing leaders in the movement for women's rights, such as Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Shirley Chisholm, and Donna Shalala; and Get the Facts–e-mail and fax alerts that provide members with information about important legislation and congressional proposals that affect women and families. The AAUW also publishes numerous bibliographies, study guides, and legislative guides.

Membership Organizational Structure and Funding

The AAUW is made up of three units: the association, a 150,000-member organization with more than 1,500 branches in fifty states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico; the Education Foundation, which funds community action projects and offers fellowships and grants to outstanding women scholars; and the Legal Advocacy Fund, which supports women seeking judicial redress for sex discrimination at colleges and universities.

National AAUW officers are women distinguished in academic and civic life. The principal officers are elected at biennial conventions and serve four-year terms. The organization is composed of members-at-large and branch members, the branch being the basic unit through which the association functions in a community to promote its purposes and policies. All branches are members of their respective state divisions, which are organized into ten geographical regions. Each region has a vice president who is on the national board of directors.

All AAUW members are automatically affiliated with the International Federation of University Women, which unites the association in various countries. Dues are the main source of funds. The fellowships program is voluntarily supported by contributions from AAUW members, fund-raising projects in branch associations, bequests, and corporate and institutional sponsors. Endowment funds are used for fellowships, research, and publications.

History and Development

The forerunner of the AAUW was the Association of Collegiate Alumnae, organized by 65 young women graduates in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1882. It was joined by the Western Association of Collegiate Alumnae (ACA) in 1889. In 1921 the ACA and the Southern Association of College Women combined to form the American Association of University Women.


AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF UNIVERSITY WOMEN. 1998. Gender Gaps: Where Schools Still Fail Our Children. Washington, DC: American Association of University Women.

AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF UNIVERSITY WOMEN. 1999. Gaining a Foothold: Women's Transitions through Work and College. Washington, DC: American Association of University Women.

LEVINE, SUSAN. 1995. Degrees of Equality: The American Association of University Women and the Challenge of Twentieth-Century Feminism. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.




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Education - Free Encyclopedia Search EngineEducation Encyclopedia: AACSB International - Program to Septima Poinsette Clark (1898–1987)