The American Association of University Women (AAUW), one of the oldest national women’s rights organizations, celebrates its 125th anniversary today. On November 28, 1881, Marion Talbot, Ellen Richards, and 15 other women college graduates founded the organization to fight for gender equity and to promote policies that would advance women and girls’ educational opportunities. By the end of the 19th century, only 2.8 percent of the female population attended college, according to a profile produced by the St. Lawrence County branch of the AAUW. Since then, women have come to outnumber men on most four-year college campuses.
Today, AAUW has over 100,000 members, 1,300 branches, and 500 partnerships with colleges and universities. Members have included the late Coretta Scott King, former Congresswoman Patsy Mink, Brigadier General Wilma L. Vaught, and Dr. Johnnetta Cole, among other exceptional leaders. In addition to working for educational opportunities, AAUW fights for pay equity and legislation that protects women at home, in schools, and in the workplace. AAUW also includes the AAUW Educational Foundation, which provides $4 million in fellowships, grants, and awards and funds research on women, girls, and education.
AAUW President Ruth Sweetser said of the group’s landmark anniversary, “Our mission is ever relevant and our role still critical even though, fortunately, there has been a great deal accomplished for women and girls since our start in 1881′ AAUW has stood the test of time and will continue to be a strong advocate for women in years to come,” Women’s eNews reports. Local chapters of AAUW across the country are celebrating both the national and local accomplishments of the group this month.