AAUW Fellowships and Grants Timeline Since 1882

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1880s | 1890s | 1900s | 1910s | 1920s | 1930s | 1940s
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1882: Opportunities for Post-graduate Study [sic], a paper by Helen Magill, is read at the annual Association of Collegiate Alumnae (ACA) meeting. Magill was the first woman in the United States to earn a doctorate degree. In this paper, she provides suggestions of the few programs available at the time to women considering pursuing graduate work.

1885: Alice Freeman Palmer, one of the founders of ACA — AAUW’s predecessor organization — becomes president in 1885. The first memorial fellowship is established in her honor in 1908.

1888: Ida Street, University of Michigan alumna, receives the first fellowship from the Western Association of Collegiate Alumnae (WACA). WACA merges with the Association of Collegiate Alumnae one year later, in 1889.

1888: At the ACA meeting held in Boston, Christine Ladd-Franklin (an 1869 Vassar graduate) proposes the establishment of a European fellowship. The Committee on Fellowships is established, with pioneering college-educated women Christine Ladd-Franklin, Ellen Swallow Richards, and Alice Freeman Palmer as members.

1889: The Western Association of Collegiate Alumnae (WACA) merges with the ACA. The WACA fellowship continues under the name American Fellowship.

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1890: Christine Ladd-Franklin presents a paper to the ACA meeting on October 24. In The Usefulness of Fellowships she says, “It may seem that this little fellowship of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae is a small step toward such brilliant accomplishment; but it is the first step which is of crucial importance, and we hope that this little initiative of ours will be followed by much larger endowments for advanced study on the part of women.”

1890: Louisa Holman Richardson, professor of classics at Carleton College in Minnesota, receives the ACA’s first European Fellowship in the amount of $500 to continue her studies at the University of Cambridge.

1895: Margaret Maltby is awarded the European Fellowship. Eighteen years later, Maltby serves as chair of the Fellowships Awards Committee (1913–14).

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1909: Through the efforts of Christine Ladd-Franklin, Emile Berliner, inventor of the gramophone, establishes the Sarah Berliner Fellowship in honor of his mother. This award goes to a female scholar in physics, chemistry, or biology. The fellowship is available to women who hold doctorate degrees in the United States.

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1917: After attending the Women’s Auxiliary Conference of the second Pan American Scientific Congress held in Washington, D.C., Laura Puffer Morgan introduces the idea of a fellowship to help Latin American women study in the United States. The first Latin American Fellowship — indeed the first International Fellowship — is awarded to Virginia P. Alvarez Hussey, a medical student at the University of Pennsylvania (image: Laura Puffer Morgan). The International Fellowships program has grown to support more than 3,300 women from more than 130 nations.

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1920: ACA members contribute to a larger effort led by American journalist Marie Meloney aiming to purchase one gram of radium for Marie Curie. Curie is a future Nobel Prize-winning scientist. The leftover funds go toward an endowment that funds the Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship.

1921: The organization allocates 25 cents of all annual $2 dues to the general fellowships fund. Also this year, the ACA merges with another collegiate women’s group to become the modern organization, AAUW.

1923: After years of branch-led study groups on a variety of subjects, the AAUW Adult Education Program is established. With grants from the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, AAUW produces guides and other materials in child development and in international relations. The program pioneers a widespread movement in continuing education for adults.

1926: The Margaret Maltby endowment is established to honor Maltby, chair of the Committee on Fellowships (previously Fellowships Awards Committee) and chair of the physics department at Barnard College. Maltby, a former ACA European Fellow who studied at Gottingen University, also authored The History of Fellowships Awarded by AAUW, 1888–1929. The fellowship is open to any woman with a degree in the arts or sciences. Esther Caukin Brunauer, future secretary of the AAUW International Relations Committee, is the first Margaret Maltby fellow.

1927: The Million-Dollar Fellowship Fund Campaign aims to reinforce AAUW fellowships through permanent endowments so that the organization can continue supporting promising women scholars. Thousands of members play a part in the campaign, and contributions come from all parts of the country. The fund remains until 1953, when the national convention replaces it with the Fellowships Trust Fund.

1927: Upon announcement of the creation of the Million-Dollar Fellowship Fund, Dean Virginia Gildersleeve of Barnard College says, “The most urgent and vital need of college women today is that some of them should produce work of real distinction. To this end, we must aid our most promising young graduates in the earlier stages of their professional and scholarly careers, and this is one reason why fellowships are so extremely important.”

1929: Dorothy Atkinson Rood takes over as chair of the Fellowship Endowment Committee. Under her direction, AAUW states group into several units, each unit with a unique goal and led by a regional director. These units comprise the Fellowship Committee, and the National Crusade Fellowship is born.

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1934: Accrued income on contributions to the Million-Dollar Fellowship Fund contribute to a National Crusade Fellowship award. 1935: This year, 13 different fellowships are awarded, including the European Fellowship, ACA American Fellowship, Alice Freeman Palmer Memorial Fellowship, Boston Alumnae Fellowship, Anna C. Brackett Memorial Fellowship, Julia C.G. Piatt Fellowship, Latin American Fellowship, Sorority Fellowship, Sarah Berliner Fellowship, Rose Sidgwick Fellowship, AAUW International Fellowship, Mary Pemberton Nourse Fellowship, and Margaret Maltby Fellowship.

1935: The European Fellowship, awarded continuously since 1890 with the exception of one year during World War I, has achieved a distinguished reputation by 1935. Holders of the fellowship include three college administrators, seven heads of college departments, and numerous scholars and researchers.

1938: AAUW’s Indiana Division names a fellowship for Kathryn McHale, author, psychologist, and AAUW general director from 1929–50. Former AAUW President Mary Wooley says, “The Association owes a heavy debt of gratitude for her rare combination of gifts and vision and ability to realize that vision. Nothing would so worthy commemorate her service as the fellowship named in her honor.”

1939: Cecilia Payne Gaposhkin, a Harvard-graduate astronomer and Rose Sidgwick Memorial fellow (1924–25), speaks at the AAUW convention in Denver on the subject Problems of the Woman Scholar. As the recipient of an AAUW fellowship, she says, “I think that it is only by means of fellowships, wisely given to those who have shown their ability, not only by promise but by actual performance, that the gulf can be bridged and worthy scholars launched into the world.” Gaposhkin did her fellowship research in Harvard’s astronomy department and received the first doctorate degree awarded in astronomy from Radcliffe College. She received AAUW’s Achievement Award in 1957.

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1940: AAUW officially begins to raise money through its war relief fund to assist European scholars and university women displaced by the occupation and no longer able to continue their work. The committee works tirelessly with the academic community to find teaching positions for the women at schools and universities in the United States. Individual branch members also participate by signing immigration affidavits of support. In its inaugural year, the War Relief Committee raised $29,950 for distribution, with 350 branches contributing. Their efforts helped many women and saved many lives.

1943: Scientist Florence Seibert wins the first AAUW Achievement Award, which recognizes a woman in the United States for distinguished scholarly or professional achievement. Seibert invented the first reliable tuberculosis test and improved the safety of intravenous injections. In 1963, the AAUW Clearwater (FL) Branch will establish a $100,000 fellowship endowment in her name to support a student pursuing biological or medical sciences.

1945: An international grants division of the fellowships program makes its debut. Before World War II ends, AAUW launches a drive to raise funds to bring women from liberated countries to the United States for study.

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1953: Dorothy Rood speaks at the national convention and sets a goal for the 1981 centennial: by that year, the organization should achieve “50 adequately supported American Fellows.”

1958: The nonprofit AAUW Educational Foundation Inc. is established to administer the fellowships and grants program. Groundbreaking begins for the new AAUW national office in Washington, D.C.

1959: At a convention held in Kansas City, Missouri, June 22, AAUW ratified the establishment of the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation on January 17, 1958. The activities of the foundation supplement those of AAUW, including administering two fellowships, four additional grants programs, and special research projects; maintaining a library; and sponsoring symposia, institutes, conferences, and related educational activities.

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1962: The College Faculty Program is founded with a $267,000 grant from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. The program encourages women college graduates to retrain for university faculty and administrative positions. A 1978 program assessment publishes Half a Life to Live, a guide for “second-career” women.

1963: The African Educators Program is established to provide opportunities for women from newly independent African nations to study in the United States.

1969: The Coretta Scott King Fund is launched to provide opportunities for women to study African American history and culture, and broker social change and peace. The fund got its start in 1968 as a $150,000 fundraising campaign. For the next two years, it creates opportunities for young women on three fronts: using peaceful means to achieve constructive social change, finding real steps toward world peace, and appreciating African American history and culture.

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1970: Selected Professions Fellowships are established thanks to a $25,000 grant from the Max C. Fleischmann Foundation. These fellowships originally focused on opening doors for women graduate students in the male-dominated fields of law and medicine.

1971: The AAUW Educational Foundation creates the Research and Project Grants program by voting to set aside $5000 in grants for several AAUW states in support of public service projects. Fifty members from 36 states received the first grants in 1972 in a range of topics including women’s struggles to balance home and work life, the establishment of women’s resource centers on college campuses, and the emergence of women’s political involvement in the antinuclear movement.

1975: Project RENEW grants are initiated to encourage members to update training or retrain for professional and employment goals. Project RENEW provides encouragement and financial help to AAUW members who have interrupted their academic work and wish to return to school.
As the program grows, AAUW explores ways to strengthen support for community-based programs that further its mission, with a major focus on increasing girls’ and women’s participation in science, technology, and mathematics. As a result, projects become increasingly collaborative and girl-focused, bringing together AAUW branches and local community groups.

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1980: The Educational Foundation programs, awards, and grants exceed $1 million in one year for the first time. Another milestone passes with more than 100 American Fellowships awarded that year.

1981: AAUW receives a $200,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to launch the Families and Work Project, which examines the changing relationships between family and work life to identify problems and solutions. The initial research from this project is published in 1982.

1986: The Educational Foundation sponsors Equity by 2000: Meeting the Nairobi Challenge, an international conference convened to develop strategies for implementing the United Nations’ 1976–85 Decade for Women findings. More than 1,000 women from around the world attend. (Photo: 1985 Nairobi)

1987: Members raise more than $235,000 to establish the Judith Resnik American Fellowship Endowment, a memorial to the 1975 American fellow who was among the astronauts killed in the 1986 Challenger space shuttle disaster.

1988: The Educational Foundation celebrates the centennial of its first fellowship. By this time, more than 5,000 fellowships have been awarded to women from more than 100 countries, and the Educational Foundation holds $40 million in endowed funds.
Also in 1988, the Educational Foundation establishes the Eleanor Roosevelt Fund, expanding AAUW’s education focus to girls in grades K–12.

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1991: The Educational Foundation changes the scope of several programs that began in the 1970s.

  • Selected Professions Fellowships expand to include science, mathematics, architecture, engineering, and technology as demand for a technologically skilled work force was growing without proportional representation by women. To address the underrepresentation of women of color in these areas and to encourage cultural diversity in areas all professions, Selected Professions Fellowships for business administration, law, and medicine are made available exclusively to women of color.
  • Programs funded by the Research and Project Grants endowment are renamed.
    • Career Development Grants (previously Project RENEW) open to nonmembers, reflecting “the AAUW Educational Foundation’s responsiveness to women’s evolving educational needs.”
    • Community Action Grants provide seed money to AAUW branches, states, or individual women pursuing projects or nondegree research that promote education and equity for women and girls.

1999: Home Country Project Grants (now called International Project Grants) are established for International Fellowship alumnae who successfully complete the course of study for which they previously received an International Fellowship. The grants range from $5,000 to $7,000 and support community-based projects that benefit women and girls in the fellow’s home country for a maximum of $28,000 annually.

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2001: Community Action Grants are awarded to nonprofit groups for the first time.

2002: The Educational Foundation distributes $4 million in fellowships, grants, and awards, bringing the total number of awards to date to more than 8,000.
Also this year, the Educational Foundation partners with the Educational Testing Service to sponsor International Perspectives: Global Voices for Gender Equity, a symposium to explore how women use education to create change. Keynote speaker Mamphela Ramphele of the World Bank addresses 218 people, mostly women, from 31 countries.

2002: Rosalind Wiseman, a 1997–98 Community Action Grant recipient, publishes her first book, Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and the New Realities of Girl World. Wiseman’s grant funds a pilot project at a Washington, D.C., elementary school that educates students on recognizing and preventing bullying, sexual harassment, and rape.

2004: Using funds from the AAUW Mooneen Lecce Giving Circle, the Educational Foundation distributes an updated print version of two corresponding AAUW research reports, Harassment-Free Hallways and Hostile Hallways, to more than 5,000 public schools.

2006: AAUW receives a five-year grant from the National Science Foundation’s Research on Gender in Science and Engineering program to partner with The National Girls Collaborative Project on a project entitled Advancing the Agenda in Gender Equity for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). The project brings together girl-focused math and science organizations, K–12 and higher education, and industry to provide more opportunities for girls in STEM.

2008: Jane Chen receives a Selected Professions Fellowship and co-founds Embrace, a nonprofit that distributes low-cost incubators to infants in developing countries. The incubator was the product of a multidisciplinary design course Chen enrolled in while pursuing her master’s degree at Stanford University. She has since been internationally recognized as a woman innovator in Forbes Impact 30 list.

2009: AAUW members approve a restructuring of our corporate entities into one, streamlined AAUW.

2009: AAUW International Fellowship alumna Tererai Trent is featured in the book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by the husband-wife activist team Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Trent is originally from Zimbabwe and received a 2001–02 International Fellowship to pursue a master’s degree in agriculture at Oklahoma State University. Trent was also featured on an episode of the Oprah Show in which she was named Oprah Winfrey’s favorite guest. Oprah also helped Trent return to Zimbabwe to follow her childhood dream of earning her doctorate.

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2013: AAUW awards the first Alumnae Recognition Award to Melissa Harris-Perry, who is also a 2001–02 American Fellow, at the national convention in New Orleans. Also this year, the AAUW Achievement Award is reinstated after a five-year hiatus and awarded to former Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine).

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