American Association of University Women - Illinois, Inc. Records, 1924-2008 | Illinois History and Lincoln Collections
The associational history of college-educated women in Illinois began with the formation of the Western Association of Collegiate Alumnae in 1883. This Chicago organization was modeled on the Boston-based Association of Collegiate Alumnae, chartered in 1881. These two groups, which merged in 1889, joined with the Southern Association of College Women to form the American Association of University Women in 1921.
The Illinois Division of the AAUW was formed in 1924. In 1992, the Illinois chapter dropped the word "division" from its official name. Following this change, this inventory refers to the organization as the AAUW-IL.
The guiding purpose of the organization is to advocate for the interests of women and girls. It expanded across the state, playing a role in the creation of governement committees to regulate child labor and promote social welfare. In the 1950s, the AAUW adopted a neutral position on the Equal Rights Amendment; two decades later, however, it vigorously and persistently advocated its ratification.
In the early 1990s, the AAUW-IL became heavily involved in campaigns to promote gender equity in American schools and the workplace, to reduce and eliminate sexual harassment, and to increase opportunities for women and girls in the fields of math and science. The organization also enhanced the status of women in education by creating grants and fellowships for graduate and post-graduate research.
During the 1990s, the AAUW-IL became active in efforts to reduce negative stereotypes of women, including the famous "recall" effort organized in 1992 against Mattel's talking Barbie doll. It also protected women's reproductive rights, and defending feminism against cultural and political attacks. In addition, it was involved in women's politics globally through its affiliation with the International Federation of University Women, formed in 1919, as well as smaller projects to aid women in developing countries such as Nigeria.
The AAUW-IL pursued these efforts through a variety of means, including media campaigns, lobbying of state legislators and officials, and scores of educational events at the branch and local level.
In recent decades, the AAUW-IL has endeavored to regenerate its membership base by appeals both to younger and minority women college graduates. Yet these measures were unable to stem long-term membership decline. As of 2008, the AAUW-IL had 2690 members in 48 branches, as compared to 5920 members in 81 branches in 1989, down from a height of 9000 members in 1975.
From time to time, AAUW officers have deposited their records in the Library. The main body of state records is now divided between an "Old Series" and a "New Series."
The Old Series contains records that came to the Library at different times. Between 1983 and 1994, these records were inventoried in seven distinct lots. Although the records in each lot often overlap chronologically with records in other lots, material on any given topic can be located by using the "search" function of the database.
The New Series contains records spanning the period from 1972 to 2008. These records include correspondence from organization presidents, minutes and reports from the executive and directors' boards, administrative and branch servies records, reports and memoranda from standing committees, including the politically influential Public Policy committee, and Association publications and convention materials.
Publications in this series include internal handbooks and officer guides, and bulletins and newsletters from national, state, and local levels. In addition, there are press communiqués and AAUW commissioned studies, including landmark research on education and gender equity.
The New Series also includes a nearly complete coverage of AAUW-IL's annual conventions and conferences from early 1990s to 2008. Finally, it contains extensive membership rosters from individual branches, contribution reports to the Educational Foundation, and branch activity self-reports from the early 1970s to 2006.