Graduation time is here. In honor of all the hardworking college graduates out there, we would like to highlight some items from the American Association of University Women Collection found in the North Carolina Room of the Forsyth County Public Library. This post was created by our Digitization Intern Amy.

Beginning in Boston in 1881, a group of 17 college educated women got together. Their hope was to combine the demands placed on them by 19th century society with their love of learning.  What they came up with was the Association of Collegiate Alumnae and by their first official meeting in January of 1882, they had a  group of 65 women, representing 8 colleges. One of the first things they did was publish a report dispelling the myth that a college education would adversely affect a woman’s health. After that they pushed for equal pay, women’s rights, research grants/opportunities and of course funding for higher education.  In 1921 the Association of Collegiate Alumnae joined with the Southern Association of College Women and became the American Association of University Women. Today the AAUW has over 170,000 members representing 800 colleges nationwide. http://www.aauw.org/

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Original Seal

The Winston-Salem branch of the AAUW got its start in 1914. They offered local university women the chance to socialize and continue learning through study groups and educational programs. They disbanded during the early 1940s since most of the women were involved in the war effort.  In 1947 the Association regrouped and came back strong.   Since then, they have actively worked towards the AAUW goals of promoting equity, lifelong learning and positive changes in society.

The association was open to any woman with a four year degree from a “qualified” school. To be qualified meant that  a college had to have a high academic standing and a strong foundation in general education. They also needed to make adequate provisions for female students and of course give recognition and support to female faculty and administration.  In 1957, Salem College was the one school in Winston-Salem offering degrees that would qualify a young woman for admission into the AAUW.  Other qualifying colleges in the area included Greensboro College and Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina (now UNCG).

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Page from AAUW Membership booklet listing Salem College and the degrees accepted by the AAUW for Membership in 1957.

During its long history, the AAUW has encouraged women not only to educate themselves but to take a stand on important issues. For the local chapter that meant providing funding for scholarships and research grants, improving educational opportunities and pushing for political reform. Each branch built its programming around local needs or issues. The Winston-Salem branch of the AAUW was involved in a number of things locally including the Little Theatre, the Salem Lecture Series, study groups,political forums and elections. They also joined with the national chapter in support of bigger issues like equal pay, desegregation, the environment, and the Equal Rights Amendment. Today, the AAUW continues to advocate for these and many other issues.

 Items from the collection include flyers, memberships directories, reports, brochures, programs,newsletters, photographs and news articles covering the many activities of the AAUW in Winston-Salem. Some of the highlights from the collection include:

Handout for Parents from the Television Study Group.

Handout for Parents from the Television Study Group.

One of several study groups in the AAUW. This one focused on the effects television had on children and families.

Cover of the Report on the Yadkin-Pee Dee River Basin Study  1984.

Cover of the Report on the Yadkin-Pee Dee River Basin Study 1984.

This group received a grant to study and file a report on the current status of the water quality, supply, and wastewater treatment facilities in the Yadkin-Pee Dee River Basin.

News article featuring the winners of the 1977 Alderman race. One of whom was an AAUW member.

News article featuring the winners of the 1977 Alderman race. One of whom was an AAUW member.

Coupon asking for ideas for ratifying the ERA, printed in the AAUW Journal 1976.

Coupon asking for ideas for ratifying the ERA, printed in the AAUW Journal 1976.

And of course the AAUW continued working to improve educational and leadership  opportunities for young women. Both of the following programs came out of AAUW reports published in the 90’s. These reports focused on how schools were not meeting the needs of girls and how gender gaps were affecting the education of children.

Brochure for the Educational Symposium,  Today’s Girls, Tomorrow’s Leaders  1995

Brochure for the Educational Symposium, Today’s Girls, Tomorrow’s Leaders 1995

 Information on the Today’s Girls, Tomorrow’s Leaders Symposium: Defining the Dimensions of Success. Held on the Salem College campus, this was a joint effort with the Girl Scouts of America to help young women develop leadership skills.

Booklet for the Healthy Lifestyles program  2005.

Booklet for the Healthy Lifestyles program 2005.

The Healthy Lifestyles, a new strategy for enhancing math and science skills among adolescent girls. The AAUW worked in cooperation with the Salvation Army’s Girls Club on this project. The goal was to enhance the math and science skills of young girls by working with them incorporating basic nutrition and exercise into their daily lives.

Materials from this collection have been digitized as part of an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) grant received by the North Carolina Room by the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center. Visit digitalnc.org, find the Forsyth County Public Library on the contributors page, and choose “Memorabilia” to browse items from the American Association of  University Women collection and other collections.

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This publication was supported by grant funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services a division of the Department of Cultural Resources.

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