"Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of the body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day."
March is internationally recognized as Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day has been celebrated on the 8th for over 100 years. The central theme of this year’s celebration was “Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures” and worldwide thousands of events will be held this month to support this concept as well as the over-all economic, political and social achievements of women. In this field, few organizations can boast the progress and achievements as the American Association of University Women (MS 89). The purpose of the organization is “to enable college women to continue their own intellectual growth, further the advancement of women, and discharge their responsibility to society.” Indeed, these women have worked tirelessly for over a century at the local, national, and international levels to demonstrate the change, and the good, that the educated voice of women can bring to society. The organization has 5 key areas of interest: education, international relations, community, cultural interests, and of course, women.
In regard to education, the AAUW has worked to ensure greater equality of opportunity for women and minorities on college campuses by increasing representation at all levels, from student body to faculty to administration. Additionally, they have worked to educate women about career opportunities and allow women into previously un-entered areas of the workforce. Internationally the AAUW works with the UN and the International Federation of University Women in non-governmental activities. One of the most popular and crucial programs sponsored is the African Educators Program which began in 1963 and allows “women from various African nations to visit communities in the US and to study local educational institutions.” Culturally, the AAUW has sponsored arts festivals, competitions, museums, book fairs, among many other things. One notable accomplishment was the preservation of the Antelope Valley Indian Museum through a grueling publicity and lobbying campaign for the state to purchase and continue the museum. They also worked to secure funding for educational television and ‘suitable’ prime-time television programming. Within the community the AAUW has worked to improve race relations, like civil rights legislation in the early ’60s, as well as reform in the court system and jails. In 1968 the organization released an official Call To Action pledging “the best efforts of its own members…toward constructive change to facilitate the full and equal participation of all people in the American social, economic, and political system.” They have also worked to combat poverty through legislation such as job and housing bills and school lunch and breakfast programs. Finally, they have worked to help women be elected and hold public office at every level, along with equal pay, and opportunity.
Locally, the Bowling Green chapter of the AAUW has had a number of notable accomplishments since its founding in 1938. In line with the national goals, a number of members hold public office. They’ve also brought countless speakers to help educate and inform the public on the countless issues facing women and minorities. They’ve also held book fairs and helped sponsor countless community events. Finally, they perform the thankless task of keeping women and minority issues in public discussions helping to ensure that our voices will always continue to be heard. The Bowling Green chapter has even gained national recognition for their educational projects such as an Elder Care and Abuse study which won the Public Information Awards Competition in 1980. Other projects since include Assault on Women Prevention and AIDS Prevention in Adolescents.
Ultimately, the organization stands as an epitome for the need of women’s voices in the public sphere. Given equal opportunities and education, women work endlessly to not only better their own lives, and promote pertinent issues, but will work for the general welfare and true equality. As stated in 1953, we all must seek to, “widen your horizons, help build a better community, contribute toward the intelligent solution of national and international problems.”
For more information and history of the Bowling Green chapter of the AAUW come to the Center for Archival Collections to view our holdings:
For more information on International Women’s Day: