Wednesday, March 28, 2007

AAUW: 125 Years of Working for Equity

“125 Years of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), a Legacy of Leadership in Words and Music” was presented by eight members of the AAUW Islip Area Branch. We wrote the scrip using the book “Degrees of Equality” and the AAUW online museum http://www.aauw.org/museum/index.cfm

Our program started with the founding of AAUW in 1881 by a group of college educated women who wanted to make a difference in there lives and those of other women. Women at that time were supposed to stay home and tend the family. Song Bird in a Gilded Cage was sung. AAUW encouraged women to seek higher education Song Cornell Alma Mater sung. The first AAUW Research project was to disprove the commonly held notion that education endangered a woman’s health and ability to bear children. This assumption was proved false.

AAUW’s history was divided into twenty year segments which were presented using the same format of interspersing facts and appropriate songs. A few highlights were AAUW’s involvement in unequal pay for women working for the government during World War I. Women from across the nation were brought together by the use of the telephone. Now it is the computer.

In the thirties the Associations emphasis on Equity Education and its reputation for quality research and moderate leadership gave AAUW a quirt stature in an era of social crisis. During the McCarthy era AAUW warned of the danger of losing liberties by the same means adopted to defend them. In 1958 our Education Foundation was established to administer AAUW scholarship and grant program. Now over $3 million annually

Starting in the seventies AAUW spoke out firmly and clearly to promote equal rights, to end inequities based on gender, to develop affirmative action polices on campuses and to encourage women to increase their professional training. Now over 50% of college students are women. In 1981 the AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund was started to provide support for women seeking judicial redress for sex discrimination. To date over $1 million has been given to litigants. In 1991 AAUW introduced its Initiative for Educational Equity with the publication of Short Changing Girls, Short Changing America. This study showed how girl students were not being treated equally with boy students. When the impact of this study and subsequent ones were absorbed into the educational system, the sky was the limit for girls.

In 1995 one of our presenters attended the Woman’s Conference in Beijing attended by 189 nations. The topic was how these countries were going to advance women’s rights. In 2002 AAUW hosted its first National Conference of College Women Student Le3aders. AAUW has worked to protect Title XI and Social Security. In 2005 we opened our membership to all with a two year or equivalent degree or higher. Today AAUW’s theme is Education is the Gateway to Women’s Economic Security. Our most recent study “What’s Behind the Gap” will be released on Equal Pay Day, April 24. The time when a woman finally makes as much money as a man did last year. We ended our presentation with I am Woman. Indeed we are an organization with a Legacy of Leadership in advocacy, education and research to obtain equity for women and girls.

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