The American Association of University Women (AAUW) is the nation’s leading voice promoting equity and education for women and girls. Since our founding in 1881, AAUW members have examined and taken positions on the fundamental issues of the day — educational, social, economic, and political.https://www.aauw.org/who-we-are/
Beginning in 1953, any female student from Northern Michigan College could apply to be a member of AAUW, providing her a sense of community, assistance, and a voice. Before ’53, such an opportunity was scare available to students here on campus. Prior to the school’s acceptance, Northern had not met certain requirements set by AAUW to become associated: Inadequate health and housing facilities for female students and too few women in high faculty ranks and administrative positions.
Miss Ethel Carey, who at that time served as Dean of Women at Northern, heard these concerns directly from the students she counseled and took action. Shortly after accepting President John Munson’s job offer in 1924, Carey had a room adjacent to her office remodeled for Northern’s first school nurse, Martha Hatch. Mrs. Hatch was able to administer free flu and smallpox vaccines, free tuberculosis x-ray checks, and aided students who required serious hospitalization with student funds. In 1948, Northern’s first dormitory for women, Carey Hall, opened with nurse Ada Vielmetti’s Health Center occupying a four-room suite inside. Thus, work could begin on application to AAUW.
As members of AAUW, female faculty, staff, and supporters could attend nation- or state-wide conferences during their time in the association. Attendees of the various conventions were distributed “Convention Daily” booklets, which detailed their schedules.
Each 6-page booklet served as a news digest as well, often including lists of recently admitted university associations, articles concerning speeches made by AAUW leadership, or event schedules/recaps. Most of the news would probably have little relevance to the overall history of the organization, but I find the bulletins interesting peeks into the “in culture” of AAUW members of the 1950s.
“What’s In A Name?” asks a small endcap. “AAUW is being called names. A taxi driver looking up at the sign… remarked, “Oh, the Active American Union of Workers is meeting, and they all seem to be women.” A recurring section, “Honestly, It’s True…” made many allusions to current events with a humorous twist: “…that intemperance has been a national issue for a long, long time. At least Dr. Rosamonde Ramsay Boyd found enough material on the problem to do her M.A. thesis on the subject, ‘Drinking Customs in South Carolina 1663-1830.” Another issue reads, “…that every session of the AAUW Convention is attended by a sprightly young fellow with no college degree nor background. He’s Reddy Kilowatt, the symbolic thunderbolt on your convention ball point pen. He’s attending as the delegate of Northern States Power Company.”
These moments of witty rhetoric and general fun are sprinkled throughout the pages, but in no way take away the professionalism of each newsletter. Equity and education of women and girls was still at the heart of these publications. One 1953 issue included a briefing on past First Lady Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt’s lecture tours abroad, who sent a message to the convention: “Education is invaluable for a free people; in fact, it would be impossible without education to have a really successful form of democratic government.”
To learn more about the history of the AAUW, contact the NMU Archives (firstname.lastname@example.org or (906) 227-1225) or stop in to see our Marquette branch records, MSS-163. If you are interested in becoming active in the Marquette AAUW branch, please contact Membership Co-Chair and NMU Dean of Library and Instructional Support, Leslie Warren (email@example.com).