Celebrating 131 Years of AAUWNovember 28, 2012
During this season of giving thanks and remembering the people and events that are important to us, let’s not forget about the small group of visionary women who paved the way for the creation of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae — the predecessor to AAUW — 131 years ago today.
On November 28, 1881, Marion Talbot, then a recent graduate from Boston University, and Ellen Swallow Richards, the first woman professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, invited 15 alumnae from eight colleges to a meeting in Boston. Discouraged by the lack of opportunities available to them, the women discussed how they would join together to help other women attend college and to assist those who had already graduated.
Although Marion is usually credited with initiating this first meeting, it really was her mother, Emily Talbot, who urged Marion to do so. A longtime advocate of girls’ education, Emily was perpetually frustrated by the lack of educational opportunities for young women, including her own daughters. In 1877, Emily founded the Girls’ Latin School in Boston after unsuccessfully trying to get girls admitted into the Boston Latin School. Marion’s sister, Edith Talbot, was in the first graduating class from the Girls’ Latin School.
Emily recognized that there was little that college-educated women could do with their newly earned degrees. Many in this first generation of alumnae struggled with a lack of opportunity that would be unfathomable to women today. Thankfully, Emily suggested the meeting and hoped that it would unite women of similar backgrounds and situations.
At the November 28 meeting, one graduate from each of the eight represented colleges was chosen for a committee to move toward the next step. So a few weeks later, on January 14, 1882, 65 women college graduates met and officially formed the Association of Collegiate Alumnae to “unite in practical educational work.”
Listen to Marion recount, at age 86, the story of that first meeting and how the Association of Collegiate Alumnae was founded.