Women in History Live On through Fellowships

March 15, 2013

If you read the AAUW blog, you have probably seen the Following the Fellows series that highlights AAUW fellowship and grant recipients. With AAUW’s support, these women have financial security while they write their dissertations, conduct research, go back to school, change careers, come from abroad to study in the United States, or any other number of pursuits that — as an AAUW member — I am proud we support.

When an AAUW fellowship or grant endowment is created, it often honors a specific individual. And establishing an endowment is no small feat. Because they fund awards in perpetuity, endowments usually require several years of work and substantial fundraising.

AAUW’s first named endowment was created in 1908 and named for Alice Freeman Palmer, one of the 17 young women who gathered in Boston in 1881 to found the Association of Collegiate Alumnae, which would later become the American Association of University Women.

Since that first endowment, there have been hundreds of women honored and memorialized through these fellowships and grants. Within this varied group, there are distinguished scientists and scholars whose careers set an example and helped dispose of the injurious theory that women’s intellects and abilities are inferior. They were pioneers and trailblazers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). They were our sisters, and in the spirit of Women’s History Month, here are just a few of their stories.

Florence B. Seibert

Florence Seibert, who was honored with the Florence B. Seibert American Fellowship

Florence Seibert, who was honored with the Florence B. Seibert American Fellowship

In 1963, the AAUW Clearwater (FL) Branch established an American Fellowship in honor of Florence B. Seibert, an AAUW member and renowned scientist. Seibert invented the first reliable tuberculosis test, which was adopted as the standard in the United States in 1941 and by the World Health Organization in 1952. The test is still used today.

In 1943, Seibert became the first AAUW Achievement Award winner. In 1944, she received the National Achievement Award (from Eleanor Roosevelt in the East Room of the White House). And in 1990, Seibert was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. Seibert was also recently named a National Women’s History Project nominee.

Since its completion in 1970 with the help of other AAUW branches in Florida, the Florence B. Seibert American Fellowship has been awarded to more than 40 recipients. The Fellowships and Grants directory provides descriptions of some of the most recent recipients.

After meeting one of the fellows, Seibert said, “I am personally deeply honored by this fellowship and very happy that you have found such a promising candidate. This is one of my deepest joys, and I am very fortunate to have some years left in which I can watch this worthwhile project progress under such ideal guidance by the AAUW.”

Dorothy W. Weeks

Dorothy Weeks, who was honored with the Dorothy W. Weeks International Fellowship

Dorothy Weeks was honored with the Dorothy W. Weeks International Fellowship.

In 1972, AAUW of Massachusetts created an AAUW International Fellowship in honor of Dorothy W. Weeks. In 1930, Weeks was the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She coordinated a research program on radiological shielding against nuclear weapons and later became a spectroscopist, conducting research on the solar satellite project at Harvard College Observatory. She was also responsible for establishing a major in physics at Newton College of the Sacred Heart in Massachusetts.

Weeks credited her parents for her decision to pursue a career in science, saying, “My parents, but especially my mother, encouraged me to do anything that I thought was right for me.” Creating an AAUW International Fellowship in Weeks’ honor was particularly fitting, as she was a longtime AAUW leader who from 1946 to 1953 was the chair of the International Grants Committee.

Read about some of the recent recipients of the Dorothy W. Weeks International Fellowship on the online Fellowships and Grants directory. Paromita Goswami, one of these fellows, recently obtained a director-level job at an international research firm.

Florence R. Sabin

Florence Sabin, who was honored with the Florence R. Sabin American Fellowship

Florence Sabin was honored with the Florence R. Sabin American Fellowship. All images by AAUW Archives.

The Florence R. Sabin American Fellowship was created in 1928 by what was then called the AAUW Rocky Mountain Region (AAUW of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming). This endowment was a tribute to the many “firsts” that Sabin achieved for women in medicine.

In 1917, Sabin became the first woman on the faculty of Johns Hopkins Medical School and the first woman to be a full professor there. She was the first woman member of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research and the first woman president of the American Association of Anatomists. In her later years, Sabin became a public health activist helping to modernize Colorado’s public health system with what were called the “Sabin health laws.” AAUW of Colorado was instrumental in the installation of a statue of  Sabin to represent Colorado in Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol. Sabin was only the third woman to represent a state in the hall.

Take a look at the recent recipients of Sabin’s fellowship and see the impact this endowment still has 85 years later. One of these fellows, Rhoda M. Dorsey, is now the president of Goucher College. Another fellow, Abbie Griffin, is inspiring the next generation of marketing professionals with her unique background in chemical engineering.

These are just three of the many women memorialized with AAUW endowments. We continue to remember their contributions to history and as mentors and role models in STEM. Through these endowments, their legacies will continue to enable generations of women who aspire to reach their educational and professional goals.

By:   |   March 15, 2013

Join the Conversation

You must be logged in to post a comment.