Guerilla Regiments, Frontier Doctors, and Civil Rights Activists: Just Another Day in AAUW’s Archives

June 25, 2014

AAUW’s fellows have fascinating stories to tell — of obstacles overcome, world events witnessed, bravery and courage displayed. Here are a few of the many stories we have been privileged to discover this past year while processing our archives collection. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did.

1. Caroline McGill

Sarah Berliner Research and Lecture Fellowship, 1909–10

Caroline McGill

Caroline McGill received her fellowship from the Association of Collegiate Alumnae to continue her study of anatomy in Europe. In 1912 she received her medical degree from Johns Hopkins University, after just two years of study. She moved to Butte, Montana, and opened a clinic where she’d treat the booming mining town’s residents for the next 40 years. McGill was a devoted doctor, but she was also a committed environmentalist and donated 4,000 acres of her own land to conservation efforts. From her personal collection of artifacts and memorabilia related to the state’s history, she founded the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana.

2. Helga Pedersen

AAUW International Study Grant, 1946–1947

Helga Pedersen

Danish fellow Helga Pedersen used her grant to study criminal law and judicial procedure at Columbia University. After her return to Denmark, she worked as a judge in the Danish court of appeals. She also represented Denmark at the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization conferences and was a delegate to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in 1950. Pedersen then became the only woman in the Danish cabinet when she was appointed minister of justice and later a judge on the Supreme Court of Denmark before being elected to Parliament.

3. Bai Matabay Plang

International Study Grant, 1948–49

Bai Matabay Plang

Bai Matabay Plang, a Filipino princess from the island of Mindanao, was a resistance fighter in the Philippines during World War II. She worked behind Japanese lines, organized her own guerilla regiment, and even had two guerilla regiments named after her. Plang received the International Study Grant from AAUW in 1948, and it enabled her to finish her degree in social work at the University of Chicago. Determined to improve the educational opportunities for women, she founded the Mindanao Institute of Technology, now the University of Southern Mindanao.

4. Ruth Watanabe

AAUW Pennsylvania-Delaware Division Fellowship, 1949–50

Ruth Watanabe, a native Californian and daughter of Japanese immigrants, was interned along with her parents during World War II. According to one of her fellowship references, she taught piano lessons in the internment camp, spreading music in spite of the hardships she endured. She became the librarian of the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, and received an AAUW fellowship to write a dissertation on Renaissance Italian madrigals.

5. Irene Tinker

AAUW Kathryn McHale Memorial Fellowship, 1957–58

Irene Tinker

Political scientist Irene Tinkerstudied the governments of countries in South and Southeast Asia at a critical moment in their histories: the first years after they became independent from European nations. During her fellowship year she was a researcher in Indonesia, where, according to AAUW’s Eighty Years of Fellowships report, she studied political institutions. Tinker’s long and distinguished career in global politics and development is chronicled on her personal website.

6. Farrukh Z. Ahmad

AAUW California Division International Grant, 1958–59

Farrukh Ahmad

Farrukh Ahmad was the first woman from Pakistan to receive an AAUW fellowship. Ahmad studied clinical psychology at Stanford University and received her doctorate there in 1961. She returned to Pakistan and worked as a professor at the University of Karachi and as a counselor and conducted research into the fledgling field of clinical psychology.

7. Vanzetta Penn Durant McPherson

American Fellowship, 1973–74

Vanzetta Penn McPherson
Vanzetta Penn Durant McPherson grew up in Montgomery, Alabama, during the 1950s and early 1960s. An active participant in the civil rights movement, she described her involvement in the struggle in her fellowship application, writing, “The early school years found me marching, demonstrating, and engaging in other nonviolent protests for my then-fledgling convictions.” Her AAUW fellowship helped fund her final year at Columbia University Law School, and she eventually became a judge in her home state of Alabama.

This post was co-written by AAUW’s Suzanne Gould and Liz Beckman.
 


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