$4 Hotels and Marie Curie’s Assistant: Just Another Convention in New Orleans

Members at convention, April 1929

Members at convention, April 1929

March 26, 2013

2013 will be only the second time that AAUW has held our convention in New Orleans. The first time was 84 years ago for the sixth national convention or 42nd general meeting, April 9–12, 1929. The convention included four full days of education and entertainment and attracted more than 650 members. They traveled by rail or car to the Roosevelt Hotel in downtown New Orleans, just one block from the French Quarter. After registration, members attended business sessions on the 12th floor of the hotel, in what was called the “Tip Top Inn,” and would later retreat to their rooms, which cost a mere $4 a day!

Dinner menu, April 10, 1929

Dinner menu, April 10, 1929

AAUW call to convention, 1929

AAUW call to convention, 1929

Convention badge belonging to AAUW Executive Secretary Belle Rankin

Convention badge belonging to AAUW Executive Secretary Belle Rankin


On the morning of April 9, AAUW members got right down to business. Staff members led discussion groups on a variety of issues, including the most widely attended session of the entire convention, Marriage and a Profession. This session presented statistics on working women, marriage, motherhood, and what today we might call “the balancing act.” The data were collected by the AAUW Committee on the Economic and Legal Status of Women. Though intended to only present facts, not surprisingly the discussion frequently strayed to the emotional side. Think about it — don’t work-life balance debates have the same effect today?

Members also participated in discussions about international relations. Treaties and Security, Arbitration and Conciliation, Industrialization of the Orient, and the Economic Disarmament of Europe were on the schedule. These may seem like heavy subjects, but we must remember the year. In 1929, the world was still recovering from one world war, and the next one was looming on the horizon.

During the convention, attendees heard from prominent speakers such as AAUW President Mary Woolley, who congratulated members on their past achievements, reporting that there were 29,410 members and 76 new branches! Ellen Gleditsch, president of the International Federation of University Women, spoke about “international understanding.” It’s important to note that Gleditsch was not just IFUW president, but she was also a Norwegian radiochemist who started her career as an assistant to Marie Curie. Gleditsch later became a pioneer in the field and is credited with establishing the half-life of radium.

Fellowships and their importance were woven throughout the entire convention, as the Million Dollar Fellowships Fund, a national fundraising effort, was only two years old at that point. Eleven fellowships were awarded, including to Emma Carr and Rachel Hoffstadt. Recipient of the Alice Freeman Palmer Fellowship, Carr was an established chemist who used her fellowship to continue her research at the University of Zurich. Recipient of the Mary Pemberton Nourse Fellowship, Hoffstadt was a bacteriologist who conducted research on infectious disease. The fellowship enabled her to work at the Pasteur Institute studying anthrax.

A hefty legislative agenda was also introduced; it favored creating a Department of Education, the United States’ entering the International Court of Justice and the League of Nations, and extending the Children’s Bureau into the area of maternity and infant welfare.

But the 1929 convention wasn’t all work and no play. Saturday, April 13, was officially designated as “Play Day.” Members went on sightseeing tours to the French Quarter and took train and car rides to amazing historical sites.

Have you enjoyed this walk down AAUW memory lane? If so, now it’s up to you to see for yourself that things will be even better the second time around. Hope to see you in New Orleans this summer!

By:   |   March 26, 2013