Creating the World of the Future: Eleanor Roosevelt Fund Award at 25

Eleanor holds a large Spanish draft of the Declaration of Human Rights.

Eleanor Roosevelt holding Declaration of Human Rights in Spanish at Lake Success, New York, in November 1949. Photo courtesy of FDR Presidential Library & Museum, Flickr

September 17, 2014

Twenty-five years ago, AAUW presented the first Eleanor Roosevelt Fund Award at the 1989 AAUW National Convention in Washington, D.C. This eventful convention gave members the opportunity to learn more about the new Eleanor Roosevelt Fund, which launched in 1988 and supports our research. The award is named for the fund, but the connection between the two sometimes gets lost. To remind us all of the importance of both the fund and the award, I looked back at publications from that time. The March–April 1989 edition of AAUW Outlook included a fascinating article describing the mission of the fund:

  • Remove barriers to women’s and girls’ participation in education
  • Promote the value of diversity and cross-cultural communication
  • Develop greater understanding of the ways women learn, think, work, and play

The fund’s activities have changed over the past 25 years, but the ideals remain the same. AAUW recognized in 1989 that it must continue its “ongoing support of greater participation by women and girls in actively shaping their future.” This support included not only creating the Eleanor Roosevelt Fund Award to honor women and organizations that fulfill the fund’s mission in their communities but also supporting Teacher Enrichment Sabbaticals, which provided elementary and secondary school teachers “time and resources to increase their effectiveness with girls in math and science courses and with at-risk girls.”

According to then-AAUW President Sarah Harder, “For over a century AAUW has stood behind winners who are women, making clear to the world that exceptional talents are born both male and female. With the Eleanor Roosevelt Fund, the foundation affirms our commitment to make more women winners and to share AAUW credibility with women whose talents sit unrecognized by society or by themselves.”

The first Eleanor Roosevelt Fund Award honored Ruth Leger Sivard, economist and author of World Military and Social Expenditures and Women … a World Survey, which was first distributed in 1985 at the Decade for Women Conference Forum in Nairobi, Kenya.

The leaders who created the fund and award were inspired by the words of Eleanor Roosevelt:

It is today that we must create the world of the future. Never have we needed as acutely as now — in a world of ferment, shifting and changing its course, often without direction — the full use of all the brain power we have. We need every single mind. We cannot afford to have any potential talent or ability dulled to apathy.

Now, a half-century later, her words continue to resonate.

Lesley Perry By:   |   September 17, 2014