Unearthing an Extinct AAUW Fellowship

April 04, 2012

I’ve mentioned before that the stories of AAUW Fellowships and Grants alumnae come to our attention in unique ways. And the news I love the most comes from past fellows who reach out to AAUW to say thank you for the support.

Evelyn Helmick Hively, a member of the 1963 class of the AAUW College Faculty Program, contacted us after she came across her fellowship materials. Hively applied for the program after seeing an ad in the paper and was surprised when AAUW selected her to be a fellow. She e-mailed  us and contemplated whether she had “accomplished some of what was expected by the members of [the] AAUW Selection Committee 50 years ago.”

To fully grasp Hively’s story, I had to explore the extinct College Faculty Program. She was kind enough to send in her fellowship material to provide us with further insight. Through this research, I learned that AAUW developed the College Faculty Program in 1961 in an effort to increase resources for qualified women in higher education. The program sought “mature, female college graduates 35 years of age or older” who were passionate about employment opportunities at colleges or universities. The program was supported by a grant from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and institutions in 11 Southern states that were committed to enrolling and employing women of this age group. The program proved to be popular and received an astounding 1,169 inquiries from applicants in the first six months. To put this in perspective, in 2011–12, AAUW had 900 American Fellowship applicants in a time when far more women have the opportunity to go to college and graduate school.

In September 1962, about 50 women returned to graduate school as the first class of CFP fellows. Surveys of the fellows during this first year and in 1968 showed that many women found that returning to school was difficult. Classes were much harder than they expected or remembered from their undergraduate careers. Some women had to take refresher courses, which delayed their graduation and sometimes even resulted in withdrawal from the program. But the balance between academics and family life proved to be the main difficulty. One woman reported that she “learned to cook dinner with a textbook in hand and buy groceries in the hour’s interval between classes.” Some women found that success truly required the full support of their families. This support was not there for all of the fellows — stereotypes of the domestic woman plagued some of their experiences. Despite the hardships, the 1968 AAUW survey showed that of the 126 women who were awarded fellowships through the CFP, 77 had earned a master’s, and seven had earned doctorates. Many more were still completing their studies.

Where did Hively fall within those statistics? She absolutely met and exceeded the expectations of the AAUW Selection Committee, that’s for sure. She was the first CFP fellow to be hired as a permanent faculty member — she taught women’s studies and literature at the University of Miami. After 13 years at Miami, she was hired as an academic dean at Salem College to create professional goals for women to supplement the liberal arts program. After retiring, she published four books on three woman writers: Willa Cather, Elinor Wylie, and Rosemary Benet. Clearly an accomplished woman, Hively emphasized that the 50th anniversary of the CFP “is a reminder of all that the AAUW award enabled me to do professionally and the great difference it has made in my life. I am very grateful.”

This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Elyssa Shildneck.

AAUWguest By:   |   April 04, 2012

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