Membership History

Knowing how AAUW membership requirements have evolved over the history of the organization helps put the current debate in context:
  • 1881 Seventeen women envision an organization in which women college graduates band together to open doors of higher education to other women and to find wider opportunities to use their training.
  • 1884 Branches are admitted as local groups of the parent organization, with the provision that they cooperate in the general work of the Association while carrying on independent work.
  • 1889 ACA established a membership policy for educational institutions, which marked the beginning of using AAUW’s membership as a means for encouraging higher standards in education for women. To be eligible for ACA approval, colleges and universities must display high academic standards, adequate provision for women students, women on faculties and administration, a sound basis of liberal education, and intellectual freedom.
  • 1913 Members begin pay equity efforts with a report on U.S. Civil Service job classifications and compensation.
  • 1920 Women gain the right to vote
  • 1949 AAUW members voted that any woman holding an approved degree from an institution approved for AAUW membership-eligibility is entitled to membership in both the national Association and its branches.
  • 1963 AAUW eased membership requirements, allowing degrees in fields such as home economics, nursing and education.
  • 1975?* AAUW drops the list of “approved” colleges and universities for membership and accepts all accredited colleges and universities.
  • 1979 members vote to maintain a single-sex membership until society is ready to grant women equality.
  • 1987 AAUW extends membership to men who hold college degrees.
  • 2005 AAUW expands membership to include graduates holding an associate or equivalent degree.
  • 2009 AAUW’s newly approved Bylaws changes the organization’s purpose from “uniting graduates of different institutions for practical educational work …” to “promote equity for all women and girls…”.

*We’re currently trying to confirm the exact date of when AAUW accepted all accredited colleges and universities.  It appears it happened no later than 1975, and probably the gradual shift towards this change began in the early 1960s.