Agents of Change

The Chicago Illinois Inc. branch has been honored with four recipients of the AAUW-IL Agent of Change Award.  Patty Crowley in 1989, Jan Lisa Huttner in 2012,, Paula Purdue in 2019 and AJ Conroy in 2020. 

History of the Agent of Change Award
The Agent of Change Award was instituted in 1984 by the Board of Directors of the Illinois
State Division, now AAUW-IL, Inc. This prestigious award is presented annually to an AAUW member who has served as a catalyst to bring about positive societal change and visibility to AAUW. The five District Directors are charged with selecting the Awardee from nominations submitted by AAUW-IL branches.

All efforts that relate to AAUW’s mission are considered, with special emphasis placed on
activities that relate to current AAUW priorities and initiatives. For example, individuals who have actively promoted change in the areas of education, equity, advocacy, and/or public policy, and have brought visibility to AAUW, should be among those considered as nominees for this prestigious award.

Patty Crowley  – Agent of Change 1989

The late Patty Crowley (1932-2005) was the first woman from AAUW Chicago Branch, Inc to receive this honor. She was selected in 1989 for her social activism on behalf of women and families.Though she served Chicago as a lay (unordained) Christian for most of her life, AAUW-IL honored her for co-founding the Christian Family Movement as well as Deborah’s Place (a shelter for homeless women). Please see link for the rest of the article. Agents of Change Patty Crowley

Jan Lisa Huttner – Agent of Change 2012

Film critic, author and feminist activist Jan Lisa Huttner is the second woman from the AAUW Chicago Branch, Inc. to receive the honor. The first was Patricia Crowley who received this prestigious award in 1989 and the third was Paula Purdue in 2019.

Huttner was selected in 2012 for her leadership on two projects that exemplify the AAUW mission: International SWAN Day and Jane Addams Day.

The work that eventually became the AAUW-IL project WITASWAN (Women in the Audience Supporting Woman Artists Now) began in 2002, after which Huttner co-founded its successor project International SWAN Day with Martha Richards (the Executive Director of WomenArts). Both projects work to support women artists in all media, emphasizing “the necessary alliance between women artists and women in the audience.”  Please see link for the rest of the article. AgentsofChangeHuttner

Paula Purdue – Agent of Change 2019

Paula Purdue was honored as our 2019 Agent of Change recipient at our State Convention.
Paula Purdue has been a member of AAUW since 1983 and has seen many changes and advancements for women as well as attempts to erode women’s rights. Paula, raised in a conservative family in Southern Illinois, received her Bachelor’s degree in education from Illinois State University in 1969, her Master’s degree from Michigan State and her second Master’s in Political Science from U of I in Springfield in 2007.

After a short teaching career, she became the state lobbyist for the Illinois Education Association—a job she held for 28 years. As an educator, many of the bills she supported were also of importance to AAUW. In June of 1983, Peg Breslin from Ottawa, introduced a bill that required math and science to be taught in Illinois high schools for all four years. It was discovered some schools did not have one science or math class for any high school grade level. The bill was passed and Paula was instrumental in lobbying for its passage.

After leaving the IEA she started her own firm and served as AAUW’s lobbyist. Through the years
passage of the ERA has been on her mind. Distressed that this did not pass in Illinois when it was first proposed in 1972-1973, Paula began lobbying for passage in 1976. Forty some years later, and officially retired as a lobbyist, she was still working to pass ERA in Illinois. In anticipation of action on this piece of legislation, Paula stayed in Springfield for weeks lobbying and ever so slowly working for the needed votes. The Amendment passed in May of 2018—certainly a result of pressure from many quarters but none more dedicated than Paula.
Her efforts and other AAUW Illinois members were recognized by the Illinois Women’s Institute for Leadership after the passage of ERA in Illinois.

In 2012 Paula retired for a second time and moved to Chicago, where she has mentored the next generation of women influencers. It was during this period that Paula, in cooperation with the Chicago, Inc. Branch, presented PUBLIC POLICY 101 in Chicago and at our State Convention.
Perhaps as important as her career and dedication to causes that are near and dear to AAUW, is her reputation for integrity, thoroughness, and knowledge among the public policy supporters in the membership.  We congratulate Paula on being our Agent of Change 2019.

AJ Conroy – Agent of Change 2020

Amy Jo (AJ) Conroy of the Chicago, Inc. Branch was honored as our AAUW-IL 2020 Agent of Change recipient. Normally, this would have been announced at our State Convention which was cancelled due to COVID-19.

AJ has demonstrated outstanding commitment to the AAUW mission in a variety of ways over the past few years.  She serves as the Public Policy officer of her branch and has made a significant impact on public policy issues in both the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois.  Specifically, she has:

  • Planned and implemented the showing of the “Equal Means Equal” documentary for the August 2016 launch in Chicago, including securing a viewing location and spearheading the fund-raising campaign to subsidize it – More than 100 women attended
  • Provided sustained support for ratification of the ERA in Illinois over a period of years, including important database analysis, a Letter to the Editor in the Chicago Tribune (September 2016) and another in the Chicago Sun Times (September 2018)
  • Spearheaded the effort to produce an ERA Coloring Book for 6-8th graders (2018)
  • Coordinated a series of WorkSmart workshops in conjunction with LUNA and various hosting organizations such as the YWCA (2017-2018)
  • Actively promoted a resolution to rename a portion of Chicago’s Congress Parkway to commemorate anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells (Spring-Summer 2018)
  • Served on the organizing committee for the Chicago’s Equal Pay Day Rally (multiple years)
  • Consistently applied pressure on the Chicago Public School System to enhance their Title IX resources in light of the sexual harassment crisis made public by the Chicago Tribune (2018-2019)
  • Hosted a table at the Young Feminist Conference “Cause the Effect Chicago” (Nov 2019) attended by more than 300 high school and college girls
  • Organized multiple Edit-a-thons to promote the inclusion of Illinois women in Wikipedia (2019)

AJ proudly displays her AAUW membership button wherever she goes.  For many of the activities mentioned above, she was the AAUW representative on coordinated efforts among multiple women’s organizations. When the League of Women Voters sponsored a mayoral debate in Spring 2019, AJ made sure that AAUW was one of the organizations that got to submit one of the coveted questions for the debate. The series of WorkSmart events held in Chicago gave AAUW a big publicity boost in the community. AJ represents the future of AAUW.  Her enthusiasm for advocating for gender equality is unparalleled and she never hesitates to take action when it’s needed. Congratulations, AJ!