On October 14, 1989, the Chicago Branch celebrated its 100th anniversary as a branch of the American Association of University Women. A Chicago-based group of women, organized in 1889 as the Western Association of Collegiate Alumnae, disbanded their group in 1889 to become the eighth branch of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae (ACA). The ACA was founded in 1881 by a group of young women college graduates who met at the home of Marion Talbot in Boston. The change in name to American Association of University Women came in 1921.
From its founding, the Chicago Branch has followed the Association- developed programs closely. The early emphasis on education and the status of women broadened with changing times to a concern with other social and political conditions, both local and national. In its early years Chicago branch recognized the importance of Jane Addams’ newly established social settlement Hull House and contributed to it by supporting a resident for a time. In 1913, when extension of the franchise to women of Illinois was enacted, the Branch immediately formed a civics class to prepare women for the new duties of citizenship.
Branch support for the AAUW Fellowships Program, now the Educational Foundation Program, was strong from the beginning. The Branch’s predecessor, Western ACA., had awarded a grant for research to Vassar graduate Ida M. Street in 1888, a first of its kind award. Chicago Branch member Mrs. Bradwell served as the Association’s Fellowships Committee Chairman for many years. The Chicago Branch has been honored to have AAUW Fellowships established in the names of three of its members: Marion Talbot, Jane Addams, and Irene Cuneo.
At its 1987 Convention, AAUW changed its membership eligibility requirement to permit qualified graduates — meaning men as well as women — to membership.
A Chicago Branch member belongs to the Branch, the national Association and the Illinois Division of AAUW.
Branch papers are deposited at the Chicago History Museum.