AAUW Colorado History

Most of the history on this page was taken from the 75-year history of AAUW Colorado, researched and written by our AAUW Colorado Archivist, Betsy Loague. Click on the icon to the left to read the entire history in pdf format. Names have changed over the years; in this synopsis current name designations are used throughout for simplicity.


AAUW in Colorado began in 1898 when eight graduates of eastern colleges organized the Colorado Branch of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae (ACA). However, prior to 1914,  graduates of Colorado higher education institutions were not eligible for membership because the school accreditations for CU and CSU had not occurred. AAUW Colorado was formally organized in 1927; state dues were $0.10.

Initially liberal arts’ degrees were required.  Most members had advanced degrees; many had PhDs. In 1963 an admission change stated that any woman with a baccalaureate degree from a four-year accredited college or university was eligible to join AAUW. This change extended membership to women having degrees in home economics, nursing, and education. More changes occurred. AAUW now is open to men and women with an associate degree or a degree from a four-year accredited college or university.


State health plans became the main interest of division members in the late 40s as they supported Denver member, Dr. Florence Rena Sabin, in her work for new public health legislation. This work was coordinated throughout the branches and achieved such success that a report was requested for presentation at the National Convention in Dallas in 1947.

Because the work on Public Health had been so effective in helping to secure the reorganization of the State Department of Public Health, and in the passing of six important health bills, the study of health problems continued and was expanded into a regional project.

The unveiling, February 26, 1959, of the statue of Dr. Florence Rena Sabin (in one of the two niches representing Colorado) in Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C., represented  five years of arduous work. Many branches assisted with the public solicitation of $18,000 and supported the required legislation for the statue in the Colorado General Assembly and the U.S. Congress. At its dedication Dr. Sabin’s statue was the only one in Statuary Hall of a woman.

Instead of remaining in place after its dedication the statue was soon moved to the basement, along with some other statues, and was not reinstalled until 1996 when Denver’s Congresswoman Pat Schroeder requested its return before she retired from Congress.


Originally support was given to women seeking advanced degrees and doing research. In 1920 Marie Curie received $156,413 toward the purchase of a gram of radium.

In 1955, the delegates at the national convention voted to establish a separate foundation, the AAUW Educational Foundation, which would raise funds for fellowship programs and provide the financing for a new headquarters building for both the foundation and the Association. Other foundations have been added as needs arose. In 1989 the Legal Advocacy Foundation, which helps provide money and legal support for women in higher education seeking judicial action for anti-discrimination suits, celebrated its first victory.

Did you know that…

  • In 1888 AAUW gave Ida Street $350 to pursue graduate research–possibly the first fellowship of its kind in any country.
  • To date the AAUW Fund has helped 7,500 women worldwide achieve their personal goals.
  • Total fellowships, grants, and awards now exceed $3.3 million annually.
  • Awardees include former secretary of U. S. Department of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, anthropologist Margaret Mead, and astronaut Judith Resnick.

In 2002 an American Fellowship was set up in the name of Judith C. Sanderson. Judy had served both her Colorado Springs Branch and the AAUW Colorado in many positions, including president; she had been a Regional Director; and was the Coordinator for the Association’s Leader-on-Loan program. Not only was she a leader in the organizations, she was also a mentor, and enthusiastic proponent of AAUW’s mission. Instead of the twenty years allotted for raising $100,000 to fund the Fellowship, Colorado members raised $125,000 in less than six.


Education has always been a strong focus of AAUW. In 1940 when it became known that  Colorado ranked 46th of the 48 states in state aid to education, AAUW Colorado requested that the legislative committee do a study to look into the more serious needs of the state’s education system. The final report led to many discussions by branches with their communities. Beginning in 1940, the state and branches focused their attention on issues dealing with all levels of education, public health, and community problems.

At this time the AAUW National legislative committee rarely initiated action, and the organization only reluctantly entered into coalitions with other groups. Controversial political issues were to be avoided.

In the early 1950s AAUW members became involved in a state conference of concerned citizens. The recommendations of the conference resulted in the first Public School Foundation Act, which dealt with the distribution of financial aid by the legislature to Colorado’s public schools.

AAUW National established the Eleanor Roosevelt 10-year research project to address the issue of the education of girls. In 1992 the report, “How Schools Shortchange Girls,” shook up the educational system throughout the nation and fostered necessary changes. There were new methods implemented for helping girls achieve their potential.

In 1993 “Hostile Hallways: the AAUW Survey on Sexual Harassment in American Schools” was released. It was the first national survey of its kind, showing that 81% of students surveyed experienced sexual harassment in school.

Public Policy and Advocacy

The first Legislative Workshop held by AAUW Colorado occurred in January, 1964 with the goal of helping members to become better acquainted with their legislators and the legislative process. Then change came quickly. AAUW no longer retreated from social action.

AAUW Colorado worked very hard for Title IX, becoming an important voice in the coalition working for passage. In 1971 the AAUW National Convention was one of the last women’s groups to endorse the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment). AAUW Colorado and its branches did extensive lobbying and campaigning to win the state ratification of the ERA by March 1979. Unfortunately, the ERA never became law because too few states ratified it.

The Colorado Lobby Corps began monitoring the annual legislature Sessions in 1983. The state encouraged 100% member voter registrations, promoted effective leadership and leadership training, and worked to maintain membership retention and community visibility. In the 90s members worked with Girls Count to further programs in local schools.

As the roles of women have changed in American society so has the focus of AAUW. Colorado’s members have met each challenge, and with its group of strong dynamic leaders, Colorado has been, and will continue to be, an integral part of AAUW.

Branches and Charter Dates

1963    Aurora 1921   Fort Collins
1927   Boulder 1927   Grand Junction
1915   Colorado Springs 1927   Gunnison
1898   Denver 1972   Lakewood
1978   Douglas County 1962   Littleton/South Metro
1946   Durango 1947   Longmont
1970   Foothills 1935   Loveland

For more information, download Colorado AAUW: 2001-2008, Honoring Judy Sanderson (PDF) and Colorado Division, AAUW: 1926-2001, The First 75 Years (PDF), both by Betsy Loague.