Branch History

In 1902 a group of women graduates living in and around Ann Arbor (some of whom were members of the Detroit Branch of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae) gathered together to form the Ann Arbor Branch of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae. The women immediately created active committees including Civil Service, Economic Efficiency of College Women, Loan Fund for Scholarships, Legislation, and Suffrage. Members joined the State Forestry Association to reforest the waste-pine lands of Michigan; contributed to the maintenance of Palmer Field; and sponsored and sometimes gave lectures at the YWCA. During the years of WWI, a Red Cross committee was formed, and money was raised and sent overseas. Members acted as hostesses to enlisted men when the University of Michigan opened Barbour Gym to them. After WWI, the Legislative Committee continued to work for suffrage; committees were made which raised money to assist hospitalized children; and the Scholarship Fund grew to $1000.

In 1919, the Association of Collegiate Alumnae became the American Association of University Women (AAUW). Between 1920 and 1926 the Ann Arbor Branch of AAUW contributed thousands of dollars towards the construction of the Michigan League. Many distinguished speakers addressed the branch members during these years including University of Michigan presidents and poet Robert Frost.

Throughout the early 1930s and into the early 1940s the branch was able to finance many projects such as local fellowships honoring Mary E.B.Markley, contributions to the war effort through aid to the British War Relief Society, and various educational projects. It was also during these years that the Bulletin, the branch newsletter, was established (1941-1942).

Numerous new study groups (of which the Education and International Relations Group were among the largest) began to flourish within the branch. The first book sale was held in 1953 over a two-day period in the concourse of the Michigan League. The book sale is now the branch’s primary source of scholarship funds. Over the past 50 years the commitment of branch members to every book sale has helped to make it a community institution. See the Book Sale page for more information about the book sale.

In 1956 the branch was left a bequest by Mary E.B.Markley, which was used to establish a scholarship in her name. Mary Markley was a primary organizer of the branch and an active member for over 50 years. An 1892 graduate of the University of Michigan, she devoted her efforts to improving the welfare of women students at the university and to assisting women’s organizations in the area. The first award was announced in May 1959, and the scholarship has been awarded every year since then, except one.

The branch has also expanded its support for local women beyond the Mary Markley Scholarship. Through a generous bequest from Margaret Weddell Brandon, a member of the branch from 1945/46 through 1955/56, contributions have been given to CEW to help establish a counseling service; and to Washtenaw Community College to establish an endowment named the AAUW Margaret Weddell Brandon Scholarship Fund, among others. See the National Fellowships page for more information on the fellowships and grants offered by the national AAUW and the Local Scholarships page for information about the scholarships funded by our branch.

Membership to AAUW fluctuated throughout the 1960s and 70s, a time of sweeping change in America. Then as now, interest groups continued to be a vital part of life in the AAUW. Interest groups gave members a chance to get to know each other in smaller groups, and allowed them to learn about new subjects. The range of topics has varied over the years but areas such as art, music, education and international relations have been the focus of many groups. Some groups only existed for a few years, while others, like Bibiomaniacs (1972), and the Inglis Recorder Players (1977) are still with us. See the Interest Groups page for more information on study groups offered by the AAUW.

In the last two decades, the AAUW has strengthened its resolve on many social issues. The Ann Arbor branch supports the AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund, which was established to assist women who are discriminated against in higher education. Issues of gender equity within our schools prompted the Ann Arbor Branch to begin holding Sister-to-Sister Summits for middle school girls from all over the city. These events gave the girls a chance to discuss with their peers those important issues that affected their lives, in a non-judgmental atmosphere. The meetings were organized in cooperation with the Huron Valley Girl Scout Council, Eastern Michigan University, and other organizations.

The branch has a long history of co-sponsoring events and projects with other community entities such as civic, religious and business associations. In 2000, the branch was an active participant in ALL Kids First!, and working with the members of the Gray Panthers, League of Women Voters, and many other organizations defeated a school voucher proposal that would have drastically weakened the public education system. In 2001-2004, members joined many others from the University of Michigan Health System, Pfizer Pharmaceutical Company, and the Hands-On Museum to present the Brains Rule! Neuroscience Exposition, to help elementary school students learn about neuroscience and brain research. Each fall for many years, the branch has supported the Huron Valley United Nations Association in staging its UN Day activities, and members work with the League of Women Voters and numerous other organizations to get out the vote each election year.