The history of one of the nation's most influential voices for equality
Degrees of Equality
The American Association of University Women and the Challenge of Twentieth-Century Feminism
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Susan Levine, afterword by Alice Ann Leidel
The American Association of University Women (AAUW) is one of the nation's oldest and most influential voices for equality in education, the professions, and public life. Tracing the history of the AAUW, Susan Levine provides a new perspective on the meaning of feminism for women in mainstream liberal organizations. In so doing, she explores the problems that women confront and the strategies they have developed to achieve equal rights.
Established in 1921 with the merging of two regional groups of women college graduates, the AAUW has grown to become a vital resource center for educational policy and women's concerns. While not always favoring the label "feminist," AAUW has sought to end discrimination against women, providing fellowships for women to pursue higher education, lobbying for changes in public policy, and conducting groundbreaking research. From the beginning, however, both achievement and controversy have marked the organizations' efforts. The AAUW, self-identified as the voice of moderation and mainstream women, has also been bound by social convention of class and race. One result, a bitter conflict in the late 1940s over racial integration, forced AAUW to change its national policies. Yet the organization emerged stronger than ever and at present boasts over 135,000 members.
By examining the experience of groups like AAUW, Levine suggests that feminism was not so much "reborn" in the 1970s as it was adopted by a rapidly growing constituency of college educated women demanding the realization of their goals.
Part I: Equality with a Difference: Experts in a Limited Sphere, 1929-1945
Part II: Women's Culture and the Crisis of American Liberalism, 1945-1960
Part III: Mainstream Feminism and the New Activism, 1960-1979
Afterword Alice Ann Leidel and Jackie DeFazio
Susan Levine is Assistant Professor of History at East Carolina University and the author of Labor's True Woman: Carpet Weavers, Industrialization, and Labor Reform in the Gilded Age (Temple).
In the series
Critical Perspectives on the Past, edited by Susan Porter Benson, Stephen Brier, and Roy Rosenzweig, is concerned with the traditional and nontraditional ways in which historical ideas are formed. In its attentiveness to issues of race, class, and gender and to the role of human agency in shaping events, the series is as critical of traditional historical method as content. Emphasizing that history is itself an interpretation of material events, the series demonstrates that the historian's choices of subject, narrative technique, and documentation are politically as well as intellectually constructed.