For the branch’s 75th celebration in 1999, Dawn Flower [Webb], AAUW Carlisle member, wrote A Backward Glance 1924-1999. It is a treasure of information. To put our founding into context, below are tidbits mined from pages 1-11 of this 41 page treasure. (Most of this content is a direct from the text and quotes indicate first person recollections.)
The story of determined women and persistent college President.
- When AAUW was founded in 1881, it was called the Association of Collegiate Alumnae (ACA). In 1921, the ACA and similar groups called for a consolidation of female college alumnae across the county in to one national organization and AAUW was founded.
- These organizations worked very hard to upgrade the status of women’s education and the treatment of women faculty. They sought first to define what constituted appropriate and equal treatment of women in education and institutions were required to provide information to become certified before their alumnae could join AAUW.
- As early as 1910, a group of Dickinson College alumnae sought to start a branch however, by the standards of the AAUW Committee on Recognition of Colleges and Universities, they were not eligible because Dickinson College did not meet the requirements.
- The first president of Dickinson College to take an interest was President Morgan. Correspondence between him and AAUW from 1915 to 1923 put the alumnae on the eligible list. When Josephine Meredith became Dean of Women in 1919-1920, President Morgan “told me that one of the most important problems at the moment was to get Dickinson on the approved list of the AAUW. He explained that what he meant to do was not so much to importune the AAUW because it was certainly right in most of its ideas for women, but to study what we could do to make Dickinson a better place for women ‘without doing too much to damage our traditions.’ We checked over all we knew of the AAUW requirements, written and unwritten, and tried to decide what we could change for the better and how we could honorably get around what we could not change. As President Morgan said, “We must first set our house in order.’”
- Josephine Meredith, Dean of Women, Dickinson College continues. “We had various AAUW officers come to talk to us and inspect us and President Morgan arranged to have me attend every AAUW meeting, and meeting of Deans of Women, where is was possible to get me entered as a guest or a delegate. We tried to get all our influential friends to help us and eventually in 1923 we made the grade. The credit belongs to President Morgan without whose help and leadership the rest of us would have lost enthusiasm and given up.”
- Dickinson College was approved as an institution at their December 29, 1922 meeting of the AAUW Committee of Colleagues and Universities.
- President Morgan and Dean Fuller had both done all they could to get Dickinson declared eligible. They had misgivings, however, about actively encouraging militant feminists, as AAUW member were then supposed to be. The hesitation soon ended, and President Morgan, Mrs. Morgan and Josephine Meredith met at the home of the President to draft a list of all the Carlisle eligible women they knew.
- On February 2, 1924, the organizational meeting was held at the President’s home at Dickinson College. Nineteen women attended.
- On May 10, 1924, the Carlisle branch of the AAUW held its Charter meeting in the Old West of Dickinson College. 54 women attended the meeting chaired by Dean Meredith. 47 of the charter members were Dickinson Alumnae and 7 were from other colleges.
- The first President was Mrs. J.H. Morgan. Mary Curran was a Dickinson Alumna, class of 1888, one of the earliest women graduates and later became the wife of Dickinson College President James Henry Morgan. They had two daughters, Julia, class of 1911 and Margaret, class of 1914. “These women were perhaps responsible for President Morgan’s unusual interest in the higher education for women.” (attributed to Josephine Meredith).
- The first Vice President was Mrs. A.J. Meredith. Josephine K. Brunyate a Dickinson Alumna, class of 1901 and the first Dean of Women of the college from 1919-1949. Mrs. Meredith stated. “After some teaching experience and a brief married life, I returned to Dickinson College at President Morgan’s request. Until I retired, practically all my time and energy were devoted to work for the college, especially for the women. In many ways it was pioneer work. As Dr. Morgan said, “We must do what we can without too much injury to tradition and get around honorably what we cannot change. But, Madame,“ he warned, “you must constantly remember that the good of the college always comes before any feministic shenanigans!”
- We are indebted to Josephine Meredith for her careful preservation of our organization’s early history.