The Naperville AAUW was chartered on April 20, 1956, as a local branch of the American Association of University Women. The 28 members met at North Central College’s Union to discuss issues such as education, social studies, creative arts and the status of women. Our name changed to AAUW Naperville Area in 2008 to reflect our wider geographical membership. Since the start we’ve actively promoted AAUW’s mission and contributed to positive societal change.
In 1957 we began raising funds to provide tuition for women graduate students through AAUW’s Educational Foundation. We continue to support AAUW Funds which awarded $54 million in fellowships and grants to women and community projects in the 2019-2020 academic year. In addition since 1971 we have provided scholarships for local women completing Bachelor’s degrees. Support for our philanthropy comes from our community Used Book Sale, begun in 1968, Social Bridge (since 1958), and other fundraisers.
Over the years we have produced educational programs for children such as Science in a Shoebox (1972) which provided simple experiments for young children and their parents. Cultural Enrichment Boxes (1973) helped local schools to supplement social studies classroom curriculums. An AAUW grant (1979) enabled us to develop and distribute materials promoting nutritious eating for pre-schoolers. We held a Play Equity Workshop (1993) for educators and parents of pre-school children. In 1994 we donated math and science career materials to area schools to encourage middle school girls to consider STEM careers. We produced a daylong Science Spooktacular exploration for young girls and a workshop for high school girls, “What I Wish I Knew Before I Went to College.”
In 1973 our branch was instrumental in establishing the Naperville Reclamation Center, a volunteer-led community recycling program that led to the city providing government-run recycling services. Our members worked many volunteer shifts helping to unload cars and sort glass and metal by type.
A 1986 AAUW grant enabled us to increase community awareness of domestic violence and added to existing efforts to bring services and eventually a domestic violence shelter to Naperville. Another grant-funded initiative, the Marie Curie Project (1994), resulted in a measured change in Naperville sixth graders’ attitudes and awareness of women’s contributions to and involvement in science and technology. In 2001 the branch conducted a workshop for Junior High girls called “Tech Savvy: It’s Not Just Email,” designed to interest girls in pursuing higher education and careers in computer technology.
Starting with an in-person workshop in 2019 we’ve been actively promoting AAUW’s Work Smart salary negotiation training aimed at reducing the pay gap for women. Our I-ACT public policy team provides research and actions to effect change to improve the lives of women and their families. We encourage our members to be actively involved in all of these efforts.