Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Following the Fellows’

Portia MaultsbySome people choose to stay in their comfort zones, while others live on the edge. Then there are the people who completely rethink the edge and don’t just jump off it; they soar. Portia Maultsby is one of those individuals. In 1970 she was one of only 46 AAUW Coretta Scott King Fellowship awardees. The fellowship was established to support the work of women in African American studies, peace studies, and nonviolent movements.

Maultsby opened her grant application by writing, “My primary goal for graduate study in the Ph.D. program in ethnomusicology [at the University of Wisconsin] is to become a leading black scholar in Afro-American music.” At the time, this was a fairly surprising statement. According to Maultsby, African American music was not well-established in ethnomusicology in the early 1970s, and her interest in popular music was even more radical. But Maultsby was never one to stay within traditional boundaries. Instead of working within an academically established specialty, she brought legitimacy to the study of popular African American music — and on her own terms.

The AAUW fellowship freed Maultsby up to dive deeper into the aspects of music that she found interesting and underrepresented in academia. Courses in sociology and history expanded the context of the music she was studying. She was also interested in computers and how they could be used in the study of music. In 1970, computers were the size of rooms, and few people connected them with music. But as always, Maultsby forged ahead with the conviction that computer technology would offer a meaningful contribution to her field.

Maultsby also used the AAUW funds to attend conferences around the country, where she saw and challenged the lack of respect for traditional African American music studies. Only a few years after Maultsby endured criticism for her specialization, the study of African American music became in vogue, and she received more job offers than any of her peers.

This photo accompanied Maultsby's original AAUW application.

This photo accompanied Maultsby’s original AAUW application.

The AAUW fellowship affected Maultsby’s career long term. Conferences led to connections, which later led to multiple job offers and writing opportunities. Maultsby began teaching at Indiana University, where today she is the Laura Boulten Professor of Ethnomusicology. Her computer experience has proven helpful in creating multiple websites, including collaboration with Carnegie Hall on an interactive and rich time line of the history of African American music in the United States.

After decades in her field, Maulstby is poised to finish what she sees as her last few projects, namely two new books: From the Margins to the Mainstream: Black Popular Music (1945–2000) and another about African American music in the Netherlands.

With a long list of accomplishments — from organizing the first symposium on African American popular music (Black American Popular Music: Rhythm and Blues 1945–1955) for the Smithsonian Institution to founding and directing the Archives of African American Music and Culture — there is no doubt Maultsby’s innovation has paid off. Many people begin their careers wanting to be the best in their field, but few actually accomplish that goal. In November 2012 Maultsby delivered the keynote Charles Seeger Lecture at the annual meeting of the Society for Ethnomusicology, the highest honor in her field and the highlight of her career. Maultsby’s advice is simple: Forget tradition and boundaries, take risks, and if you believe in your vision, take the leap and go for it.

Portia Maultsby was a 1970–71 AAUW Coretta Scott King Award recipient. The Coretta Scott King Educational Fund was created through a special drive initiated by AAUW members in 1968 to secure money for grants primarily for black women undergraduate and graduate students in Afro-American studies, peace, and nonviolent change.

This post was written by Fellowships and Grants Intern Emily McGranachan.

Read Full Post »

Ninh headshot BW 180 pixels“They say all our work is autobiographical,” says professor and writer erin Khue Ninh. Simply by choosing a subject to write about, you expose personal preferences, opinions, and experiences. This is true even in academia, and it is certainly true for Ninh.

Ninh’s first book, Ingratitude: The Debt-Bound Daughter in Asian American Literature, explores common threads of filial debt and bitterness in narratives by second-generation Asian American women. Ninh saw these patterns in the literature as underscoring an experience that had troubled and impacted generations of Asian American women, and she decided to finally give language to it.

Writing about family relationships, Ninh found the academic distance enabling, as it made her more objective. She describes the book as “autobiography by indirection.” As she wrote, Ninh used her own reactions to the literature she was analyzing as a kind of emotional tuning fork. She described testing whether “what I wrote rang true, if it resonated on an emotional level. If it didn’t, then I knew analytically I wasn’t there yet.”

As passionate as Ninh was while writing her dissertation — which later became her book — dedication and enthusiasm did not pay the bills. Ninh had decided at 16 to become a literature professor. But she faced a rude awakening when she realized the Darwinian setup of the graduate school system, and her romanticized concepts of academia proved to be naive. With far more candidates than available tenure-track positions, it was a “brutal” system, according to Ninh. When she received an AAUW American Fellowship in 2003, she was despairing about the hiring odds and realizing that teaching was a limited possibility for a humanities graduate student.

Receiving the fellowship meant more than financial security for the year; it meant validation of Ninh’s work. As she describes it, “You have to be a self-marketer for your own brand in academia, so confidence is critical.”

Confidence and affirmation have made a winning combination for Ninh in the years since her fellowship. Not only was her book published, but she also has written for national news sources like the Huffington Post and ESPN about Asian American identity in the media and literature. Also present in her writing are critiques of capitalism, patriarchy, and misogyny, especially as they relate to immigrant families.

Ninh contests existing dogma that idealizes immigrant families as being havens from a capitalist world. She argues that the immigrants who come to the United States and pursue their aspirations for their children are very aware of the capitalist society to which they now belong. For that reason, and because of the disadvantages their children will face compared with native-born families, many parents pragmatically channel their children into lucrative fields. In a piece for the Huffington Post, Ninh wrote, “As many of my colleagues in Asian American studies have noted, Asian immigrants push their children hard because they recognize that discrimination — conscious or not — is real. That all other things being equal, the blue-eyed candidate will get the position — and so the Asian kid has to make sure other things are better, to have a shot.”

Now a tenured professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, in the Asian American Studies Department, Ninh is settling into her role as a senior scholar. Ten years after her fellowship, she says, “AAUW made my life come true.” Her work continues to touch upon truths for many readers and foster important intergenerational discussions.

erin Khue Ninh’s 2003–04 American Fellowship was sponsored by two AAUW of California American Fellowships: the Ruby Henry/Napa County (CA) Branch Fellowship and the San Francisco (CA) Branch/Mildred Bickel Fellowship.

This post was written by Fellowships and Grants Intern Emily McGranachan.

Read Full Post »

On September 11, 1973, one country’s world was turned upside down. Known domestically as “el otro once de septiembre” (“the other September 11”), that day on the Chilean calendar marks when the nation’s military forces executed a successful coup against the democratically elected President Salvador Allende. By the end of that fateful morning at La Moneda (Chile’s version of the White House), Allende was dead and Gen. Augusto Pinochet and the military had taken power.

steffi domikeFrom that moment on, left-leaning Chileans, academics, union leaders, or anyone critical of the dictatorship faced incredible danger. During the dictatorship from 1973 to 1990, more than 3,000 people were abducted by the military police and “disappeared” (clandestinely murdered). Many thousands more were illegally detained, tortured, or forced into exile.

These events profoundly impacted Steffi Domike. The daughter of a U.N. economist, Domike spent her adolescence in Chile, only returning to the United States in 1969. Domike, who supported Allende and his agrarian reform movement, left behind friends in Chile, not all of whom survived the Pinochet regime. Domike was shaped by a personal connection to the almost unfathomable injustice there and a desire to understand and challenge the political and economic structures that make such violence possible.

From a steel mill job to television production to academia, all of Domike’s work has related to equality and workers’ rights. After being laid off following the closing of the steel mill where she worked, Domike took classes and began working in and teaching television production. She then decided to get a master’s degree in order to become a full-time art professor. It was during that time that Domike received her 1995–96 Career Development Grant from AAUW.

Domike’s art is deeply connected to her values of justice and equity. Her art deals with environmental and labor issues and exposes the exploitation of people and of the earth; both abuses that she believes are often committed by the same destructive system.

For Domike, art and activism are inextricably intertwined; both are representations of an issue or a point of view. “When something happens and I react, I represent my view. If I can make some thing or image, or [if I can] organize, all these are forms of representation. The best activist art is experienced. It affects the participant and takes their mind to another level and gets them involved in the movement,” she says.

In addition to her artistic work, Domike’s day job for the past six years has been working as the communications coordinator for the Associate Members Program with the United Steelworkers Union. Her primary responsibility is to maintain communication with the more than 24,000 associate members. Domike loves working with local, multifaceted movements like Fight Back Pittsburgh.

Domike’s commitment to workers’ rights and fair representation has taken her far. “I don’t regret union work, being an artist, or [being an] activist because I’ve loved every minute of it. I wouldn’t want to go counter to my ideas and values,” says Domike. She believes AAUW’s Career Development Grant supports women returning to school to work through these ideas of values, success, and career. Domike recommends that people set their own expectations and find their own definition of success. Because, she says, if you let others define “success,” then it will never be attainable. You have to make it your own.

Steffi Domike’s Career Development Grant was sponsored by two Pennsylvania Research and Project grants: the Lancaster (PA) Branch endowment and the Pennsylvania Bicentennial endowment.

This post was written by Fellowships and Grants Intern Emily McGranachan.

Read Full Post »

Clinton Global Initiative

2012 has been a year of memorable accomplishments for AAUW’s many fellowships and grants recipients. Last week we highlighted some fellows from our 2012 Following the Fellows series; this week we want to showcase some of our other fellows. Publishing books and articles, giving TED talks, and hosting a national television show are just a few examples of the impressive things AAUW alumnae have done this year.

More than 15 current and former fellows published books this year, in genres as varied and unique as the authors themselves. From Rose Corrigan’s work on violence against women to Jessica Faye Carter’s book on women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and from Emilie Zaslow’s Feminism, Inc. to Erin Winkler’s Learning Race, Learning Place, 2012 was a year of innovation and fascinating research.

Besides writing great books, AAUW fellows have also been publishing articles in magazines, newspapers, and journals. Take Vanessa Perez, who became a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post, writing about DREAMers, immigration, and human rights. Or Julia Damianova, whose article “The Coming Mediterranean Energy War” was published in The National Interest, or Michal Gilad Gat, whose criminology articles were published in no fewer than three journals. And the list goes on!

AAUW Fellow Amina Tawasil, "33 Bridges, Standing, Still, on a Fluid of Emotions," featured on the Anthropology News website.

2012 has also been a year of prestigious recognition for the diverse work of AAUW fellows and alumnae. In the fall, Carol Tang was named one of California’s Leading Women in STEM for her after-school education advocacy. Barbara Ann Naddeo won the Jacques Barzun Prize in Cultural History for her book Vico and Naples: The Urban Origins of Modern Social Theory. In October, Kristen Johnson was selected as an honoree at the Los Angeles African American Women’s Public Policy Institute’s Women in Action Awards. Not one but two former fellows won awards for translation from the PEN American Center, an international literary and human rights organization: Suzanne Jill Levine received the Literary Award for Translation, and Margaret Sayers Peden received the Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation. In the art world, current American Fellow Amina Tawasil won an award in the American Anthropological Association’s 111th annual photography contest.

Jessica PabónAnd these weren’t the only AAUW fellows and alumnae who made waves this year. Beginning in February 2012, Melissa Harris-Perry began hosting a show on MSNBC. And did you know that Jane Chen was featured in The Impact 30 section of Forbes for her work on the low-cost Embrace incubator for infants? Or that Chen is part of PBS and AOL’s Makers website and documentary, along with women like Lilly Ledbetter and Gloria Steinem, 2003 AAUW Achievement Award winner? Current AAUW fellow Jessica Pabón gave a powerful TED talk on graffiti artists and feminism in November. And in March, Rachael Rollins assumed the role of president of the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association. And in the past year, many other fellows and grantees have received leadership awards, honorary degrees, and book awards!

AAUW’s Fellowships and Grants Department wishes everyone a happy and healthy New Year. Following the Fellows will continue into 2013, marking five years of sharing alumnae stories. May the new year be filled with inspiring women, powerful connections, and stories that move us.

This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Emily McGranachan.

Read Full Post »

Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg with scholars

Whether you are back at work today, still lounging by the Christmas tree in your pajamas, or making it through winter vacation with the kids, we’d like to suggest a moment of reflection. This year the Following the Fellows blog series profiled some trailblazing, take-no-prisoners AAUW alumnae. As the weather gets colder and we surround ourselves with our loved ones, we want to share a few of our favorite Following the Fellows posts from 2012.

  • In February Melissa Harris-Perry, a 2001–02 American Fellow, began hosting her own show on MSNBC! Harris-Perry says:

When I think about the number of things the fellowship meant to me, it’s really hard to express what it meant — what a difference one year can make in the life of a junior faculty woman. I don’t think it’s possible that the rest of my career could have happened without that time.

  • We met Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg, a 2005–06 International Fellow who was recently honored as a 2012 White House Champion of Change for her work with Akili Dada, an organization that is devoted to empowering the next generation of African women leaders. For all aspiring activists, Kamau-Rutenberg has two pieces of advice:

Firstly, put one foot in front of the other. Move. Act. Do something. Second, remember that it’s not about you. Make sure your actions maintain a focus on the lives of the beneficiaries you’re supposed to be supporting.

  • Teizeen Mohamedali, a 2009–10 Selected Professions Fellow, formed a friendship with her AAUW fellowship sponsor, Elisabeth Bathgate, that inspired Mohamedali to prioritize paying it forward in her career and in her support of women’s education.
  • We also remembered renowned Bolivian artist Marina Núñez del Prado, a 1940–41 International Fellow. Her work received critical acclaim, including from former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who noted that Núñez del Prado’s work expressed “motion in an extraordinary way.”
  • Anissa Patton, a 2000–01 Selected Professions Fellow and welfare child law specialist, advised young women starting their careers not to get caught up in the hunt for profit but rather to “follow your dreams and love what you do. … Remember, you can always do well by doing good.”
  • This fall, sociologist Jody Aguis Vallejo told us, “It is so important to [reach out to your communities], meet others, network, cross boundaries, build a core group of people who don’t necessarily share the same interests, and attack inequality.”

This is only a sampling of the many women we profiled in 2012. This is by no means an exhaustive list. For all the great stories from 2012, check out the Following the Fellows series! Next week, we will highlight other fellows and accomplishments from this year. For more information and updates on AAUW’s amazing fellows and alumnae, check out our Twitter page. If you are an alumna, if you would like to be featured on the blog, or if you just want to keep us informed about your accomplishments, e-mail us at fellowships@aauw.org.

This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Emily McGranachan.

Read Full Post »

Image courtesy of Barbara Romzek“Be flexible; what works today may not work tomorrow.”

Barbara Romzek believes this motto can apply to anyone’s career and life plans. Certainly, it is one that she herself has lived by. When Romzek received an AAUW American Fellowship in 1978, she had already learned the importance of being open to change. Describing her academic career as an “evolutionary process,” Romzek changed her research focus while she was a student during the Cold War. She switched from a comparative study of the challenges that U.S. and Soviet government employees face in balancing personal lives with public sector jobs to an exclusive focus on government employees in the United States. Concerns about accessing reliable data and being able to have open and honest conversations, given the tense political situation, prompted her to concentrate on the United States.

Romzek credits her AAUW fellowship with allowing her to dedicate a year to writing, which she says made for a better dissertation and ultimately a better job. That extra year became pivotal for her career path. After completing her doctorate, Romzek began teaching at the University of Kansas School of Public Affairs and Administration, an opportunity she sees as being directly tied to her research and fellowship.

Becoming an administrator was not something Romzek had planned. After more than a decade of teaching, she reluctantly accepted her department’s chair position. For years, Romzek’s research had been in public administration, so the new job was almost like field work. It did not take long before Romzek discovered that she found the job intellectually and personally rewarding. From there she continued to rise through university administration. Last summer, she left Kansas to move to Washington, D.C., to be the new dean of the School of Public Affairs at American University.

With all her responsibilities as dean and professor, Romzek still finds time to publish academic articles and contribute to books. Until recently, her writing focused on formal accountability in public administration, which has to do with balancing responsiveness and efficiency while doing your best at work and being a well-rounded person overall — no small task for employees. Lately, Romzek has been writing about informal accountability between government contractors who are not required to work together but should. For example, contractors in social services like foster care and mental health agencies do not have to consult each other, but it is in the best interest of a child in their care that they do communicate. After a career of research and work in public administration, Romzek is still intrigued by the subject and continues to write about it.

According to Romzek, everyone should “develop a plan that allows you go get to the life you want, but be flexible with your goals along the way.” Life is all about hard work, perseverance, direction, and flexibility. The combination has been successful for Romzek. She proves that dedication, passion, and a willingness to adapt make for an impressive path.

Romzek’s American Fellowship was sponsored by the Florence Edna Rowe American Fellowship, an endowment created by AAUW of Texas in 1964.

This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Emily McGranachan.

Read Full Post »

Image courtesy of Kristina HalonaKristina Halona was one of those kids who were obsessed with anything that flew. She remembers the exact moment when she looked up at a low-flying jet traveling over the isolated Navajo reservation in Arizona where she grew up. The awesome power of the machine, the stark contrast between its technology and her life without running water or electricity, changed her. From that moment, Halona was always outspoken about her love of engineering. In high school, a combination of talent and supportive teachers helped Halona find opportunities and mentors in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

A school counselor told Halona about an intensive multi-year STEM summer camp at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. Teachers and counselors also encouraged her to join an after-school STEM club and travel to local universities to meet professors and students. Through these experiences she was able to develop her skills, talk with engineering professionals, and begin to see herself as an aerospace engineer. Even though there are few women — especially Native American women — in the STEM fields, Halona never doubted her path. When Halona first attended the Phillips Academy camp as part of the Massachusetts Science for Minority Students program, she had to work hard to catch up to the students who came from privileged backgrounds. That summer marked her first trip outside of Arizona and her first time on an airplane, but despite being out of her element, Halona held her own and successfully completed all three summers of rigorous courses

With all her hard work and success, Halona is still very aware of what her life could have been like — Native American teen dropout rates are double the national average. Even more seriously, she notes that youth suicide rates on tribal reservations are up to 10 times higher than among the national population.

Halona in action

Halona in action

While at Arizona State University, Halona was elected to be the student representative to the board of directors of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), of which she had been a member and chapter president for years. Through that position she met her mentor John Herrington, the first Native American astronaut to fly in space, who was also on the AISES board. Meeting Herrington and learning from his mentorship was a meaningful opportunity to Halona since there are not many Native Americans in STEM fields. In 2002, Halona was invited to join Herrington’s family to watch his shuttle launch at the Kennedy Space Center. Today Halona is a flight test engineer at Raytheon Company in New Mexico.

Halona received her AAUW Selected Professions Fellowship in 2008 while getting her master’s degree in engineering at George Washington University. When she attended AAUW events, she felt in awe of all the members and her fellow grantees. But Halona says that being among them opened her eyes and inspired her to keep going.

A spark ignited in Halona the day she saw that jet flying over her, and it never went out. Halona has lived by her own advice: “No matter your background or where you come from, never give up.”

Halona’s Selected Professions Fellowship was sponsored by the Leona Buckley Miller American Fellowship, established in 1999, and the Flora Rawls American Fellowship, established in 1981.

This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Emily McGranachan.

Read Full Post »

For as long as Dahlia Eissa can remember, she has been a feminist. Growing up in Australia with Egyptian immigrant parents, she was never afraid to ruffle feathers. She began her activism leading Know Your Rights workshops for Muslim women with the Islamic Women’s Association of Queensland. Early on, Eissa knew she wanted to work with women in immigrant communities, and she saw law as the natural career choice for her passions. Following 9/11, she established the Arab American Justice Project, a network of pro bono attorneys who advocate for Arab Americans facing discrimination, harassment, and deportation.

Dahlia Eissa

After finishing her undergraduate degree in Australia, Eissa wanted to pursue postgraduate studies in Islamic law and women’s rights. Finding the right program was a challenge. She wanted to study law as a feminist first and as a lawyer second. Her AAUW International Fellowship was the kick-start that made it possible for her to attend Harvard Law School. Without the award, she says, she would not have been able to come to the United States.

Today, Eissa uses her knowledge of law, women’s rights, and Islam to encourage women to broaden their perspectives of what is possible in their lives and identities. She insists that women do not need to be restricted to the binary of Western or Muslim worlds, but rather that women can be true to their Muslim identities and principles while embracing and being embraced by American society.

Eissa has been inspired by the women of the Arab Spring and the women of Egypt in particular. Her academic research has primarily focused on Islamic law and women in Egypt. So when the revolution began last year, Eissa strongly felt that she had to somehow support Egyptian women. She asked herself, How will this new wave of activism play out for women?

When we spoke last week, the first draft of the new Egyptian constitution was being voted on by the country’s Constituent Assembly. Sadly, the new constitution completely leaves out any provisions that guarantee the rights of women and girls. Eissa described the draft as absurd but predictable. As the world watches the women of Egypt, Eissa is focusing on how she can support them from the United States. Working with women activists on the ground, her strategy lies in mobilizing other women to minimize the negative impact of the legislation. The rejection of protections for women and girls could open the door to other dangerous allowances in the law, such as lowering the marriageable age for girls or blocking the recent U.N. resolution that calls for the end of female genital mutilation practices.

Eissa is deeply passionate about women’s rights and gender equality. Even as a teenager, she recognized inequalities between men and women that were supposedly justified on the basis of “biology.” Eissa rejected socially constructed distinctions based on sex and spoke her mind, even when fearful of the backlash that she could face. Being an outsider, she says, is worth the risk in order to pursue what you believe in because, in the end, you’ll find that you aren’t that much of an outsider after all. In a culture that “banks on women being submissive,” Eissa wants women to “be fearless.” Let’s follow Eissa’s powerful example and go out there and ruffle a few feathers.

Eissa’s International Fellowship was sponsored by the Margaret Bigelow Miller International Fellowship, established in 1986, and the Helen B. Taussig International Fellowship, established in 1974.

This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Emily McGranachan.

Read Full Post »

December 1 marks the 25th annual World Aids Day. People around the world spend the day raising awareness about HIV and AIDS through education and activism. We also show our support for people living with HIV and AIDS and commemorate those who have died. The disease affects people of all ages, ethnicities, sexes, and sexual identities in every country and is the leading cause of death globally for women of reproductive age.

Melissa Browning

Melissa Browning

AAUW is proud to have many fellows and grantees whose work focuses on HIV and AIDS prevention, education, and care. In some parts of the world, women are disproportionately affected by the disease. In sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean, for example, more than half of people living with HIV are women. According to the World Health Organization, “most people living with HIV or at risk for HIV do not have access to prevention, care, and treatment, and there is still no cure.” That is why the work done by researchers and activists is so critical. And we’re very proud of the 2012–13 AAUW fellows who are working on HIV and AIDS education and prevention.

Melissa Browning of Loyola University, Chicago, is an ordained Baptist minister who is writing about marriage, HIV, and AIDS in East Africa. She closely examines the relationship between social and religious teachings on female sexuality and abstinence and the realities women face in Africa. Browning’s research suggests that access to complete sexual health education and services would empower women and help decrease the spread of HIV and AIDS. For many women, sexual violence and power imbalances make it extremely difficult, if not dangerous, to negotiate condom use. Browning is working with churches and local groups in Tanzania to empower women and promote healthier marriages.

Eloho Tobrise, a geography doctoral student at the University of Washington, is doing

Eloho Tobrise

Eloho Tobrise

research on gender, HIV, and AIDS in rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa with particular focus on adolescent girls in secondary schools. She plans to develop an effective intervention model tailored to the unique needs of rural women in her native Nigeria.

Michelle Jimenez is a community health doctoral student at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where she is doing research on health disparities in HIV risk shaped by socioeconomic and cultural determinants among people in the Dominican Republic. She is focusing on the effect of educational differentials on gender inequalities in HIV vulnerability. According to the 2011 U.N. World AIDS Day Report, young women in the Caribbean are more likely than young men to be infected with HIV.

Michelle Jimenez

Michelle Jimenez

HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment are global issues, and today is just another part of the movement. To get more information about World AIDS Day, how you can find a local testing center, and how you can show your support, check out the resources at aids.gov.

This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Emily McGranachan.

Read Full Post »

Following the Fellows is shifting gears this week. Instead of profiling a former AAUW fellow, we’d like you to meet someone for whom a fellowship is named — Lucy Somerville Howorth. In 1973, AAUW of Mississippi created an American Fellowship to honor one of their own. Howorth was a Mississippi native and a lifelong suffragist, feminist, and politician.

Howorth was born on July 1, 1895. When she graduated from the University of Mississippi with a law degree in 1922, she was one of only two women in her class. After five years of practicing law, she was appointed as a judge and earned the lifelong nickname “Judge Lucy.”

Activism ran in Howorth’s family. Her mother, Nellie Nugent Somerville, was a temperance and women’s suffrage leader. In 1915, Somerville was elected vice president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and was later elected to the Mississippi Legislature in one of the first elections in which women were eligible to vote. Howorth was her mother’s campaign manager during the election. Less than 10 years later, Howorth would follow her mother to the state legislature, where Howorth served from 1932 to 1936. Somerville and Howorth were the first mother-daughter pair to both serve in Mississippi and the second in U.S. history — another pair in Virginia beat them by one year.

Howorth then moved to Washington, D.C., to work for President Franklin D. Roosevelt on the Board of Veterans Appeals. She remained in D.C. and worked for the federal government until 1954. Howorth was deeply committed to the rights of women, the poor, and minorities. Outside of the government, her advocacy was mostly done through her leadership positions in AAUW. In 1947, she began her post as the chair of AAUW’s Committee on the Economic and Legal Status of Women. From 1951 to 1955, Howorth was the vice president of AAUW. During her term, she was very vocal in supporting greater inclusion and equality within AAUW.

After decades as a judge, activist, and leader, Howorth passed away in 1997 at the age of 102. Her fellowship has sponsored many women as they make contributions to their respective fields, including 2012–13 American Fellow Cara Jones’ research on women’s reproductive health and 2009–10 American Fellow Sarah L. Franklin’s book on gender and slavery in 19th century Cuba.

Howorth was a trailblazer whose legacy is still felt today. In 2013, 16.7 percent of Mississippi’s state legislature will be composed of women. Overall, women will make up 24.2 percent of all state legislatures, a slight increase from last year. The recent election marked many national firsts, including the highest number of women legislators in U.S. history with 20 senators and 78 representatives in Congress.

Howorth was among the women who fought hard for women’s right to vote and to represent their communities in elected office. Howorth reportedly once said, “I glory in being a feminist.” Her story is a reminder to celebrate women’s empowerment and voice in politics and in our communities.

This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Emily McGranachan.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »