Following the Fellows of the 1950s

January 18, 2012

As part of our continuing series, we invite you once again to look back at the history of AAUW’s famous and influential fellows — this time, we’ll focus on the exciting work of alumnae in the 1950s.

The signing of the GI Bill in 1944 transformed higher education for both men and women. But the bill opened doors for women in particular — it not only provided opportunities for thousands but also helped transform society’s view on women in education. The 1950s was also a decade of growth on a national scale. To keep up, AAUW tripled the number of awards given over the previous decade, creating an even larger pool of successful, fascinating, and inspiring women.

Here’s a brief time line of some of the notable things that happened with AAUW fellowships in the 1950s.


Psychologist, author, and media personality Joyce Brothers received an American Fellowship, which allowed her to complete her doctoral degree. Brothers was a trivia show champion and the only female victor on the popular show $64,000 Question. Her accomplishments include comedic cameos on Saturday Night Live, being a monthly columnist for Good Housekeeping, writing the popular book What Every Woman Should Know about Men, and hosting syndicated television and radio shows.


Members at the AAUW National Convention voted to establish the Fellowships Endowment Fund. This furthered AAUW’s mission to ensure the advancement of education for women.


Hanna Holborn Gray was awarded an American Fellowship. Gray was a Fulbright Scholar at Oxford University. Considered one of the founding mothers of women in higher education, Gray was the first female president of a major university, serving at the University of Chicago from 1973 to 1993. During her career, Gray received an astounding 60 honorary degrees, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and in 1980 received an AAUW Achievement Award.


Inhi Ahn Min became the first Korean woman to receive an International Fellowship. The fellowship allowed her to study for a year in the education department at the University of Colorado. Inhi recognized the lasting effect of AAUW on a global scale, stating that “the contribution of AAUW to women in many countries … for the development of democratic education will never be forgotten not only by fellows but also by the people of their country.”


Susan Sontag was awarded an American Fellowship. Sontag studied theology, philosophy, and literature. She also was a dedicated human rights activist for more than two decades and led campaigns on behalf of persecuted and imprisoned writers as part of the PEN American Center. Her list of accomplishments and honors is long and includes the National Book Award and a MacArthur Fellowship.


Members at the AAUW National Convention voted to establish the AAUW Educational Foundation to raise funds for AAUW fellowships and grants programs.


Farrukh Z. Ahmad received an International Fellowship to study psychology in the United States. One of the first two International Fellows from Pakistan, Ahmad applied for the award without informing her family because higher education for Pakistani women, especially abroad, was frowned upon. Her family subsequently saw her as a rebel, but Ahmad continued to live by her motto: “Don’t shed tears but act, and you will get whatever you want.”

This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Elyssa Shildneck.

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