40 full Hollinger boxes, 1 half-Hollinger box, 8 custom boxes, 25 bound volumes; 29.3 linear feet
The records of the American Woman’s Association consist of Minutes, 1915-1945, of the Vacation Association and the AWA; issues of the AWA BULLETIN, the AWA’s newsletter, ca. 1929-1939, and various other AWA periodicals, 1920s; and information brochures, reports, handbooks, Clubhouse rules, and accounts. Also, correspondence, programs, invitations, announcements, photographs, guest lists, clippings, and miscellaneous printed materials, ca. 1920s-1970, relating to lectures, luncheons, award presentations, celebrations, discussions, concerts, and other social and cultural events presented by the AWA. Also letterpress plates for the Association’s stationery and a trowel and shovel used at the ground-breaking for the construction of the W. 57th St. clubhouse.
The American Woman’s Association was the final product of an amalgamation and mutation of various clubs and societies that supported and championed the advancement and efforts of women in both professional and cultural spheres. Throughout its 63 years of existence, the AWA provided safe lodgings, social outlets, and increased financial stability for independent women. A crucial element of the woman’s movement, the AWA boasted famous feminists such as Eleanor Roosevelt among its members. The AWA finally dissolved in 1974 after a period of waning activity. Dorothea Hopfer, a former president of the organization, claimed that this was because it had “served its purpose” in championing equal opportunities and protecting the rights of women.
The American Woman’s Association was initially known as the Vacation Committee which, founded in 1911, was a branch of the Woman’s Department of the National Civic Federation. The Vacation Committee was occupied with the Vacation Savings Fund, implemented to help women who did not receive salaried vacation time. Members of the Vacation Committee encouraged women across the country to buy stamps which eventually accrued enough interest to provide profitable vacations for the investors. Around this time, members of the Vacation Committee decided that they wanted to provide female friendly lodgings at a moderate cost for members willing to pay. Those who lodged were called the “taxpayers committee.” Lodgings were on W. 36th St. In 1915, the Vacation Committee split from the National Civic Federation, and Gertrude Robinson Smith became the first president of the now independent organization. In 1922, the Vacation Committee officially became the American Woman’s Association and stopped the vacation savings fund. They had raised more than $1,300,000 through the program. By 1927, members of the Association were searching for a more permanent home, and raised the funds to start their very own clubhouse on West 57th Street.
Around this time, the Friendship Dinner Group was started as a subsection of the AWA to foster a feeling of friendship and camaraderie between women. AWA was the blanket association that ran the Friendship Dinner Group, but other unaffiliated groups participated in it as well. In 1931, meetings of the Friendship Dinner Group began to present the AWA Award for Eminent Achievement to women making strides as leaders in their respective fields. The AWA was very involved with war relief efforts. During World War I, the AWA opened up temporary housing at headquarters for soldiers on leave from the battlefields and ran temporary work rooms in which unemployed women could make supplies for the frontlines and support their families. During World War II, the AWA formed the Red Cross Group, which trained volunteers from the AWA as nurses and sent them overseas, as well as providing supplies for the medical professionals serving in the war. The AWA commissioned reports on financial stability and independence among American women, including “100 Women Look at the Future.” In the 1950s, the AWA began to participate in larger, nationwide groups such as the National Council of Women of the United States and the National Committee on Household Employment (for which Dorothy Barko, president of the AWA, was treasurer.) Participation in the AWA dwindled in the 1960s and 1970s, and it functioned more as a social club than as the figurehead of the woman’s movement as it had in the past. In 1974, the AWA was officially dissolved.\
The office files of the American Woman’s Association reflect the growth and development of the organization from 1911 to 1974. The records are arranged topically and include bound volumes of meeting minutes, newspaper clippings, memos, flyers, promotional materials, estate bequests, books, photographs, invitations and guest lists relating to lectures, luncheons, award presentations, and musical concerts. Materials of other social and cultural events presented by the AWA are also included. Highlights from the collection include “100 Women Look at the Future,” a report compiled from survey information to chart the growth of women’s financial stability; and “Miss Robinson Crusoe, Her Island Clubhouse,” a printed brochure about the Robinson Crusoe affair (a campaign designed to raise awareness about the necessity of a new clubhouse of the AWA.)
The office files from the two predecessor organizations, the Vacation Committee (1911-1915) and Vacation Association (1915-1922) are incomplete and consist only of the charter and by-laws, savings stamps, and receipts. Also included in the inventory are materials relating to two organizations that the AWA was a chapter of: the National Council of Women of the United States and the National Committee on Household Employment. These records consist of correspondence, financial papers, newsletters, and invitations to various events. The materials representing the AWA (1922-1974) include minutes and reports of the Board of Directors, founding and history of the AWA, administration, including committee reports and correspondence, the American Woman’s Realty Corporation, general office correspondence, and activities and programs, including the Woman of the Month Award and the Eminent Achievement Award. In addition, there are many photographs documenting the multitude of events—promotional photographs may be found in the main collection, in subseries II.8, II.9, and II.10, while others are housed in Series III. Lantern slides are also included in the collection, both of promotional posters and candid AWA events. Also included are publications issued by the AWA. There are gaps in the materials available from the 1960’s and early 1970’s; other than general correspondence, there are few organizational files reflecting the administration of the AWA.
This collection is arranged in four series (series II is sub-divided into 14 subseries and Series IV is sub-divided into 3 sub-series), and one addenda (chronology of the AWA).
Series I. Vacation Committee
Series II. American Woman’s Association
Subseries II.1 Founding and History of the AWA and its predecessor group, the Vacation Association, 1922-1974
Subseries II.2 Administration, 1920-1984
Subseries II.3 Committees, 1922-1982
Subseries II.4 Finances, 1927-1979
Subseries II.5 Membership, 1924-1976
Subseries II.6 American Women’s Realty Corporation, 1920s-1960s
Subseries II.7 General Correspondence 1930-1974
Subseries II.8 Woman of the Month Award, 1940s-1950s
Subseries II.9 Eminent Achievement Award; 1933-1965
Subseries II.10 Activities and Programs, 1920-1976
Subseries II.11 Publications, 1915-1967
Subseries II.12 Dissolution, 1970s-1981
Subseries II.13 Medals and Founders’ pins; c. 1920s-1960s, not dated
Subseries II. 14 AWA Printing Stamps and trowel, (c.1920s-1940s)
Series III. National Committee on Household Employment, National Council of Women of the United States
Series IV. Photographs
Subseries IV.1 Black & White Prints
Sub-Subseries IV.1.a: Portraits (single): Officers and members
Sub-Subseries IV.1.b: Building and Grounds, Awards and Ceremonies
Sub-Subseries IV.1.c: Activities and events
Sub-Subseries IV.1.d: Oversize prints
Subseries IV.2 Glass plate negatives and lantern slides:
Sub-Subseries IV.2.a: Glass Plate Negatives 1-68
Sub-Subseries IV.2.b: Lantern slides 69-170
Subseries IV. 3 Access prints
Contact prints correspond to item numbers in subseries IV.2
A link to a PDF version of the full finding aid, including a timeline of the AWA and an inventory of the collection, is here.
This collection is on site.
Restrictions on Use and Copyright Information:
Glass plate negatives and lanternslides are not available for viewing, due to fragility. Exceptions may be made for persons researching historical methodology of the photographic medium. Access copy prints are available for viewing and for digital reproduction.
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish material from the collection must be requested from the Barnard College Archives. The Barnard College Archives approves permission to publish that which it physically owns; the responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.
Barnard College Archives
Lehman Hall Room 19
New York, NY 10027