Listed below are organizations experienced in programming for, or of interest to, women. Use their websites to get program ideas as well as possible programming partners. For the 2010 National Women’s History Month theme, “Writing Women Back into History,” consider focusing on the history and contributions of women’s organizations in your community or campus. Don’t forget to include organizations such as Campfire USA—groups that were historically focused on women but now have a broader mission.
Founded in 1881, the American Association of University Women has more than 100,000 members, 1,000 branches, and 500 college and university partners. Members are women (and since 1987, men) who hold at least an associate’s or equivalent degree from an accredited educational institution. AAUW is committed to “education and equity for all women and girls, lifelong education, and positive societal change.” AAUW activities typically include book discussions and other programs, scholarships, advocacy, and research.
The Girl Scouts was founded in 1912 and currently has 3.4 million U.S. members and over 100 local chapters. The Girl Scouts’ main emphasis is on promoting leadership with themes “discover, connect, take action.” Reading and library use remain a part of the Girl Scouts program. Other girl-oriented groups include Girls Inc.,which offers programs at over 1,000 sites, particularly for girls living in high-risk, underserved areas.
BPW International (International Federation of Business and Professional Women) was established in 1930 “to develop the professional and leadership potential of women at all levels.” BPW International now has groups in 80 countries. One of its primary activities is working with the United Nations and other international organizations in support of women’s issues. BPW also offers personal development programs for its members. Similar organizations include Soroptimist and Zonta International.
The General Federation of Women’s Clubs, “an international women’s organization dedicated to community improvement by enhancing the lives of others through volunteer service,” has more than 100,000 members in affiliated clubs in all 50 states and more than a dozen countries. Local clubs have a lot of autonomy in setting their own agenda under the federation’s motto of “Unity in Diversity.” GFWC’s main program areas are: arts, conservation, education, home life, and international affairs. The federation notes that women’s clubs played a key role in the founding of U.S. public libraries; a women’s club is involved in the history of more than 75% of American libraries, and supporting local libraries continues to be a GWFC priority.
Hadassah: the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc. established in 1912, is the largest volunteer organization and the largest women’s organization in America. Hadassah is focused on health, education, youth, and the environment. Most Christian denominations also have women’s organizations, such as the United Methodist Women and the Women’s Home and Overseas Missionary Society of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, which has chapters in local churches. The Muslim Women’s League, which works “to implement the values of Islam and thereby reclaim the status of women as free, equal, and vital contributors to society,” is another national organization whose website contains useful information on a variety of topics. Don’t forget to look at the activity of nuns and other religiously professed women in your community.
The League of Women Voters was established in 1920,and has grown to 900 state and local leagues with membership open to men as well as women. The league is “a nonpartisan political organization that has fought . . . to improve our system of government and impact through citizen education and advocacy.” The league holds community forums and libraries often offer space for these events.
Susan G. Komen for the Cure (formerly known as the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation), an organization providing information on breast cancer, was established in 1982. Its foundation provides community-based grants and many libraries have benefited from these. The website’s clickable map for locating local affiliates often suggests speakers for public programs as well as other resources. Breast Cancer Network of Strength (formerly known as Y Me) is also a good local source of speakers.
National Organization for Women is the nation’s largest organization of feminist activists with 500,000 contributing members and 550 chapters in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The YWCA is the world’s oldest and largest multicultural women’s organization. Active in 122 countries around the world, YWCA serves 25 million women, including 2.4 million in the U.S. through 300 locations in nine regions of the country. The YWCA “is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all.”