top of page

"And so, lifting as we climb, onward and upward we go, struggling and striving, and hoping that the buds and blossoms of our desires will burst into glorious fruition ere long. With courage, born of success achieved in the past, with a keen sense of the responsibility which we shall continue to assume, we look forward to a future large with promise and hope. Seeking no favors because of our color, nor patronage because of our needs, we knock at the bar of justice, asking an equal chance."
- Mary Church Terrell

It was a tremulous era in our history. Lynching, racism and sexism were running rampant in the United States. There was a desire in the hearts of educated black college women to have an opportunity to fellowship and interchange ideas with Caucasian women who were members of the American Association of University Women. For three years a concerted effort was made to gain membership into this organization. Finally, in March 1910 the idea of organizing an association of their own was conceived.


The College Alumnae Club was organized March 1910 by Mrs. Mary Church Terrell, Dr. Sara Brown, Dr. Fairfax Brown, and Miss Mary Cromwell in Washington, DC. Twenty university graduates joined elected officers and planned a program. The new Club desired to stimulate young women to attain professional excellence, to exert influence in various movements for the civic good, and to promote a close personal and intellectual fellowship among professional women.

In 1919 the Club invited the first group of university graduates, who lived outside the District, to organize. Baltimore accepted the invitation. Through the efforts of the College Alumnae Club seven branches were organized in cities where college women desired the affiliation with the founding group.

On April 6-7, 1923 representatives of the newly organized branches met in Washington, D.C. to consider the foundation of a national organization. A temporary National Association of College Women was formed. It was at the next conference on April 25-26, 1924 that the permanent organization was established and in November of that year it was incorporated under the laws of the District of Columbia.

On August 9, 1974 at the biennial convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Association accepted its updated Charter and became known as the National Association of University Women (NAUW). The Association from its inception is a service and educational organization. In the beginning, the women of NAUW were proactive regarding the education of women, their living conditions on campuses, the need for a dean of women who would be an advocate for women students and the training of teachers. As the years progressed, the organization raised its voice regarding major civic and national issues such as business opportunities for African-Americans, mental health and child welfare, and the improvement of interracial and international relations.

The Association has cooperated with national and local social and economic programs and is affiliated with the National Council of Negro Women, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, United Negro College Fund, the National Coalition for Literacy, and the American Council on Education.

The location was 326 T. Street, NW in the historic LeDroit Park area of Washington, DC.  The time was 8 o’clock but the records don’t indicate if the meeting took place in the am or pm.  The setting was the Drawing Room in the home of Judge and Mrs.  Robert Terrell on March 5, 1910.  Mrs.  Terrell invited to this initial meeting 2 sisters, Nancy and Sara Brown who both were graduates from Howard University.  She also invited Mary Cromwell, a graduate of the University of Michigan.  The immediate purpose of the meeting was form a club composed exclusively of colored women who were carefully considered.  The ladies already knew of an alumnae club for white women which Mrs. Terrell was already apart of as well as several others in her group, however, Mrs.  Terrell knew the ladies she was associated with in developing her club were college recipients of colored colleges and she knew were not eligible for membership within the white groups.  


The first order of business was to evaluate and discuss the requirements and the standards which would make a college eligible for admission.  This was established during the March 5, 1910 meeting.  For their April 9, 1910 meeting, Mrs.  Terrell reached out to her Pastor, Reverend Sterling N. Brown and asked if she can secure the Sunday school room in the Lincoln Temple Congregational Church located on 1701 11th   Street NW, Washington, DC 20001.  He agreed and between 15 to 20 ladies were present.  Records indicate the ‘Club’ was duly organized and Mrs.  Terrell was elected her first President.  

Twenty-two women have served as National Presidents: *Dean Lucy D. Slowe (1924-1929); *Mrs. Juanita H. Thomas (1929-1933); *Mrs. Vivian J. Cook (1933-1936); *Mrs. Helen B. Grosley (1936-1939); *Dr. Hilda A. Davis (1939-1944), (1957- 1961); *Mrs. Alice Taylor Chandler (1944-1949); *Dr. Flemmie Kittrell (1949-1951); *Mrs. Inez B. Brewer (1951-1953); *Mrs. Thelma Taylor Williams (1953-1957); *Mrs. Lillian W. McDaniels (1961-1965); *Miss Portia C. Bullock (1965-1969); Mrs. Odessa Wright Farrell (1969- 1974); *Mrs. Margaret Una Poche (1974-1978); *Mrs. Nettie S. Manning (1978-1982); Mrs. Rhebena T. Castleberry (1982-1986); *Mrs. Carrie A. Haynes (1986-1990); *Mrs. Ruth R. Corbin (1990-1994); Mrs. Phyllis J. Eggleston (1994-1998); Dr. Ezora J. Proctor (1998-2002); Dr. Lenore Gall (2002-2006); Mrs. Ollie Johnson (2006-2010) and Mrs. Dolores Y. Owens (2010-Present).

* Deceased

  • To sponsor, promote and enthusiastically conduct educational activities that are designed to provide community outreach services to learners at every level of development;

  • To provide assistance to those who have not completed their education and need basic skills necessary to function effectively in society;

  •  To work with educational institutions and other organizations to improve educational standards and foster academic and intellectual attainment; 

  •  To sponsor and conduct conferences and seminars that will allow us to achieve and advance organizational goals;

  •  To collaborate with other organizations and agencies that are concerned with community and world problems which include chronic health conditions like HIV/Aids, heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer;

  •  To promote improvement in education, and when appropriate, issue public statements concerning the quality of education;

  •  To develop and sponsor research programs  pertaining to the standards and quality of higher learning; 

  •  To provide fellowships, grants and/or scholarships for undergraduate, graduate and doctoral studies; 

  •  To publish, sponsor and disseminate literature and materials pertaining to educational initiatives, trends and development.


Dr. Mary Church Terrell

Mary Eliza Church Terrell for more than sixty-six years was an ardent champion of racial and gender equality. She became the founder and first president of the National Association of Colored Women in 1896. Symbolizing unity among Black women, this self-help organization offered sisterly support for its members and created programs that addressed racial problems through the elevation of Black women. It was in the home of Mrs. Terrell in March 1910 that the meeting to establish a College Alumnae Club was held. Mrs. Terrell served one year as the first president.

Dr. Nancy Fairfax Brown

Dr. Nancy Fairfax Brown received her A.B. degree at Howard University and professional training at Howard University and Columbia University. She earned an A.M. and Phar.D. For many years Dr. Brown was an English teacher in the Washington, D.C. high schools. In 1919 the government sent her to France as a Y.M.C.A. secretary and in 1930 she, too, accompanied the Gold Star War Mothers to France as a hostess.y.

Miss Mary Cromwell

Mary E. Cromwell earned her A.B. degree from the University of Michigan and her M.A. degree from the University of Pennsylvania and additional graduate work at Columbia University. She taught mathematics in Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C. Miss Cromwell was keenly interested in social problems and served as the first secretary of the National association of College Women in 1924.

Dr. Sara Brown

Dr. Sara W. Brown, 1894 while a teacher of English at the Normal School in the District of Columbia took a leave of absence from Cornell University. Upon her return she taught science at the prestigious M Street School and enrolled at Howard University's medical department from which she later graduated.

Dr. Brown was elected four times alumni trustee of Howard University. She was one of the medical officers appointed to accompany the Gold Star War Mothers to France in 1930. 

bottom of page