In 1889, eight women from St. Paul and Minneapolis met and formed a group that became the seventh branch of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae (or ACA). It was called the Minnesota Branch of ACA. In 1909 the St. Paul members formed a separate organization called the St. Paul College Club. The national organization adopted the name of the American Association of University Women in 1921.
The early St. Paul College Club raised money for scholarships and the first one was awarded to a local student in 1911. Also during this time, committees were formed to study issues of the day, such as German, Latin, History and Social Services. Reports from the committees were made at the regular meetings, and were the forerunners of today’s weekly programs.
Community projects, such as the St. Paul Vocational Bureau for Trained Women, were funded by the branch. Members were working toward free kindergartens, and the issue of college athletics for women.
Outstanding speakers were hosted: Julia Ward Howe, author of The Battle Hymn of the republic; Miss Jane Addams, founder of Hull House in Chicago, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Admiral Richard Byrd and others. The club sponsored a concert by George Gershwin at the St. Paul Auditorium and the money raised was used for scholarships. Among the speakers at the club in the 1940s were Dimitri Metropolous and Carl Sandburg, when membership was at 557 and dues were $5.00 a year.
During WWII, 22 members helped staff the Civil Defense Office, and equal pay and rank for women in the armed forces was an issue that members supported.
As early as 1915 members began looking for a permanent home for the St. Paul College Club and started a “sinking fund” to buy a house. Finally, in 1949, the club house at 990 Summit, built in 1916, was purchased for $35,000. By 1956, the members were able to enjoy a mortgage burning ceremony at their annual meeting. In those years, a commissary was started with members helping with the serving of meals. By 1964, the membership reached an all-time high of 947 members, and Hatfield Hall was added to the house at a cost of $75,000.
Through the decades many local educational projects and scholarships were continued. House Tours, Book Sales, and other fund raisers supported the projects and AAUW initiatives including the Educational Foundation and Legal Advocacy Fund, as well as the maintenance of the house at 990 Summit. In 1979 the Poetry Contest/Poetry Day was added as an annual event, and continues to the present day. Weekly programs and other events continue to provide stimulating and informative experiences for members and guests.