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Women's Educational Aid Association

 Organization

The Women's Educational Aid Association (WEAA) was organized in 1871 as the Educational Association, founded by Evanston women to help promote the higher education of deserving students at the Evanston College for Ladies. The founders' objective, according to the Association's records, was “to investigate the various systems of aiding needy students,…to canvass the claims of applicants for aid and to recommend to the College such as shall seem worthy of help; to have a friendly oversight of such young women while here, and to assist them in obtaining situations where they may aid themselves either during or after their school years.”

The Educational Association was interested in the material and spiritual welfare of the students it assisted, furnishing monetary grants and encouraging participation in the YWCA, Student Volunteers, and other benevolent enterprises. They referred to the students they assisted as #x201C;scholars.” The founding women of the association included Mrs. J. A. Pearsons, Mrs. J. M. B. Gillespie, Mrs. Dawson Kerr, Mrs. H. B. Hurd, Mrs. O. Huse, Mrs. I. R. Hitt, Mrs. J. E. Lunt, and Miss Frances E. Willard, the president of the Evanston College for Ladies.

In 1872, Mrs. Huse and Mrs. Hitt offered and solicited donations for the purchase of a home for the scholars of the Educational Association. Furnished mostly through donations, the home, named “College Cottage,” at Orrington and Clark, was operated as a self-governing cooperative for female students. The women paid $2 per week and shared in the housework. Occupants of the home consisted of a matron, teacher, and six students. A member of the Association made monthly visits to monitor the scholars' well-being as well as the routine functioning of the house.

When Northwestern University became coeducational in 1873, the Educational Association as originally conceived ceased to exist. However, the Aid Fund Committee of the Educational Association, which had recently been incorporated as a separate entity, was still needed and assumed the name and functions of the WEAA.

In 1879, the Board voted to aid women students in the form of loans rather than outright grants. In 1886, the College Cottage was enlarged and improved and in 1901, in honor of Mrs. J. A. Pearsons' 30 years of dedicated service, the Cottage was renamed Pearsons Hall. In June 1901, Dr. D. K. Pearsons offered to build an additional dormitory, to be named in honor of his sister-in-law, Miss Julia A. Chapin (Chapin Hall), on the condition that the land be furnished by the University and control of the structure be vested in the WEAA. The gift was accepted provisionally: WEAA management of Chapin Hall could be terminated through notification of the WEAA Board if found unprofitable or undesirable.

By 1904, over 1400 young women had received educational assistance from the WEAA. “Home Scholarships,” first offered in 1904, provided free housing to young women in Chapin and Pearsons Halls; by 1922, more than fifty girls lived in WEAA halls free of charge for one year.

Morse House, located near Pearsons Hall, was purchased in 1912 and accommodated twenty-five students as well as an infirmary. Eventually seniors and juniors were housed in Chapin Hall and sophomores and freshmen in Pearsons and Morse.

Even after sorority houses were built on campus, the WEAA halls continued to operate. In 1929, however, the WEAA sold Morse House to the University to finance repairs at Pearsons Hall. During the Depression, although emergency scholarships were awarded, there were not enough undergraduate girls to fill the halls. For the first time, graduate students were admitted to residency.

1933 was financially the most difficult year for the Association. One of its investments had stopped paying dividends, residents were unable to pay their board, and the number of residents declined. In July, 1933, the WEAA decided to close Pearsons Hall; in 1935, the building was sold to Northwestern University and the revenue used to remodel Chapin Hall. The conditions of sale stipulated that when the WEAA needed more housing for its scholars, the University would furnish it.

When the United States entered World War II, the WEAA extended its mission to include student nurses at Evanston Hospital. During this time, as part of the war effort, Chapin Hall residents rationed their use of canned goods and meats; with careful planning, no hardships were experienced. After the War, faced with many requests from married women for residency, the board decided to exclude married students from the Hall on the grounds that their additional resources and their marital status made it possible for them to live elsewhere. In 1948, the cost of living at Chapin Hall was still half of that charged at Willard and other campus houses.

Northwestern University and WEAA enjoyed many years in cooperative partnership. In 1966 Chapin Hall was in need of extensive repairs. After much deliberation the WEAA Board decided that the time had come to turn management of Chapin Hall over to the University. In June, 1968, Chapin became a University dormitory.

Innumerable social gatherings, including afternoon teas, receptions, and dinners given for faculty and friends, took place regularly over the many years in Pearsons and Chapin Halls. Members of the WEAA continued to be genuinely interested in the young women, assisting them not only monetarily, but also as mentors and guides. The Association has helped thousands of young women achieve their educational goals. Many who received assistance have in turn bequeathed gifts to the organization to repay what had been provided them. The WEAA continues to be active today, giving scholarships to needy young women, through Northwestern University's Office of Financial Aid.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Women's Educational Aid Association

 Collection
Identifier: 55/38
Abstract The Women’s Educational Aid Association (WEAA) was organized in 1871 as the Educational Association, founded by Evanston women to help promote the higher education of deserving students at the Evanston College for Ladies. The Women’s Educational Aid Association records document the activities and operation of the organization. The series fills twelve boxes, including one card file box and three drop front boxes, and spans the period 1871-2000. Records are arranged in nine categories: Historical...