When you stop and think about it, many things have come to women surprisingly recently: The right to vote. The right to own property. And, perhaps less surprisingly, the existence of Women’s History Month in March.
Before women had the whole month, we recognized Women’s History Week, and before that, a single International Women’s Day. Dedicating the entire month of March in honor of women’s achievements might seem pretty irrelevant today, but at the time of the establishment of Women’s History Month in 1987, many saw the designation as a way to revise a history that had largely ignored women’s achievements.
At UCT we don’t need a special month to remind us of the importance of women’s contributions to our organization. But since it is Women’s History Month, we thought we’d give a shout out to some special women who have certainly enriched our history – and left an important legacy.
When UCT was founded in 1888 – and for decades after – it was a fraternal benefit organization specifically restricted to male commercial travelers – what you and I think of as traveling salesmen. Certainly not the “He Man Woman Haters Club,” but definitely “No Girls Allowed!”
The “girls” weren’t having it though. As time passed, the wives, mothers and daughters of UCT members felt a need for their own organization where they could support causes that were special to them. Like their male counterparts, they wanted to grow, to become leaders in their communities, and to make a difference in the lives of others. Despite obstacles and the confines of their time, they worked to be recognized at the local, regional, and international levels of UCT, eventually establishing in 1935 the organization’s Supreme (international) Auxiliary, or as it was more commonly known, the Ladies’ Auxiliary or just the auxiliary. And it was “girls” only!
Auxiliary members were involved in a number of different social and civic causes across North America through the decades, but eventually decided to focus their energy on supporting educational efforts. In 1958 May E. Tisdale, the auxiliary’s first international president, helped develop and present to the auxiliary the idea of a scholarship fund to provide financial assistance to the children and grandchildren of UCT members pursuing undergraduate college degrees. In 1960 the plan was approved and the program established as the May E. Tisdale Educational Trust Fund, later to be called the May E. Tisdale Scholarship Fund.
From its humble beginning of $17.50, the fund has grown over time to award more than $1.25 million in scholarships to students across the U.S. and Canada. It was – and still is – perpetuated by gifts, donations, and memorial contributions primarily from UCT members.
In 1994 the auxiliary merged with UCT internationally with the condition that the May E. Tisdale Scholarship Fund be kept intact as structured and administered. The fund’s committee is still made up of auxiliary past international presidents who review applications and grant scholarships.
It’s been said that any time women come together with a collective intention it’s a powerful thing, and we at UCT believe our auxiliary is historical proof of this. We salute our organization’s women pioneers and those who have followed to maintain their legacy.