1910 by Mrs. Mary Church Terrell, Dr. Sara Brown, Dr. Nancy 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.
On July 29, 2022 at the 73rd National Biennial Convention in Tallahassee, Florida, by a unanimous vote of Delegates, the Corporation accepted the District of Columbia Nonprofit Corporation Act and updated the Charter to become an International 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.