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The Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM)1 held its Twentieth Anniversary Celebration at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Francisco, January 16-19, 1991. The festivities included: a Symposium entitled The Future of Women in Mathematics, highlighting ten young women mathematicians (within ten years of Ph.D.) who talked about their current research; a Graduate Student Workshop featuring ten women graduate students who presented their dissertation results; a Workshop Luncheon where dozens more students and AWM members met to discuss ``Is there life after graduate school?''; the twelfth annual Noether Lecture (by Alexandra Bellow); the presentation of the first annual Louise Hay Award for contributions to mathematics education (to Shirley M. Frye); and the AWM Anniversary Banquet followed by an Open Party complete with disc jockey and everyone's favorite dancing music.2

It was truly a joyous occasion. For those of us who were around during the early years of the AWM, yet still imagine ourselves somewhat youthful, at least in outlook and perspective, any initial disbelief about the prospect of celebrating our twentieth quickly gave way to feelings of deep emotion and pride--pride on having clearly made it in our own way, indeed on our own terms. The numbers of women at the meeting, from old-timers to young faculty and graduate students, and even undergraduates, were staggering. As one woman put it, one did not have to look far to see female faces amongst the sea of faces in every session of the Meetings. Having been on the committees that picked the young women for the Symposium and Graduate Workshop, as well as the Alice T. Schafer Prize committee that awarded the first prizes last summer to two outstanding women undergraduates (Linda Green and Elizabeth Wilmer), I can testify to the elation we felt on seeing the large pool of extremely talented young women mathematicians. Clearly, these awards and invitations are viewed with great respect in the mathematics community, for we witnessed department heads and thesis advisors vying with each other to position their candidates well. Our only dismay was that we could not award all those deserving.

The following article on the history of the AWM is based on an after-dinner talk I gave at the Anniversary Banquet. Shortly after having agreed to give such a talk, it dawned on me that, unlike mathematics--which to some extent one can create in one's head--for history, one needs to have the facts. And, although for a certain period of my life I was intimately associated with the AWM, I certainly did not have total recall nor even near complete knowledge of all that had happened during the past two decades.

So I decided to enlist the help of all AWM Presidents. I wrote each of the other Presidents (Mary Gray, Alice Schafer, Judy Roitman, Bhama Srinivasan, Linda Rothschild, Linda Keen, Rhonda Hughes, Jill Mesirov, Carol Wood) asking ``...if you could provide me a brief review of what happened during your term, perhaps discuss its special character ... and also comment on questions such as: How you feel AWM has made a difference, areas where we need work, ideas and hopes for the future ... . (Any humorous/insightful anecdotes would be welcome.) I would then try to compile and interweave these stories [in my presentation] ....''

The history I compiled is in large part a history as seen through the Presidents' eyes, a uniquely personal vision, culled from the many letters and email responses I received. It also comes from the AWM Newsletters, Notices, my personal files, and correspondence with Judy Green about the origins of the AWM. Her article with Jeanne LaDuke on ``Women in American Mathematics: A Century of Contributions'' (WM) in A Century of Mathematics in America (ed. P Duren, AMS, 1989) as well as the book More Mathematical People (MP) by Donald Albers, Gerald Alexanderson and Constance Reid (Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1990) were also helpful. I have also incorporated some of my own memories and experiences, not just as AWM President, but as a woman mathematician ``growing up'' during that time. ``Brief'' in the title is meant as a disclaimer acknowledging my many omissions.

In planning the talk, I decided to quote people directly rather than paraphrase or synthesize. This turned out to be an extremely fortuitous decision for a number of reasons, including the fact that it helped provide the eloquence and humor, in addition to substance, necessary for an ideal after-dinner talk. But even more, by reading the quotes directly, I along with the audience could thoroughly enjoy what everyone had to say. In uncharacteristic fashion, I could even ham it up a bit and add some dramatic effects of my own. Some of the humor was so infectious--we were in stitches--that a couple of times I had a hard time completing a sentence I was reading.

The audience was terrific. It comprised old friends and new. The students and postdocs were there as were very many AWM members whose involvement and support over the years have been so vital to our continuing successes. All AWM Presidents except Judy Roitman (whose semester had begun) and Linda Keen (who was in Helsinki) were present as were Bettye Ann Case (longtime AWM meetings coordinator) and Anne Leggett (longtime AWM Newsletter editor), who both earlier in the day had received AWM citations at the Business meeting. There was Marie-Francoise Roy of the European Women in Mathematics, Hope Daly and her Joint Meetings arrangement staff who have worked so closely with us over the years, Debbie Lockhart our program officer at the National Science Foundation (NSF), Mike Dooley of the Exxon Education Foundation, and AWM Executive Director Patricia Cross--the person behind-the-scenes orchestrating this happy event.

Jill Mesirov had suggested that I recognize everyone who had been involved in founding the AWM at the beginning, asking them to rise, and then as I went through the talk, those who joined AWM in five year intervals (Eileen Poiani had done something similar at the MAA's seventy-fifth), and this turned out to be great fun. I think by the end everyone had a chance to stand.

Since I had never given an after-dinner talk before, I was really somewhat apprehensive beforehand. I suspect others felt the same apprehension, for the only public announcement I could find of my talk was in the Banquet menu. At dinner, Mike Dooley who was sitting next to me offered little reassurance when he warned that such talks should never last more than fifteen minutes. So I knew I probably did okay when afterwards Mike said I really could have gone on for another fifteen. I glanced at my watch and much to my surprise I had talked for over forty-five minutes! And then Hope Daly came by to say how she had relived every minute of all the past meetings with me. But most of all, I felt the seal of approval when Judy Green, our consummate historian, came over beaming, gave me a hug and said ``You did real good!''

Here is my attempt to recapture the magical spirit of that evening . . . .

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Copyright ©1991 American Mathematical Society. Reprinted with permission.
Brought to you by the Association for Women in Mathematics.