494 East Avenue
Rochester, NY 14607-1911
P | 585.244.8890
F | 585.244.5277
The Greater Rochester Area Branch (GRAB) began in 1897, when women were not yet allowed to vote and had few opportunities to pursue a college degree. Miss Olive Davis gathered eleven women together to found the Rochester Branch of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae, more popularly known locally as the College Women’s Club. In 1921, the Association of Collegiate Alumnae merged with the Southern Association of Collegiate Alumnae to become the American Association of University Women.
The Rochester Branch supported the women’s suffrage movement and saw ten members actually serve overseas during World War I. A placement bureau to aid graduates in finding jobs in fields other than teaching was organized. Members endorsed a bill in the 1920s to amend state education law to provide a School of Home Economics at Cornell University. An investigation of U.S. history texts in four area counties was aided by the Branch and it conducted a study of library services for New York State. In the 1930s, the Branch endorsed the Federal Child Labor Amendment to ease the suffering of children under the age of 18 working in factories and businesses (Congress passed the amendment in 1924, but it was never ratified by enough states to become the law of the land).
The Branch supported aid to nursery schools from the Depression- era Works Progress Administration and also worked for state aid to kindergartens. The Rochester Branch pioneered supporting legislation for Social Security benefits for household employees and equal pay for equal work. In the newly acquired (1947) home of the Rochester Branch, the Perkins Mansion, the Branch sponsored a Young Artist Series, recognizing youthful vocal and instrumental performers. In the1950s, a nursery school was begun that was eventually moved to the Perkins Mansion Carriage House. The School even sponsored a radio program for pre-schoolers. The birth of Educational TV was endorsed by the Branch in the 1950s.
A GRAB educational loan fund was started in the 1960s and a book listing sources of scholarship aid for college women is distributed to area high schools to this day. Branch-sponsored forums introduced Rochester School Board candidates to voters. An Art Forum was begun to showcase area artists in the Perkins Mansion. In the 1990s, a unique program called Women Helping Girls with Choices was created to mentor girls in the Rochester city school district. The name changed to simply Women Helping Girls and evolved to include helping school district graduates apply and gain acceptance to colleges and universities and an alumnae group has now been established. The program has received wide recognition for making a meaningful contribution to the success of the city’s middle and high school girls.
“Empowering Middle School Girls,” a GRAB sponsored conference, was attended by educators well beyond our local area. For seven years, Congressionally-sponsored delegations of Russian women were hosted in Branch members’ homes so they could pay visits to social, legal and community-based agencies that GRAB arranged to help them promote equity for women in their home country. In 2004, the Perkins Mansion became the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra’s Symphony Show House for 29 days of fundraising for the orchestra. The Branch is now a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization. The Greater Rochester Area Branch continues to seek new ways to support women and girls and to prepare them to seek equality for themselves and their families.