WSWU engages women in the life of the university through education, scholarships, student projects, and leadership. We carry out our mission through support of university programs, full-tuition scholarships, and lectures.

To forward its mission, the Women’s Society initiated several small businesses in 1966 to serve students, faculty, and staff. The Bear Necessities shop, located in Umrath House on the South 40, provides a valuable service to students while also supplying a large portion of the proceeds used to support scholarships and sponsor student projects.

Connections with the university

The WSWU also supports the Women’s Society Lecture Series, which showcases distinguished Washington University faculty; the annual Adele Chomeau Starbird Lecture, which features an accomplished woman of national prominence; and the Harriet K. Switzer Leadership Award, which recognizes graduating senior women. We also continue to support WashU students and programs through funding for many campus projects. In 2020-21, the WSWU granted $23,750 to 14 university projects.

Clocktower on South 40

Milestones in our history

Founded in 1965
1966Opened Bear Necessities Shop, providing funds for scholarships and student projects.
1976Established the Women’s Society Scholarship, an annual two-year full-tuition scholarship, awarded to outstanding St. Louis Community College students (now known as the Elizabeth Gray Danforth Scholarship).
1986Initiated the “Town & Gown” Lecture Series for WSWU members, featuring Washington University’s talented faculty (now known as the Women’s Society Lecture Series).
1988Established the Adele Starbird Lecture, featuring a nationally renowned speaker each year in honor of Adele Chomeau Starbird, Washington University’s dean of women from 1931-1959.
1998Initiated the Women’s Society Leadership Award for outstanding senior women (now known as the Harriet K. Switzer Leadership Award).
2004Launched the annual “Composing a Life” panel event for women students.
2007Awarded two full-time Elizabeth Gray Danforth Scholarships.
2009Moved Bear Necessities to its new home in Umrath House.
2015Commemorated the founding of the society (in March 1965) by holding three 50th anniversary celebratory events for members and their guests while raising dollars for the scholarship endowment and adding over 120 new members to the organization.