CAWP Founders Fund

Ruth and Ida smiling in front of a display of political buttons

The Founders Fund honors the enduring legacy of Rutgers Professor Ruth B. Mandel and Ida F.S. Schmertz, founding co-directors of CAWP, whose collaborative vision and leadership launched the Center in 1971. Mandel led the Center until 1995 and then served as director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics until 2019. After leaving CAWP, Schmertz held high-level leadership positions in New York State government and at American Express. She is the founding board chair and a current board member of the Romanian American Foundation. Mandel and Schmertz remained close friends and believers in CAWP’s mission. Mandel passed away in April 2020. Her obituaries in The New York TimesThe Washington Post, and The Star-Ledger recognized her lifelong commitment to democracy and women’s leadership.

A young Ruth sitting at a desk and smiling with a corded phone to her ear

The Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) was established in July 1971 at Rutgers University’s Eagleton Institute of Politics with a grant from the Ford Foundation. At the time, some observers thought it was a pointless exercise. Women held just two seats in the U.S. Senate and 13 in the House of Representatives, and no state had a woman governor. As for the other levels of office, no one had bothered to count, but the women were surely few and far between, hardly enough to consider a phenomenon worthy of study. That tiny handful of women could not possibly have a distinctive or meaningful role. And the nascent women’s movement was just beginning to consider politics as a sphere for expanding women’s presence and impact.

A younger Ida wearing glasses, pearls, and name tag that says Ida Schmertz

Since that time, CAWP has been a nonpartisan voice that is central to creating awareness and understanding of women’s political participation, as well as in expanding that participation. The Center’s programs of research, education and public engagement have both defined and enlarged the study and advancement of women in American politics. Each aspect of CAWP’s work informs and enriches the rest.

Within the growing and changing women’s political community, CAWP has been a constant for more than four decades. The Center plays many roles: researcher and scholar; keeper of the history, builder of bridges, convener of political women, educator for a variety of audiences and purposes, and non-partisan cheerleader for the women who step forward to lead.

To make a gift in honor of CAWP's co-founders, please contact Sue Nemeth at (848) 932-8593 or


Ruth Mandel and Ida Schmertz talk about the founding of the Center for American Women and Politics.