A Virginia-based organization for conservative college women is spreading rapidly to campuses across the country.
Karin Agness founded the Network of Enlightened Women (NEW) in September 2004. She said she had befriended a group of conservative women while interning in Washington and missed the “intellectual stimulation” when she returned to the University of Virginia Charlottesville. She checked various resources on campus, including the Women’s Center, but was ridiculed, she said.
NEW began as a book club, Miss Agness said, but “one of the main goals is to create a network of conservative women.”
The group is expanding and receiving national attention.
Seven chapters, including one at the College of William & Mary, were formed during the 2005-06 academic year.
NEW held its first national conference Friday on Capitol Hill, where the network recognized four new chapters: at Texas State University, California State University at Long Beach, Rice University in Houston, and a South Jersey Collegiate Chapter for students at several campuses in New Jersey.
The Enlightened Woman of the Year award was presented to Danielle Sturgis, the founder and outgoing president of the chapter at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.
Miss Sturgis was chosen because of her “outstanding dedication to conservative principles and her enthusiasm for standing up for them,” Miss Agness said. “She understands the mission of NEW and tries to carry it out to the best of her ability, even when faced with a lot of challenges at Drake.”
Miss Sturgis said in an interview that she founded the Drake chapter after a summer internship at the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute, a nonprofit organization in Herndon, Va., that helps conservative women develop leadership skills.
She met with conservative icons such as Phyllis Schlafly and Bay Buchanan and became “aware of the attempted monopoly that radical feminists hold on the college campus.”
Addressing a group of about 35 women in the Rayburn House Office Building, Miss Sturgis said Drake administrators worried that students planning a trip to a nearby gun range would end up killed. “I’m getting a .38 for graduation and I’m pumped,” she said.
She noted the importance of spreading information and advised students to “not apologize for your beliefs.”