History of the Cardinal Dames
Sometime before 1918, a social organization was formed composed of wives of students, and in some universities, also the mothers of students. This organization was sometimes known as the Women's Club or the Dames' Club. After World War I many men who were older returned to college as students. Some brought their wives to the campus and some their mothers. Due to the varied ages and interests, it was found advisable for the wives of the students and mothers of the students to organize as separate groups.
During the 1920-1921 school year the wives’ groups at University of Chicago and University of Iowa started correspondence relative to the problems of these groups that existed at all universities. As a result, these two chapters drafted a national constitution choosing the name "National Association of University Dames" (NAUD). An emblem was selected – a gold pin depicting a circle representing the wedding ring, pierced by an arrow denoting friendship. A constitution was ratified the following year by the Chicago group as the Alpha chapter and by the Iowa group as the Beta chapter. Eight other groups followed immediately: Ohio State University, University of Michigan, University of Kansas, University of Minnesota, University of Illinois, University of Oklahoma, Washington State University, and Purdue University.
The University of Louisville Dames chapter was organized 1923-1924 as the eleventh chapter in NAUD, with twenty-nine dues-paying members. The charter members are listed in the 1924-1956 ledger book. In the 1920s the membership stayed around twenty-one, but dropped during the Depression years to fourteen to sixteen members. The post-World War II year of 1946 saw the Dames at their highest level of membership, with forty-three members. By 1954, active membership stabilized at twenty-eight to thirty.
Through the first thirty years the organization was primarily a social club, sponsoring teas, annual style shows, various programs on gardening and homemaking, and tours of various points of interest in Louisville. For a number of years, the wife of University of Louisville President Phillip G. Davidson hosted an annual tea for the Dames. During the 1960s and 1970s the emphasis turned more toward family fun events such as square dancing and picnics, as well as charitable fundraising events. In the 1990s, the Dames continued as a social and benevolent organization under the umbrella of the U of L Athletic Association.