Local University Women celebrate 90 years

Local University Women celebrate 90 years
Joanne Cohen, Francine Farkas, Anne Ebert with Faith Schonfeld

San Jose author Dorothy Fletcher was the keynote speaker during the 90th Anniversary Celebration of the Jacksonville Branch of the American Association of University (AAUW) Women Dec. 10 at Bistro Aix in San Marco.

Fletcher, who has published seven books and has had poetry appear in more than 80 literary magazines, spoke about the history of San Marco and San Jose, including many interesting anecdotes in her talk.

Carolyn Smith, Jacksonville Branch co-president, welcomed the group. Kay McKenna, Branch secretary, acknowledged the group’s past presidents and Kimberly Beasley of San Marco, who sang two 1920s songs, “Someone to Watch Over Me” and “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” in commemoration of the founding of the local group in 1926.

Marjorie Broward, Dorothy Fletcher and Broward’s daughter, Kris Barnes

Marjorie Broward, Dorothy Fletcher and Broward’s daughter, Kris Barnes

The local branch of the AAUW was started when Mrs. Harry Hoyt gathered a group of women in her Riverside home and voted to accept the bylaws and goals of the National AAUW, which was founded in 1881 in Boston by a group of women representing eight colleges.

The group soon expanded during an at-large meeting held at the YWCA later that fall. Nina Cummer was a charter member, and between 1927 and 1940 she held annual teas for members in her garden. Since then Branch meetings have followed a variety of formats, which always focus on empowering women and girls.

Over the years, the group has contributed to many causes that have benefited Jacksonville including raising funds for a part-time teacher at Hope Haven Children’s Hospital and decorating the windows at Cohen’s Department store in the 1930s. The group also sponsored First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to speak at the Jacksonville Armory in 1936 to raise money for young women both nationally and from Jacksonville to attend college.

In 1955, the Jacksonville AAUW was also instrumental in getting the Friends of the Library started to support the city’s public library and pushed support of a bond issue to fund a new, larger library, which became the Hayden Burns Library (now the Jessie Ball duPont Center) a decade later.

In the 1960s, the AAUW joined with the League of Women Voters in providing volunteers in the campaign of Citizens for Better Government for the consolidation of the city and the county. The group also supported the Equal Rights Amendment and the Title IX Amendment to the Education Act in the 1970s.

From 2002-2004, the Jacksonville Branch of AAUW sponsored the JAX READS program, an effort to encourage the whole city to read the same book and discuss it with others.

Other outreach activities the group has supported include reading children’s stories on local radio stations; partnering with counselors at local high schools to develop a program to prepare young women, who were the first in their families to attend college; supporting local STEM activities in Jacksonville schools; joining with other like-minded women’s organizations in planning an Equal Pay Day observance and contacting local government representatives and senators in Washington to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act; and working with local colleges and universities to provide AAUW benefits to students.

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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