This column was a fun one to write. I met with six long-time members of the AAUW at our local Sweet & Savory Coffee Shop. They all had so much to share about what it was like to be young mothers in our valley in the 1960’s and ’70’s…the sense of isolation, the hunger for intellectual stimulation, and the need to connect with other women. Then came the ’70’s with women and mothers entering the workforce and the concerns about the effects upon the family. They lived through it all, supporting women’s education and rights every step of the way. And they are still doing it, even though all of them are now retired; it just means that now they can fit in rounds of bridge and read more books!
Our local AAUW branch, covering Livermore, Dublin and Pleasanton, began in 1952 and remains just as relevant and active as it was when it began. “Our main thrust is education,” said current President Chris Alesso. She means this literally, as the group annually awards thousands of scholarship dollars.
Middle school students can apply for scholarships to attend Stanford University ‘s Tech Trek Camp, a weeklong program that exposes girls to technology and science.
“There’s nothing more inspirational than hearing these girls say that they’ve found their people,” said past President Dorothy Bishop. “We want to assure them it’s great to be smart scientists.”
At the college level, the AAUW recently initiated a mentorship program with Las Positas College that will connect students with professionals. In addition, college juniors and seniors can apply for scholarships designed to help women complete their degrees. Graduate students can apply for research funds from a national program that once funded Marie Curie.
In addition to education, AAUW is concerned with legislation. Roz Wright, director of the public policy interest group, explained that members research current bills in Sacramento. The group then votes on a focus issue, and each member follows and advocates for a specific bill. This year’s focus is legislation that will affect women economically.”I’m following a scheduling equity bill which will provide fairness and consistency to people with shift work,” said Wright.
This group also likes to have fun. For its 117 members, they offer three book clubs, two bridge groups, dining and travel clubs; the newest group is “Money Talks.” The AAUW regularly offers presentations to the community, from talks on Rosie the Riveter to guests like Ellen Tauscher and Eric Swalwell.
“This is an organization that’s well respected and makes a difference,” said Wright. Much has been done, but with issues like pay equity, sex trafficking and gender bias in the workplace, there’s much more to do. New members can help steer the direction of the AAUW into the future. To learn more, attend the informational tea this Saturday.
Contact Amy Moellering at email@example.com.