The American Association of University Women was organized in 1881, when Miss Marion Talbot became the first woman to be admitted into Boston University. The event resulted from a merger of the eastern Association of Collegiate Alumnae, the Chicago-based Western Association of Collegiate Alumnae, and the Southern Association of Federation of College Women. AAUW’s affiliation with the International Federation of University Women represented a worldwide alliance for equity for women and positive societal change.
Chartered in 1932, Columbus AAUW is affiliated with the other branches of Georgia AAUW. Columbus AAUW branch projects, which have varied over the years, have included book discussion, girls’ conferences and workshops, and events coordinated with Girls Inc. and One Columbus, Inc., and CSU.
(Mrs. O’Neal researched this article from available AAUW Columbus Branch scrapbook documents at the Bradley Memorial Library archives in commemoration of the branch’s historic golden anniversary. It has since been updated. Mrs. O’Neal served as Area Representative for The Community for the Columbus Branch between 1981-1983.)
In l932, Mrs. J. Mark Mote (Alma Osborne) chaperoned several prospective students to her Alma Mater, Shorter College, in Rome, Georgia. During this visit, she was urged by Miss Mildred Mell, Dean of Women, to organize a branch of the American Association of University Women in Columbus. When Mrs. Mote returned, she invited a group of women college graduates to an organizational meeting.
On October 26, 1932, at 3:30 P.M., the first official meeting was held at the Public Library Auditorium, which was then located on Broadway near the Fourteenth Street Bridge. Charter members listed on the treasurer’s records of l932-l933 were as follows:
Miss Elizabeth Rogers
Mrs. J. Mark Mote (Alma Osborne)
Miss Frances Callahan (Mrs. Paul Belk)
Miss Martha Bradford (Mrs. Harris Thurmond)
Mrs. Henry G. Langdon (Beth Turner)
Miss Frances Evans
Miss Louise Baker (Mrs. Joseph Jackson Knight)
Miss Evelyn Wright (Mrs. G. T. Turnipseed)
Miss Harlow Thompson (Mrs. B. B. Littlejohn)
Mrs. Bennett Bush
Miss Ruth Bradford (Mrs. Fred Crayton)
Mrs. George Burrus (Effie May Pierce)
Miss Minnie Merle David
Miss Carolyn Owen (Mrs. Marvin Johnson)
Miss Cora Lee Cheatham
Miss Elizabeth Holmes
Miss Ethel Morris
Miss Missouri Binns (Mrs. B. B. Huling)
Mrs. Wheeler Tolbert (Love McDuffie)
Miss Myrtle C. Blackmon
Mrs. Brown Nicholson (Martha Fowler)
In 1953, the Columbus Branch sponsored a branch in LaGrange. Mrs. J.R. Estes spoke at the organizational meeting at which twenty-three women signed applications for membership.
In 1954, the Columbus Branch contributed $l,000.00 toward an award to a foreign woman to study in a university in her own country. During this year, a leader in the branch, Mrs. Edwin J. Grimes (Mildred Stancil) was president of the Georgia State Division.
The Columbus Branch of AAUW has participated in national, state, and local projects. Some of these have been: support of the United Nations, sponsorship of Allied officers and international students through home visits, support of state law on day care standards, involvement in slum clearance, and support of Boys’ and Girls’ clubs, Girl Scouts projects. It also actively participated in securing a junior college in 1958 (then Columbus College) now Columbus State University, a senior institution in the University System of Georgia). The institution has been a member of AAUW since 1973.
From its earliest days until 1991-1992, the branch sponsored annual “Dollars for Scholars” book sales for the Educational Foundation (EF) to promote higher education for women.” Proceeds from these sales also went toward 1981-1992 textbook scholarships to rising senior woman students at Columbus College with the highest cumulative grade point average. The book sale has since been replaced by the “Century Club of Giving,” a voluntary fund-raising for EF.
Presently, the Columbus Branch sponsors three scholarships: (1) The Elizabeth McTaggart Memorial Scholarship – Each year since 1987, the branch has awarded Each fall since 1987 the branch has awarded its $500 Elizabeth McTaggart Memorial Scholarship to a well-deserving woman student in the CSU Adult Re-entry Program. In addition, in various years, incentive awards were also given through the McTaggart funds. (2) The Mattie C. Thomas Memorial Textbook Scholarship – inaugurated in 1998-1999, the $300.00 award goes to an outstanding entering freshman with early acceptance into CSU. Patron of this fund is Dr. Samuel P. Charleston, Principal at Carver High School in 1963-1970, in memory of his sister, an AAUW life member and a pioneer in integration for education. In 2005, the Columbus branch added a third scholarship, the Edwards-Dimon Fellowship. Mary Dimon, a teacher in Muscogee County School District and a dedicated women’s advocate left educational funds for re-entry women to be named for her mother Margaret Edwards Dimon and to be awarded by Columbus Branch of the American Association of University Women. The fellowship is $500 per semester and AAUW affiliate membership.
Community action has been a commitment for the branch. For four years beginning in 1990-1991, through the initiative of Lavonda Wilks Forbes, it secured funds from AAUW Educational Foundation and other sources to sponsor the “Daniel Dreamers” of Daniel Middle School. The program provided sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade girls with various activities for self-development, workshops to generate interest in math, science and the arts.
Columbus Branch is consistently recognized at the state and national level for significant, groundbreaking contributions to equity for women and girls. One of the first AAUW branches to hold what was later adopted at the national level as “Sister to Sister” conferences, Columbus Branch pioneered annual girls’ conferences for middle school grades:1992– “Women Celebrating Women”; 1993– “Girls Can Do Anything”; 1994–“For Girls Only: Let’s Talk About OUR Sex”; 1995—”GIRLS(Gee, I Really Like Science)”; 1996–“Girls Can!; 1997—”Speak Out for Girls”; 1998—”Performing Your Future”; 1999—”Sister to Sister”. With the award of a national Education Foundation Community Action Grant from AAUW in 2001, Columbus Branch partnered with Soroptimist International to establish a computer club, Girls Domain, at Kolb Avenue Girls Inc. mentoring girls in computer skills, encouraging them to become more computer savvy and opening doors to future careers for girls during the two-year program.
Columbus has been the site for AAUW state conventions in 1939, 1951, 1975, 1982, 1988, and 1998 and will once again host the state convention in 2007.
Members who have received state and/or national recognitions in the past few decades thus far include:
Mary Jane Galer – Georgia Achievement Award (1991)
Erma Davis Banks – Georgia Achievement Award (1993)
Sonya M. Rheault – Emerging Leader Award (1994)
Nemia M. Chai – Georgia Achievement Award (1997)
Lavonda W. Forbes – Georgia Achievement Award (2003)
Paula W. James Emerging Leader Award (2004)
Erma Davis Banks served on National AAUW Program Development Committee in 1991-1994; Atty. Tina G. Stanford served as Vice President of National AAUW Legal Advocacy Board 1997-1999; and Dr. Nemia M. Chai served on the National AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund Development Committee 1998-2002.
R. Marie Bruner, a Columbus Branch member served as GA AAUW President 2002-2004.