When #MeToo became a national movement in 2017, it was a milestone in advancing equity for women and girls. So was the push to pass the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s. So was the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women’s right to vote, now more than a century ago.
But did you know that the Eugene-Lane branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) has been pushing for the same things, even longer? (And by the way, did you know Oregon secured statewide women’s suffrage even earlier, in 1912, becoming the seventh state in the union to do so in advance of nationwide passage?)
According to research compiled in 2012 for our branch’s 100th anniversary celebrations, our branch’s roots date back to 1907, when “Dr. Luella Clay Carson, Dean of Women at the University of Oregon, called alumnae together in her room at commencement time to form a society.” Their mission was to “ally more closely the women of the University so that they might work for the good of their alma mater throughout the state.”
Since then, AAUW Eugene-Lane’s modest mission has steadily shaped, and been shaped by the times. Some of our organization’s earliest activities are documented in the UO Knight Library’s Oregon Collection, with historical records dating back to 1913. These records point to a vibrant “pre-#MeToo” group from the start. For example:
In our first year, we created a loan fund for women through the University, and also arranged for local dentists to give talks on tooth care in various grade schools.
In 1915, we raised $500 toward a women’s building on the UO campus.
In our early years, we sponsored a public kindergarten in conjunction with the University for five years, and worked continuously toward making public kindergartens available statewide.
In 1927, AAUW Oregon established a $1,200 fellowship to pay for an Oregon girl who wanted to study for an advanced degree. Our branch contributed $200 to the cause.
And we were just getting warmed up. In the 1970s, we committed to the local goal of raising $35,000 for scholarships and research. It took us awhile, but we reached that goal in 2001. In 1981, our late, great local branch member “Kappy” Eaton was instrumental in establishing a national Legal Advocacy Fund to support the protection of the legal rights of those facing discrimination. This fund continues to fulfill its mission to this day, with more information available at aauw.org.
We’re still not done. In 2008, our branch collaborated with Lane Community College to establish the Kappy Eaton Scholarship. This scholarship provides money for girls attending LCC who want to continue their education at a four-year college or university. Our branch also has helped finance students’ trips to AAUW’s National Conference for College Women Student Leaders.
This year, we are delighted to sponsor UO student Victoria Olajide, who will attend the program virtually. A native of Nigeria, Victoria is pursuing her doctoral degree as an environmental archaeologist because, in her own words, “I really love digging up the past!”
We’re fond of the past ourselves, and we’ve also got plans for the future. We have remained true to our purpose to pursue lifelong learning, advance women and girls, and spur positive societal change. This complements AAUW’s mission to advance equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, and research. All that, and we have lots of fun too. Join us for our next century of advocacy at eugenelane-or.aauw.net.
Note: Historical quotes and information found in “The Eugene-Lane Branch AAUW: Our Beginning and Our Future 100th Anniversary Celebration,” November 2012.
Sheila Ramerman is president of the Eugene-Lane Chapter of the American Association of University Women.