A HISTORY OF THE ATHENS BRANCH OF AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF UNIVERSITY WOMEN 1927-1963

 

            Although the charter of the Athens Branch was not granted until October 3, 1927, plans for the organization of the Branch were under way at least a year earlier.  [Ohio University] Dean Irma E. Voigt, who was to become very active in AAUW at the state and national levels, was the Branch’s first president.  There were only fourteen charter members, but by 1928, the Athens Branch had 82 paid members; and the next year, 108 members, with a better than fifty percent average attendance at meetings.

 

            Membership after that became an up-and-down affair.  In the depression years with the “financial stress of the times,” as Mrs. Frederick Krecker, president, 1936-36, called it, many members were forced financially to drop out of the organization.  In 1933-34, there were only 75 members, and the Branch had only eight regular meetings.  It was not until 1952-1953 that membership again topped the one-hundred mark.  In 1955-1956, there were 148 members; and in 1962-63, 146 members.

            From the beginning the Athens Branch has been marked with what Miss Mary Helen Fretts, president, 1932-34, called a “variety and breadth of interest.”  In 1935, it was recognized as one of the most active in the country.  It was second in the state in the number of active study groups, fifth in contributions to the National Fellowship Fund, and fourth in per capita total to this fund.  In 1951-52, it was among the top ten Ohio branches in fellowship contributions.

 

            Probably the Branch’s most noteworthy accomplishment in the early years was the McGuffey Revue”, a pageant, which was written by Dean Voigt and Dr. Edith Wray, and was produced and staged by members as a part of the Ohio University’s Commencement Exercises in 1927.  From this and a subsequent production, the Branch cleared $300. From this fund came the Branch’s first $100 contribution to the National Fellowship Fund.  The pageant was copyrighted by the Branch, and in the next several years royalties brought in additional funds.

 

            From the first, providing funds for scholarship and fellowships was a paramount objective of the Athens Branch.  In 1929, its members pledged $1,000 to be paid to the National Fellowship Fund by 1934.  In spite of the depression, this obligation was met.

 

            Besides the “McGuffey Revue,” funds were raised in a variety of other ways.  Another historic pageant, “Historic Ohio,” was written and staged in 1928. “Alice in Wonderland” was produced in 1929.  Also the group sponsored such noted lecturers as Dr. Rollo Walter Brown and Professor Delbert G. Lean and such entertainment groups as Toni Sarg’s Marionettes.  Other plays and art exhibit were brought to Athens.  Members made costumes for plays, sold maps,

Cook books, Christmas cards and note paper; gave waffle suppers, bean suppers, bridge and canasta parties; held silent auctions, white elephant auction, cake auctions, and style shows.

 

            In later years, the annual Book Fair has become the biggest source of income for scholarships and fellowships.  The first of these was held in the spring of 1955, although an earlier used-book sale in 1949 had provided emergency funds for Chinese students attending Ohio University. At first the Book Fair lasted only three days.  In 1958, however, it became a week-long sale which cleared $450.  In 1960, for the first time more than $500 was cleared; and in 1962, more than $1,000.

 

            These funds have provided yearly additions to the National Fellowships Fund and have provided, since 1952, a scholarship to Ohio University of an Athens County girl.  At that time, the Branch began by investing $200 in the irreducible debt fund of the State of Ohio.  Interest from this and additional funds from other sources, mainly the Book Fair, have paid for this scholarship, now called the Edith A. Wray Scholarship.  By 1958-1959, the Branch had $2,500 in the irreducible fund; and as of January 1, 1963, $4,203.68.

 

            Study groups have always been an active part of the Athens Branch.  In 1936, for example there were nine study groups with more than ten members each, and the Ohio University Library set up a shelf for AAUW members in its periodical room.  The types of study groups have chanced with the times, but the International Relations group has lived through the years.  In the early years, this group held semi-monthly dinner meetings.

 

            Other study groups have included drama; art appreciation; modern literature; a group for mothers of pre-school children, which was opened to the community; a Virgilean group, which for two years read Virgil in translation; home decoration, social psychology, book review; creative writing, creative arts, nature appreciation; current problems; French reading; German reading; play acting and reading; consumer education; status of women; music enjoyment; human relations; first aid; and photography.  In 1937, all study groups were opened to the community as a public service. Unfortunately, by 1962-63, study groups had become almost inactive.

 

            Not the least of the Branch’s accomplishment has been its own monthly publication.  In 1927, the Newsletter, edited by Dr. Wray, was started.  It was so well edited that Dr. Wray received congratulations from many branches and state officers and its makeup was copied for the State Bulletin.   In 1934, only six issues were published, and in 1935 its size was often reduced to one page, but it still found room to print bibliographies of interesting reading for Branch members.  The Newsletter was discontinued during the war years, but in 1949, the AAUW News Bulletin   made its appearance. In 1951, the name was changed to the AAUW Newsletter.  This continues to be published.

 

            Other activities, traditions, and accomplishments dot the history pages of the Athens Branch.  Entertaining the senior girls, sometimes twice yearly, and holding a banquet or picnic as the final meeting of the year have become traditions.

 

            In October, 1931, the Athens Branch was hostess to the Ninth Annual Conference of Ohio Federation of Branches of AAUW.  In 1934, the Branch instituted a successful summer program with fifty or more members attending each meeting.  In 1937, Dean Voigt inaugurated the AAUW College of the Air by speaking on “University Women in a Changing World” over WOSU, Ohio State Radio station.  The Branch has held annual drives to provide Christmas aid for needy families, worked to promote the Athens Children’s Home, sponsored Sunday night forums in their homes for the community, and helped sponsor the Athens Community Workshop.

 

            Finally, the Athens Branch has contributed many state and national leaders to AAUW.  In 1928, Mrs. Milo Kimball, president of the Branch, became treasurer of the State organization, and Dean Voigt was on the State Fellowship Committee.  Dean Voigt later served as state president and as director (now called regional vice-president) of the Northeast Central Section.  She was also chairman of the state resolutions committee and a member of the national committee on membership.  Dr. Wray has served as recording secretary of the regional section as as state president; Mrs. E. J. Taylor, as state chairman of creative arts; Miss Marguerite Apple, as state corresponding secretary; Mrs. Lorin C. Staats as state second-vice president; Dr. Elizabeth B. Stanton, as Implementation Chairman, Occident and Orient; and Miss Erma I. Anderson, as state fellowships chairman.