AAUW Flagler – Branch History
Founded: February 1984
First President: Mary Jane Harris
Charter Members: 13
On Saturday, January 28, 1984 an organizational meeting hosted by Charlotte Jeffrey, a Gainesville, FL Branch member, and Mary Jane Harris, an AAUW member-at-large met at Charlotte Jeffrey’s home in Palm Coast. The twelve other pioneering women present were Marion Blythe, Christine Brewster, Mary Ann Clark, Riza Cohen, Jean Cullen, Ann Ettinger, Beverly Kelly, Ruth Johnson, Isabel Messick, Virginia Reisinger, Virginia Strout Sultzman and Dorothy Wilson. The group decided to invite as many eligible women as possible to an organizational luncheon meeting on Saturday, February 25, 1984 at the Harbour Restaurant in Palm Coast.
When 65 women attended the meeting to hear Janet Larsen, the Florida Division President, the committee knew there was a need for the organization in the community. Mary Jane Harris became the first President; Oradell Trayer was Program Vice-President, Beverly Kelly, Membership Vice-President, Polly Conkling, treasurer, Mary Ann Clark, Recording Secretary and Bette Cowart, Corresponding Secretary. An active membership campaign initiated by Beverly Kelly and the members of the original committee resulted in the fledgling organization starting out with 114 members and three dual members. Janet Larson was one of our mentors and a wonderful friend.
The special interest groups were Women’s Issues, Community Relations, Cultural Interests, Education, International Relations, Book Club, Bridge Club and the Educational Foundation Committee. By May 1986 the membership had grown to 154 members and five women had become AAUW Life Members: Mary Ann Clark, Beverly Kelly, Anita McGee, Rosemary Rountree and Virginia Strout. Bevery Kelly was the second Flagler County Branch President.
The first fund raiser was selling chances on an afghan knit by Mary Ann Clark. Dot Wilson carried the item everywhere she went and was a great sales person. The members enjoyed attending AAUW meetings, becoming acquainted with other branch members and learning what was meant by EF, LAF, etc.
The branch was the subject of an article in the Outlook in 1993 and that same year member Theda Wilson was honored as Florida AAUW’s Woman of Diversity. In 1995 Beverly Kelly and Mary Ann Clark served on the Local Arrangements Committee for the Association Convention that was held at Disney World. Beverly held the following positions on the state board: Membership Vice-President, Program Vice-President and Director for Educational Foundation. She also co-chaired the 2002 state convention. On July 1, 2003 Flagler Branch President Nancy Smith began a two year term as the state’s Director for Program. Other members of the branch have served on various state committees and have helped with arrangements for several state conventions.
Under the leadership of Beverly Kelly the annual fundraising luncheon/fashion shows and other fundraising events raised enough money to initiate a Flagler County Research and Projects Grant in 1999. This grant became stipend bearing in the fall of 2001. The members of the branch have always been generous contributors to the Educational Foundation and many of them have been honored as Florida Friends of the Foundation.
By 2004 membership had grown to 168 members and five Life Members. The Flagler County branch of AAUW had had 20 very good years, attracting many vibrant women to become members. The special interest groups were Couples, Creative Writing, Gourmet Group, Reading Women and Bookminders. Committees included Cultural, Diversity, Project STARS, Educational Equity, Educational Foundation, Legal Advocacy Fund and Scholarship. Another group born out of the organization was the Litter Lifters, a number of civic minded members who picked up trash along a busy Flagler County roadway.
The next year brought a challenge to the viability of the branch when a bylaws change affecting eligibility requirements for AAUW membership was approved at the 2005 National Convention. A strong contingent of the Flagler Branch disagreed with the new requirements which opened AAUW membership to those with Associate or Equivalent Degrees. The 2005-2006 meeting year was tumultuous for the branch. A committee was appointed in August 2005 to study the ramifications of the new criteria and to look at whether the branch should continue to be a part of the state and national organizations, disconnect from the association or consider other alternatives.
By October 2005 the committee had recommended forming a separate organization outside of AAUW. A timetable was set to accomplish the tasks necessary to establish the new organization. On November 28, 2005 a letter was sent to the 144 branch members asking them to commit to either remaining a member of AAUW or joining the new group as charter members. At the January 2006 Board Meeting it was reported that 4 would join both groups, 3 would withdraw completely, 83 would join the new organization, 10 would remain with AAUW and 5 were undecided. The new organization, whose members must have a four year degree or higher, was founded in June 2006.
Under the excellent leadership of loyal AAUW members, the Flagler County Branch of AAUW carried on, despite the significant decrease in membership. In September 2006 Mary Ann Clark, one of the founding members of the branch, took the helm as President, and was assisted by June Carlson, Program Vice President; Janet Spurlock, Membership Chair; Anne Nardi, Secretary and Audrey Marcus, Treasurer. The Flagler Branch may have been small, but it was determined to survive.
The Flagler County Branch continues to be an active group, holding monthly meetings with dynamic speakers, hosting creative fundraisers, participating in various interest groups, awarding scholarships and attending state and national conventions. Our membership is steadily building. Membership Chair Edna Diamond was recognized in the Summer-Fall 2011 issue of Florivision as one of three Florida winners in the Individual Recruitment category in the 130th Anniversary Recruitment contest.