On Thursday, Sept. 28, the Skaneateles Country Club glowed like a lighthouse beacon through the pouring rain. The American Association of University Women, and friends, attending the gala event inside, took no notice of the weather. Under sparkling chandeliers, amid tinkling of glasses from congratulatory toasts, their spirits soared as they celebrated 25 years of leadership in Skaneateles. This was not only a dinner to mark the founding of the local branch in 1981, it was a joint celebration of 125 years of the national organization of AAUW.
It was my pleasure, as current president of the branch, to introduce the president of the New York State Chapter, Diane Haney, who flew in from Long Island to lend her support and recognition on such a grand occasion. In her opening remarks, we learned that in 1881, when the AAUW was formed, the first research study surveying women's health and physical education established that, "..contrary to prior statements made by a prominent Boston physician, higher education does not adversely affect the health of women college graduates." She had to pause for a few moments while the audience recovered from this statement.
A century and a quarter on and the organization has over 1,300 branches nationwide and membersip that exceeds 100,000. These numbers have made it possible to have real clout with the U.S. Congress to pass bills supporting the association's mission of lifelong education, equity for women and girls, and positive societal change.
Mary Ayer, a well-known, fun-loving character in the village, was MC for the evening. She explained how in 1981 Betty Dearing and Kay Kraatz arrived in the village, anxious to join the local branch, having been active members of AAUW in other parts of the country. To their disappointment, there was none. Both women of action, they decided something must be done! They sought other like-minded women interested in such an organization, and Skaneateles AAUW was born. Five charter members are still active in the branch, four of whom attended the dinner. Kay Kraatz, Mona Smalley, Jane Mercurio and Nancy Williams were presented with rose corsages and were the true belles of the ball. The missing member, Mary Ann Trompeter, was sorely missed. It was all thanks to them we were celebrating.