The American Association of University Women (AAUW) – Garrett Branch is celebrating its 70th(+3) anniversary as one of the longest running women’s organizations in Garrett County.  To celebrate its history in Garrett County, the AAUW-Garrett Branch will be hosting an anniversary dinner on April 12 at Ace’s Run Restaurant & Pub.  Advanced registration with AAUW is required.

Those who have been members of AAUW at any time or who wish to celebrate a mother or grandmother who was active in AAUW are invited to attend the anniversary dinner, as are any member of the community wishing to join in the celebration.  The evening planned will bring guests back to the 1940’s and will feature a delicious meal, cash bar with signature cocktail, a brief presentation of our branch’s history, and the chance to dress up in the style of the 1940’s.  Tickets for the dinner are $30/person, and reservations must be made by April 1st.

The dinner will also kick-off the AAUW-Maryland state convention held on Saturday, April 13, at Wisp Resort.

In the mid-1940’s, two Garrett County women, Polly Hanst and Donna Littman, dreamed of forming a Garrett County Branch of AAUW to bring college educated women together.  The purpose of the group would be educational and cultural, promoting opportunities for local women to make use of their talents and abilities.  In September 1946, their goal was realized when they were granted Maryland-AAUW state affiliation and held their first meeting.  Local women in attendance included Angela Smart, Miss Sybille (Painter) Sharps, Mrs. Leo Helbig, Mrs. S.T. Naylor, Mrs. Roser Bennett, and Miss Ruth Keller, who served as temporary chair and would become the first president of AAUW-Garrett Branch.

Other early members of the AAUW-Garrett Branch included Mrs. Robert Hoffman, Edith Brock (who remained a member until her death a few years ago), Mrs. Berve Mussard, and Miss Susie Smith.

The early years of the organization featured programs in music, art, education, local history, international cultures, conservation and environmental protection, and family and community concerns.  All monies raised by the group went for college scholarships for women, a tradition AAUW-Garrett Branch continues today.

The national AAUW organization formed in 1881.  At the time, a prominent male physician had declared that “education for women is abominable” and asserted that an educated woman would “produce malformed offspring”.  To dispel that type of thinking, 17 young graduate women representing 8 universities gathered at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and voted to organize an association of women college graduates.  These first college-educated women had stepped into a world that was largely unprepared for them.

The state of Maryland formed a statewide organization of AAUW in 1942, with Garrett County following in 1946.  In 2017, a student chapter of AAUW formed at Garrett College.  As the number of women seeing advanced education grew, so too did membership in AAUW with over 170,000 members and supporters today.  AAUW-Garrett Branch is one of over a thousand branches throughout the country, and the student chapter at Garrett College is one of approximately 800 student chapters.

Over three-quarters of a century, AAUW nationally, including AAUW-Maryland and the Maryland branches, has been instrumental in advancing the status of women, advocating for legislation focusing on women’s equity, working for high standards and continuing improvement of higher education for women, and providing grant and scholarship opportunities for women of all ages to attend college.  This remains a priority of the AAUW-Garrett Branch, which currently funds over $4,000 each year for local women to attend college.  Other present day priorities include mentoring middle school girls and providing leadership and career development opportunities to women and girls.  Although circumstances and opportunities have changed throughout the last 73 years, the group’s greatest work, especially in education and women’s equity issues, is still to come.

To register for the anniversary dinner and/or learn more about becoming a member of AAUW-Garrett Branch, please call Judy A. Carbone, Branch President, at 301-616-5036.