Kerrville, Texas Branch of AAUW
Celebrates its 50 Year Anniversary
The Kerrville Branch of the American Association of University Women was officially organized on May 1, 1954, and celebrated 50 years of service in AAUW on May 1, 2004. Mrs. Freeman (Clara) Holbrook, along with her sister, Miss Virginia Leigh (both of whom had recently returned to their native Kerr County from Cincinnati, Ohio) were instrumental in the organization of the branch.
Mrs. Holbrook was elected the first president of the Kerrville Branch; there were 61 charter members. Membership in the Kerrville Branch of AAUW during its first 50 years has ranged from about 60 members to a high of 130 members, which was reached in the 2003-2004 year.
Mrs. Jean Tally is the only charter member currently holding membership in the branch. Due to family and career commitments, she dropped her membership for some years but then renewed it and continues to be an active participant. Mrs. Carolyn Hildebrand holds the longest continuing membership in the branch, having been a member of the Kerrville branch for 47 years.
Mrs. Gladys Chamberlain has been a member of the branch for 45 years. Our oldest current member, Mrs. Itasco Wilson, is 93 years young and is a regular attendee at the branch luncheons.
The Kerrville Branch is and has been an active and visible part of the community. The branch was instrumental in the formation of the Literacy Council, which later became an independent and state-affiliated group. A close relationship with the local Butt-Holdsworth Library has continued throughout the branch’s 50 years. Kerrville AAUW and the local League of Women Voters have worked on projects and done research together.
The branch members have always been active volunteers in the community and have served on many community boards and committees. The first and only woman mayor of Kerrville was a member of the branch. In April, 1957, at three years of age, the Kerrville Branch honored 13 outstanding women of Kerrville and Kerr County. Calling them the “Baker’s Dozen,” AAUW recognized these women for their achievements in the following areas: education, creative writing, music, homemaker, professional woman, journalism, athletics, church woman, community service, garden club business woman, and art. Mrs. Freeman Holbrook was honored as Woman of the Year.
Since its beginning, the Kerrville Branch has promoted equity and education for women and girls. The branch has long supported the Educational Foundation and local scholarships. Since 1987 the local scholarship fund has provided assistance to a woman pursuing graduate study. Since 1993 the branch has co-sponsored with Schreiner University an annual day-long Expanding Your Horizons in Science and Mathematics conference for middle-school aged girls in the 5-county area. The conference introduces the girls to women professionals whose careers involve math and science, to hand-on lab opportunities, and to the “feel” of a college campus. Sessions for parents are also offered. Attendance
at the conference has ranged from fewer than 50 at the first conference to almost 300. The branch has also supported the AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund.
The local Women’s Crisis Center has been a service project of the branch for many years. Fund-raisers to raise money for these special projects have included sponsoring game parties, children’s theatre and musicals, selling cookies and ice cream at the Texas Arts and Crafts Fair, holding silent auctions, and programs featuring talented musicians.
Interest/study groups have been a part of the branch since its beginning. The charter members chose from study groups including education, the arts, international relations, social studies, legislation, and the status of women. For the year 2003-2004, the member chose from Mah-Jongg, public Policy, Great Decisions, quilting, day or evening bridge, excursions, creative crafts, day or evening book study, lunch bunch, Spanish, and creative writing.
The Kerrville Branch has also provided leadership to Texas AAUW. Mrs. Florence Weiss served as Texas State AAUW president 1963-1965. Lt. Col. Elma Hennies was Texas State AAUW treasurer 1973-1977. During the 1980’s, Kerrville Branch membership included 2 former Texas State AAUW presidents, including Mrs. Eunice Brown 1961-1963, and a former Texas State treasurer. Kerrville AAUW hosted the Texas State Convention in April, 1963.
The Kerrville Branch has received a number of awards for its achievements throughout its 50-year history. In the more recent years, both AAUW Association and AAUW Texas have recognized the branch’s accomplishments in overall branch activities and involvement, membership increases, and contributions to the Legal Advocacy Fund.
Throughout the 2003-2004 AAUW year, the Kerrville Branch honored its past by sharing its history at the monthly branch luncheons and through articles in the monthly newsletters. On Saturday, May 1, 2004–50 years to the day the branch was organized–Kerrville AAUW celebrated its birthday. The guest book used to register those in attendance was the same one that was used at the 20th and 25th anniversaries of the branch. In keeping with the custom of its founder, Mrs. Freeman Holbrook, and her sister, both charter members, the current members donned their hats and gloves to celebrate. A choral group comprised of current members sang songs from the ‘50’s in honor of the branch’s first choral group; that first choral group sang for the branch’s first Christmas luncheon, December 1954. Charter members, past presidents, longest continuing members, oldest current member, and the branch’s five members who have been members of AAUW for more than 50 years were honored. Texas State AAUW president, Malinda Gaul, was present to bring greetings and a message from Texas AAUW as well as to install the 2004-2005 Kerrville Branch officers.
As the program handout for the luncheon celebrating 50 years of the Kerrville Branch of the American Association of University Women stated: “And so we go on to the next 50 years of achieving equity for women and girls…”
Written in 2004 by Carolyn Freeman, Branch Member