What began with a meeting in 1881 of 17 like-minded women who defied society’s standards by earning college degrees has grown into a powerful network of over 1,000 branches in all 50 states and nearly 100,000 women who have influenced—and at times even shaped—the debate over fundamental issues of the day—educational, social, economic, political and legal. This is the American Association of University Women today (AAUW).
Riverside AAUW started with the founding of the San Gorgonio Branch of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae in 1909 in the San Bernardino Valley by women residents of Redlands, Riverside and San Bernardino. The name of the National organization was changed to the American Association of University Women in 1921. During World War II, transportation was difficult due to gas rationing, so the Riverside group withdrew from the San Gorgonio Branch in 1944 to form their own Riverside Branch.
In 1950 a Riverside man was in a wheel chair in the U. S. Army hospital in Sendai, Japan when he saw a letter from the Japanese Association of University Women. The letter gave thanks to the boys for being there for their protection and sending their love and sympathy to the American Mothers because their boys were not home on Mother’s Day. The boy’s mother was Jesse Halverson, a member of the Riverside Branch of AAUW. She relayed the message to the Branch President, Marie Bonnett who began a correspondence with Mrs. Shigue Obwake, the Japanese President. This was the beginning of a scholarship program (1952) to send Sendai girls to college which was the basis for the sisterhood of Sendai and Riverside in 1957. This is the longest sister city in the country and Riverside now has 9 sister cities.
In 2004 the Riverside Branch joined with the State AAUW and raised funds to send two girls to Tech Trek camp. This year we sent 13 girls, 7 from Riverside and 6 from Moreno Valley.
In 2011 we began our partnership with the University of California at Riverside and presented our first $tart $mart program to the students to teach them how to negotiate for better wages and benefits. We are in the process of developing a student AAUW group on campus and bringing other AAUW programs to campus.