Elected Branch Officers, 2017-2018
President Karen Reichensperger
President-Elect Suzanne Benson
Vice President for Programs Fran Vetters
Vice President for Membership Pat Sanford
Secretary Kathy Dicke
Treasurer Mary Heye
100-Year History of the San Antonio Texas Branch of the American Association of University Women
For more information please consult Those Amazing Women, a limited edition history of the San Antonio Branch from 1908-2008, by Mynda Holman McGuire, printed in April 2008.
The San Antonio Branch was organized in 1908, and possibly earlier. Its charter as a branch of the Southern Association of College Women was received January 9, 1909. The Southern Association of College Women, founded in July 1903 at the University of Tennessee, was an important predecessor of the current American Association of University Women. In 1908-1909, the officers of the San Antonio Branch were President, Mrs. Jean McGrath Russ; Vice-President, Miss Emily Maverick; and Secretary/Treasurer, Mrs. Carrie Bertha Pfeifer Brown. Mrs. Brown became the second president from 1910-1911 and again served as president in 1931-1933, and 1937-1939. She was also president of the Texas Division of AAUW during the war years of 1941-1943. Her remarkable life (1886-1977) is summarized in the Handbook of Texas online at http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/BB/fbrvc.html.
Our third president (1911-1912) was Miss Eula Weston Deaton, a native of Mississippi who came to San Antonio about 1907 or 1908 to teach high school. She was already a member of the Southern Association of College Women and was serving on its board while president of this branch. It was most likely that it was Miss Deaton’s influence that got this branch started. She was one of the first graduates in 1889 of the Industrial Institute and College (now the Mississippi University for Women). Later, she earned the first master’s ever awarded a woman at the University of Mississippi. She taught there and was their first Dean of Women. On the campus of Ole Miss there is a building named for her: Eula Deaton Hall. In San Antonio, she and others in the early years wanted to start a state organization and sent letters to other college women in Texas. Mrs. Brown, our second president, is often quoted as saying, “The beginnings of the Texas Division of AAUW was formed in my living room.” Research has turned up the accuracy of that statement…but it was many years before it actually came about in Dallas, in 1926.
A 1910 statement from a report to the Southern Association of College Women reads: “Many letters have been written to college women throughout the state, and we believe that before another year has passed, we shall organize several new branches in Texas. Respectfully submitted, Mrs. Jean McGrath Russ, President [and] Mrs. Carrie Pfeifer Brown, Secretary-Treasurer.”
In 1921 the Southern Association of College Women united with the Association of Collegiate Alumnae and the name was changed to the American Association of University Women. A group of 17 women met in Boston in the fall of 1881 to discuss forming an alumnae organization of women college graduates. As a result the Association of Collegiate Alumnae was formally organized in January 1882. In 1889 the Western Association of College Alumnae united with this group. So the AAUW began with 17 bold women who came together to unite alumnae of their institutions for practical educational work. Here in San Antonio it was a group of about 20 women, who formed this branch for the same reasons, under the auspices of the Southern Association of College Women
In 1926, San Antonio was a charter branch when AAUW Texas was organized in Dallas.
At the time the state organizations were called Divisions. The state organization is the backbone that supports all of the Texas branches. We would not be as effective as a branch without the guidance, support and leadership of AAUW Texas. In recent years, three members of the San Antonio Branch have served as Texas AAUW Presidents: Helen Oujesky, Malinda Gaul and Linda Conger. Earlier, Division Presidents from this branch were: Miss Gladys Morgan, Mrs. Carrie Brown and Mrs. Catherine Pedlar.
Also, in 1926, the San Antonio Branch offered financial support to the new University Junior College in San Antonio. The University of Texas had established a junior college in San Antonio in 1925. However, in its second year of existence, the University withdrew its financial support from the junior college. The San Antonio Branch executive board, led by its President, Miss Emma Gutzeit, called on the city leaders, promising $10,000 to keep the junior college open. A few years later, the San Antonio Board of Education was tasked with the care of the junior college organization. But in May of 1926 the Superintendent of Education reported to his board that “the local organization of the American Branch of University Women (San Antonio Branch of the American Association of University Women, it turns out) has offered to help the work of the junior college for the ensuing year and to underwrite any difference (deficit).” This information is taken from the book, “San Antonio College In the Beginning…1925-1956” by Jerome F. Weynand, and several articles appearing in the San Antonio Express.
The Branch’s Interest Groups have always enhanced the richness of the AAUW experience. Women of the branch have long come together to share their interests. Book Review is probably the oldest of the Study Groups. Earliest mention of it is in the newspaper dated March 7, 1931. The Historic Southwest group is one the oldest of our current interest groups. Mrs. Elizabeth Dickson, President of the San Antonio Branch in 1939-40, founded the group. Each year this group makes a donation to a historical landmark or a society dedicated to preservation. The members also make a Christmas donation to a local charity. The University Women’s Garden Club, a long-time interest group, was also founded in 1939. Their members donate handmade items each year at Christmas to a local hospital. They also assist with garden therapy at local nursing homes, and donate articles to the Battered Women’s home. For the past eight years the garden club has purchased, designed and donated the floral centerpieces for the annual “Breaking the Glass Ceiling” event that is the branch’s primary fund raiser. The San Antonio Branch also has a book discussion group, a theatre group, a “Great Decisions” series studying public affairs issues, a “Chat and Chew,” and several bridge groups.
Three members of the San Antonio Branch established endowments for AAUW scholarships in their wills: Mildred Magee, Irma Gesche and Jean Longwith. The interest from these endowment accounts help fund the branch’s local, graduate scholarships for women. These scholarships are awarded annually at the branch meeting in May. Part of the money raised at the annual Educational Foundation fundraiser is also used for local scholarships.
In the past, from 1969 to 2000 the branch’s primary fund raiser was a Book Fair held each February. It involved many hours of volunteer work, that eventually became very difficult as the membership aged.
So, in 2001 the branch began it’s “Breaking the Glass Ceiling,” brunches or luncheons. A local woman, who has broken the glass ceiling, is honored, along with most years an organization that has provided a climate that encourages women to aim for, and break that proverbial glass ceiling. This past year the branch honored a woman who owns a large construction business.
In the last decade, the graduate scholarships have been increased from $1,000 to $2,000 each.. In 2007 the branch awarded nine $2,000 graduate scholarships, and four $500 each book scholarships. For 2008 there were six $2,000 graduate scholarships, one transition scholarship of $2,000 to take a woman from a two-year institution to a four year college or university. Also, eight $500 book scholarships were awarded.
In addition, in both years the branch supported both the Educational Foundation and the Legal Advocacy Fund. In 2007 it was $7, 289 for EF and $3,510 for LAF. Totals for 2008 have not yet been tallied.
Looking back to that 1910 report to the Southern Association of College Women, it read: “Our branch has been busy investigating social settlement work, and in connection with this we have made an interesting study of some of the modern dramas that deal with sociological conditions. A program for the year was arranged. Meetings were held the 1st Saturday in each month, when some able lecturer gave us the help of her experience.” The San Antonio Branch meeting is still on the first Saturday of the month. Most of the time it is a luncheon at a restaurant, although we also hold new Membership events that are in the evening and are at no or low cost to the members.
The 1910 report continued with further description of the branch activities. “This branch has become affiliated with the Kindergarten and also the Playground Association, and is taking a live interest in the recently organized Free Clinic. Our members do all they can as individuals to aid these organizations and each week two of them teach in a sewing class for girls. We have pledged our aid toward securing a compulsory education law and in all matters pertaining to the schools and youth of San Antonio.”
The San Antonio Branch continues the traditions begun in 1908-1909. In the past the branch supported the Expand Your Horizons Career Conference in science and math for girls in grades six through 12 held at the University of Texas at San Antonio. In 2003 members volunteered to speak at a career day event at a local school. In 2004, one of our members, Dr. Linda Vargas-Lew requested the support of our branch in mentoring young Hispanic girls at the elementary school level. These girls have been identified as at risk to drop out before completing high school. Several of our members responded to serve as mentors.
In the Public Policy area the branch has also been active. Two of the World War II efforts were to help pay the living costs for refugee women scholars living in England, and the acceptance of English children in their San Antonio homes for the duration. More recently, they have sponsored a Get Out the Vote event that involved canvassing an entire precinct in south San Antonio, identified as traditionally having a low voter turn out. The branch worked first to register voters, and then returning to the precinct with League of Women Voters hang tags, telling them where to go vote. Turnout increased from about 26 to nearly 500 in the next election.
Another example involved two judicial candidate events where the public was invited to meet and talk with all those running for the office of Judge in Bexar county. Approximately 25 candidates talked with more than 200 at each event. And, with other women’s organizations, the branch sponsored a public lecture by Richard Kimball, President of Project Vote Smart, a nationally-known organization that provides factual, non-biased information about national political candidates.
Women today have a wide range of opportunities and activities to choose from, in part due to the success of AAUW’s efforts to advance equity for women and girls through advocacy, education and research. But since our work is not completed, we will still continue our efforts to expand opportunities and equity for women. There is still a gender inequity in pay, and women are underrepresented in the science, math and computer science fields, and violence against women continues to be a huge problem. The Legal Advocacy Fund is still needed to help women fight discrimination in the workplace in higher education. This branch will continue its work that began in the early part of the last century.
San Antonio AAUW Branch Past Presidents
Mrs. Jean McGrath Russ 1909-1910
Mrs. Carrie Pfeiffer Brown 1910-1911
Miss Eula Deaton 1911-1912
Miss Gladys Morgan 1912-1913
Mrs. Marion Bliem (later Goebel) 1913-1914
Mrs. Blanch Berry Savage 1914-1915
Miss Ruth Muir 1915-1916
Mrs. Kathrine Holms Meek 1916-1917
Miss Elizabeth West 1917-1918
Miss Gladys Morgan 1918-1919
Miss Pauline Murrah 1919-1920
Miss Pearl West 1920-1921
Mrs. George L. Abbott 1921-1922
Miss Mildred Harrigan 1922-1923
Miss Ora Johnson 1923-1925
Miss Emma Gutzeit 1925-1927
Miss Gladys Morgan 1927-1929
Mrs. Blanch Berry. Savage 1929-1931
Mrs. A.A. Brown 1931-1933
Miss Frances Smith 1933-1934
Mrs. Thomas B. Portwood 1934-1936
Mrs. Ida Mae Murray 1936-1937
Mrs. A.A. Brown 1937-1939
Mrs. Elizabeth Dickson 1939-1941
Mrs. Catherine Pedlar 1941-1942
Mrs. Horace W. Townsend 1942-1943
Dr. Ava Josephine McAmis 1943-1945
Miss Maude B. Davis 1945-1947
Miss Mary V. Douglass 1947-1949
Mrs. Lois Tamborello 1949-1950
Dr. Doris Cook (Mrs. W.R.) 1950-1951
Miss Nancy Lou McCallum 1951-1952
Mrs. J. Frank Ruskin 1952-1954
Mrs. M.C. Manger 1954-1956
Mrs. Virginia Stone 1956-1958
Miss Ona Marschall 1958-1960
Mrs. Hazel Buchanan Nelson 1960-1962
Mrs. A.J. Hague 1962-1963
Mrs. Joseph Schiebout 1963-1965
Mrs. Virginia Albert 1965-1967
Mrs. Virginia M. Creed 1967-1968
Mrs. Ben W. Hedges 1968-1970
Miss Mary Frances Sweeney 1970-1972
Mrs. Martha Tarpley 1972-1974
Mrs. George J. Lee 1974-1976
Mrs. Virginia Stein 1976-1978
Mrs. Edna S. McGaffey 1978-1980
Miss Jean M. Longwith 1980-1982
Mrs. Maedean Hamilton 1982-1983
Dr. Mary Andree Tokoly 1983-1985
Dr. Helen Oujesky 1985-1987
Mrs. Clara Jane Almstead 1987-1989
Dr. Juanita B. Felder 1989-1991
Mrs. Nadine H. McGee 1991-1993
Dr. Virginia E. McGary 1993-1995
Mrs. Lucy T. Gomez 1995-1997
Mrs. Evelyn C. Reed 1997-1999
Dr. Peggy M. Peterson 1999
Miss Orrine Woinowsk 1999-2001
Ms. Mynda Holman McGuire 2001-2003
Mrs. Carol J. Lahser 2003-2005
Dr. Deborah Valdez 2005-2006
Ms. Malinda Gaul 2006-2008
Dr. Cheryl Davis 2008-2009
Mrs. Ricky Therneau 2009-2010
Dr. Sharon Bartling 2010-2012
Ms. Deborah Sochia Eyfells 2012-2013
Ms. Barbara C. Kyse 2013-2014
Ms. Patricia Sanford 2014-2016
Ms. Gayna Dupont 2016-2017
Dr. Karen Reichensperger 2016-2018
Ms. Suzanne Benson 2018-2020
Past Division Presidents from the San Antonio Branch:
Mrs. Carrie Pfeiffer (A.A.) Brown
Miss Gladys Morgan
Mrs. Catherine (Marvin J.) Pedlar
Past AAUW Texas Presidents from the San Antonio Branch:
Dr. Helen Oujesky
Ms. Malinda Gaul
Ms. Linda Conger