AAUW Seattle Branch was the first branch of the ACA (Association of Collegiate Alumnae — the previous name of AAUW) in Washington State. The branch was formed in 1904 with 13 charter members. Seattle Branch celebrated its 100th birthday in 2004, and is well into its 12 decade now. Our history is quite rich.
In its earliest days, Seattle Branch met five times a year. We made our first gesture of international friendliness by having Mme. Sarah Bernhardt as our guest of honor.
In 1909, we participated in the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition by constructing a social welfare exhibit under the direction of Dr. Anna Louise Strong, an early Seattle social activist.
Our first loan program consisted of a scholarship fund offering $50 loans to senior girls. During this time the Juvenile Court system was found to be unsatisfactory. Our branch secured the retirement of an undesirable probation officer and the hoped for reform resulted.
We supported a series of lectures and luncheon meetings on topics from education to politics. Speakers from as far away as Boston were invited. Important to our branch was a committee on legislation, which kept us in touch with state and national policies on education and the general welfare of children and women. The cause of women teachers demanding equal pay was supported.
In 1921, ACA became AAUW and Seattle Branch contributed $33 toward the fund to purchase a gram of radium as a gift for Madame Curie. In 1927, there were 10 branches in Washington, and the AAUW of Washington State organization was formed.
In 1928, branch member Bertha Landes was elected as Mayor of Seattle — the first woman mayor of a city of this size. A tea was given at the Henry Memorial Art Gallery on the UW campus for AAUW women attending the NEA Convention. Dr. Aurelia Henry Reinhardt, president of the national AAUW, and her uncle, Mr. Horace C. Henry, donor of the building, were guests of honor.
In 1949, Seattle Branch, under the leadership of president Dr. Winifred Weter, hosted the National Convention. That convention was pivotal in that it was the one at which color barrier to AAUW membership were dissolved.
In 1979, Seattle Branch celebrated its diamond jubilee. At that time, we had 15 special interest groups and most of our members were teachers. Today, our membership is made up of women in many careers, yet we all share the same goals of equality and education for women and girls. Much progress has been made since 1904, and with our dedication and energy, much more will be accomplished.
(For more information on the history of AAUW in Washington State, take a look at Sparkling With Spirit: A Concise History of the American Association of University Women, Washington State