FORT BEND COUNTY 1974 – Present
Platinum Award Recipient
It is to the Texas State AAUW’s credit that they perceived a need for a new branch of AAUW for Fort Bend County. Their perceptions were correct. It was already becoming a fast growing county. The general Fort Bend area was especially attractive to families from other states and yes, from other countries. This was during the early times when many families were being transferred to the Houston area in response to the growing oil industry and the petrochemical engineering companies. Fort Bend has turned out to be the most culturally diverse county in all of Texas. Did Association know something far ahead of the rest of us?
In those early years, the meetings were held in a variety of locations, community centers, churches, and so forth. Belinda Hamilton was our chartering president, a satellite of the Houston branches, 1974-1976. She was followed by Patty Rode, our first sanctioned president. These two women were energetic and enthusiastic leaders, setting the way for us all.
We were a pretty serious group of women, trying our best to do it all – have jobs, have families, have a burgeoning feminist attitude. Not that feminism started in the mid ‘70’s by any means, but it was still a fairly new concept to women raised in The South!
The group rocked along until 1981 at which time the board decided since membership had decreased substantially (everybody was working in that economy), that it was time to dissolve our branch status, at least for the time being.
However, many of us had been members for years, perhaps of other branches first, friendships had become established, loosely knit study groups continued on their own, and there was always an undercurrent hope of a renaissance for the branch. In the meantime, thank goodness for Interbranch Council, where many of those early members became involved, and thank goodness for the zeal that we had in our hearts for the many attributes of AAUW, as a concept, as an organization, as a way of being.
Three years later, under the guidance of Virginia Lyons and Alice Church, the branch was re-instituted, and just as one would expect, a member brand new to AAUW, Marina Sukup, was voted in as the first president.
A recent request to Marina, asking for her recollections of that time, 20 years ago, brought forth this note.
“Seems like it was a resurrection as much as anything else!
I still like those rules- would have been better if I could have persuaded more people over the years that they really do make sense. As I remember, we decided that we needed to DO something, something interesting enough that we could effect a resurrection. (And the county would know we were back.) At the time, Houston was still a long ways from Ft. Bend County, the County was still emerging from its rural cocoon. The best qualification for being a County Commissioner was that you could operate a drag-line. We decided that organizing a candidates forum to provide an intellectual and more civilized look at who (and what!) was running would be in line with what AAUW is all about.
(For the following 13 years Fort Bend AAUW offered candidates forums until the League of Women Voters and The Chamber of Commerce took over on a regular basis.)
In early 1984, the Fort Bend County branch discussed adopting the following directives:
- WE WILL NOT HAVE MEETINGS FOR THE SAKE OF HAVING MEETINGS. Something other than deciding to have another meeting will be accomplished at every meeting.
- WE WILL NOT “BITCH” AND COMPLAIN. If something is not going right we will DO something about it.
- INNOVATION AND PERSONAL INITIATIVE ARE TO BE ENCOURAGED IN ALL AREAS. We will think everything through carefully however, innovation notwithstanding.
- WITHIN GENERAL AAUW PARAMETERS, THE FORT BEND BRANCH WILL BE FLEXIBLE. No sacred cows!
- OUR ACTIVITIES WILL BE FUN. If it isn’t FUN the Fort Bend Branch doesn’t do it. FUNness may be determined by the individual however.
- ONCE A PROJECT IS UNDERTAKEN, IT WILL BE COMPLETED. This will be true even though it becomes manifestly un-FUN at any given point. If nothing else, we may be able to refine our definition of “FUN.”
These directives were accepted at the March 1984 board meeting with the inclusion of #7. DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF.
Twenty years later, looking back on the accomplishments of the branch, what do we see, what do we remember?
First off, there is a superb, dedicated group of women who have given of their time and talents to make the branch a consistent 21st Century Recognition Program branch award recipient. How do we do that? With a lot of zeal on the part of the members! As all AAUW members should know, the awards are based on the individual branch’s exceptional leadership, program implementation, membership development, and funding for the Educational Foundation and the Legal Advocacy Fund.
EYH has been such a driving force for us all, since the inception, that some of our first student participants are now back as professional women, giving workshops themselves to this next generation. Margo Johnson and Pat Ross have been the guiding lights, the grand organizers, the people who energize the rest of the members to be active in this important aspect of AAUW contributing to the community and girls’ education incentives. Next year (2006) will be our 7th EYH program. The program is so popular that it is “sold out” in short order. Once again we expect to have to turn away many potential participants who are late turning in their registration forms. It’s important for you to know that our branch of about 40 members hosts 300 girls every other year at EYH.
We are 21st Century Recognition Program award branch because we contribute more than our fair share to both the Educational Foundation and the LAF. We’re strong believers in supporting these causes and have wonderful fund-raising events including spirited silent auctions at the annual holiday party, a luncheon for the Eleanor Roosevelt Foundation, an annual dessert sale which benefits LAF, and just recently a successful garage sale. The combination of events has been rewarding! Everyone appreciates the hard work for those who hosted or coordinated gatherings, but fun for all who could and did attend and participate.
This year has seen our community activism increase substantially. Just a few of the events included:
- Health Awareness – a study group which plans to go into the community
- Volunteering at Habitat for Humanity homebuilding
- Walk in the Why Me Breast Cancer Fund Raising
- Diversity awareness increased through e-brochure publication
- Voter registration for students attending the local colleges
We are a special branch, special in our own minds, but special beyond that too. Our members are consistently active not only in the branch, but in Interbranch council, and on the Texas State Board. We are indeed proud that Pat Ross is Texas State President and Cindy Scott, Texas State Secretary.
While there are many members who have been in the Fort Bend County branch 20 or more years, only a few may remember when the re-organizing directives were voted upon, but the good thing is, we’ve kept to that series of directives, indirectly and directly. It’s kept the branch healthy, happy, vigorous, spirited, with members willing to be active participants.