The Coastal-Georgetown Chapter of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) celebrated its 60th anniversary this month with a luncheon and a visit from a longtime AAUW member with a local connection and a new state title.
Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long, a member of the Middletown AAUW chapter and a native of Dagsboro, spoke to members including many past chapter presidents, who gathered April 20 at the Kings Creek Country Club in Rehoboth Beach.
Hall-Long spoke about the fellowship between AAUW members, no matter where they meet, and recounted how she had chanced upon a Coastal-Georgetown AAUW member while the two shared a bench in a shoe store and how that conversation had led to her attendance at the 60th anniversary celebration.
The former state senator also spoke to the members about her priorities as Delaware’s second-in-command, many of which dovetail with the club’s mission of advancing equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy and research.
Hall-Long, whose career prior to politics was as a nurse and healthcare educator, said issues surrounding healthcare were “one of the reasons I ran for office,” as well as one of the most pressing issues facing women today.”
“We want to be looking at how we can improve healthcare outcomes” statewide, she said.
Mental health issues, in particular, are a pressing concern for the general welfare of the state, Hall-Long said, pointing out that 82 percent of the state’s prison population is affected by mental illness.
She spoke to the members about the importance of their involvement in issues facing the state, adding, “I want you all to see me as a resource for women’s issues” and encouraging them to contact her office with their concerns and to find out how they can get involved in statewide issues.
Hall-Long said that women play a crucial role in the success of society.
“We are the glue,” she said of women in general and AAUW members specifically, that helps to hold so many aspects of Delaware life together. “We can do five or six things at once, right?” she said, as members nodded in agreement.
The AAUW, Hall-Long said, “has a real opportunity to make a difference,” and she praised the organization for its rich history of advocacy and community involvement. “Be proud that your organization has worked really hard,” she said.
Hall-Long shared personal stories with the group, recalling strong women in her life, including her own mother and grandmother, who encouraged her to pursue higher education. Her grandmother, in particular, encouraged her interest in nursing and made sure when Hall-Long was 13 years old that she had a ride to her candy-striper shifts.
“She was probably the greatest woman I ever knew,” she said.
She said women still have far to go to reach equality in the workforce, and that although women make up 46 percent of the work force today, 60 percent of those women are making less than minimum wage.
She urged the AAUW members to stay involved in issues that interest them.
“One person can make a difference,” she said. Hall-Long told the women that, as they work, “You will find advocates that you wouldn’t expect.”
She also emphasized the importance of persistence.
“Be resilient,” Hall-Long said. “Women too often retreat or we give in, because we think our voice doesn’t matter as much.”
While many of the AAUW members are retired, Hall-Long said they still have the power to make a difference. She also advised the group to reach out beyond their own membership because there is strength in numbers.
“Think about what organizations you can partner with,” she said.
The Coastal-Georgetown chapter held its first meeting on April 25, 1957, with about two dozen charter members and now has 138 members on its rolls.
Activities include: professional skills workshops for high school students; advocating for AAUW mission through the club’s Issue/Action Group; studying the importance of diversity through the Diversity Book Group; studying the mechanics of money and our economy through its Economics Book Club; raising monies for local scholarships through various fundraisers; studying foreign policy through Great Decisions seminars; donating books for young children in lieu of a member holiday gift exchange; participating as judges in the Sussex County Science Fair and presenting Coastal-Georgetown AAUW awards to winners; and sponsoring two ALA Notable Book Groups.
For more information on club meeting and activities, check the chapter website at http://georgetown-de.aauw.net/.