Formed in 1961 with 55 members, the Littleton branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) received its charter in 1962 and membership climbed over the next two decades to nearly 150. This was not only the first suburban branch in Colorado but also one of the first in the US. Writing about the early years of the organization, branch historian Carol Neumann wrote in 1975, “Receiving our charter was the beginning of our branchʼs special responsibility to our society by those who have enjoyed the advantage of higher education.”
These founding members took their mandate to advance equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy and research very seriously. They established an interest group on the ʻStatus of Women,ʼ became sponsors of “The Friends of the Library” and worked to help get a bond passed for a new library, aided in a drive to launch educational TV on Channel 6, supported a bill to establish the Metropolitan State College, and addressed topics such as ʻComputers and Destinyʼ and ʻLadies and Peace in Space. In 1965 they distributed their first scholarship booklet to Colorado high schools and libraries, while the following year members introduced Green Circle programs in local schools – the program, based on the “the Brotherhood of Man,” was designed to foster multi-cultural understanding in the classroom. As the 1960ʼs drew to a close the branch deepened its involvement with Arapahoe Community College by opening a Womenʼs Resource Center and continuing to raise funds for scholarships.
Raising funds for scholarships, supporting the Green Circle Programs and hosting Youth Awards Teas continued through the 1970s. The compilation of a recipe book, for example, raised $1700 for grants and fellowships. But change was on the horizon, both in the broader economy and within the branch. The recession of the early 1980s saw an increasing number of women returning to full-time work – a development that would go some way to help achieve AAUWʼs goals of greater equity for women. But, ironically, the impact was seen in a declining branch membership as many of the women now working outside the home had little time for leisure interests. Membership was also impacted by the spin off of a group of members who formed the Chatfield branch. To counter these changes and to encourage more suburban women to join the organization, the name was changed to the Littleton-Englewood branch of AAUW. The branch continued to focus on community outreach – reading in nursing homes, establishing new scholarship funds, working for Library Without Walls – and in 1988 hosted the state AAUW Convention.
Closer to the present, the focus of much of the branchʼs advocacy was on mentoring middle-school girls. For example, members were paired with a student and visited women professionals who had chosen to work in nontraditional fields. This program expanded into Great Goals for Girls – a one-day conference with workshops for 6-8th grade girls, designed to expand their awareness of non-traditional career opportunities. By 2003 the branch cosponsored with Arapahoe Community College the “Expanding Your Horizons” program; once again targeting middle school girls and their parents this program provides hands on workshops in the STEM subjects (science technology, engineering and math) in the hope that larger numbers of young women will continue with these subjects in high school and college. The branch is still involved in this project and sends volunteers to help the Boulder branch host the conference at the University of Colorado.
In 2011, to better reflect the catchment area of the branch, the name was changed once more. But while the name is different, the Littleton-South Metro branch continues to have a dedicated and committed membership, giving freely of their time and resources to further the aims of AAUW. Reflecting on our 50-year history we are proud of the accomplishments of those charter members whose advocacy work helped shaped our community and whose interests were on the cutting edge of science and technology. They will continue to inspire us.