Before we again became one branch, we were two. Our histories have been entwined over the years, much like the plants with braided branches. We believe that we are now stronger for our times apart and our times together.
The Santa Barbara Branch, established September 16, 1915, was the sixth AAUW branch in California. Beginning with a group of suffragists, including Pearl Chase, 33 charter members addressed problems like pasteurization of milk and healthy food handling. Housing conditions and the need for a local hospital were other areas of concern.
The branch, at one point numbering 200 members, has been continuously active since its inception. Cultural changes with women in the workplace and family commitments have reduced the number of women who actively participate; however, the SB Branch membership has included community leaders and three published authors; Judy Pochini, Lois Phillips and Anita Perez Ferguson.
The SB Branch sponsored many outstanding programs and activities over the years. Some highlights are:
- Initiated in 1924, an annual scholarship awarded to UCSB students;
- Began Reach Out and Read, an early childhood reading program now administered by the Santa Barbara Library;
- Volunteered for PACE, a teen pregnancy program directed by member and school nurse, Lois Capps.
- Hosted many outstanding speakers in government, business, social reform and other topics of interest to the community.
- The SB branch also set up three endowments:
- Scholarship and Loan Foundation, a financial resource incorporated in 1990 for women to further their education in Santa Barbara;
- Two bequests from diseased members applied toward programs and education as specified by the donors.
The Goleta Valley Branch was founded in 1970 by about 80 members of the SB Branch who felt that they wanted a different approach to meetings and different activities than the SB Branch was providing. The Goleta area was growing rapidly and many young college educated women were moving to the area and were looking for a way to connect with like minded women in a meaningful way. By the late 70s, the branch had grown to 200 members, but, like the SB Branch and all other AAUW branches, membership fell off in the 80s.
Over the years the GV Branch did a great deal to further the purpose of AAUW. Among other activities, the GV Branch has:
- Sponsored or co-sponsored candidate and issue forums,
- Co-sponsored adult education classes on topics of concern to AAUW,
- “Adopted” Head Start classrooms at the Goleta Community Center,
- Presented workshops at California and Association Conventions,
- Presented women’s health forums at the Goleta Library,
- Founded successful community projects with help from grants from the Educational Foundation: PEP (Postpartum Education for Parents), PSI (Postpartum Support International), Community Advocates for Quality Childcare, and Flexible Careers, which advocates for flex time and job sharing.
Over the years both branches have participated cooperatively in various community and/or AAUW projects or programs:
- Sent local 8th grade girls to AAUW California’s Tech Trek math and science camp, now held at UCSB,
- Participated in the annual legislative letter writing campaign called Great American Write-In,
- Partnered with the local Pro-Choice Coalition and the Coalition Against Gun Violence,
- Undertaken studies which have influenced AAUW California’s Public Policy priorities in areas of the environment, economics, public health, and social justice.
- Supported and participated in each branch’s speaker programs.
- Sponsored local conferences on Teen Pregnancy Prevention and on Gender Equity in Education,
- Supported the activities and programs of the Santa Barbara County Interbranch Council,
- Contributed generously over the years to AAUW’s Educational Foundation to provide support for women in higher education.
Since the creation of our new Santa Barbara – Goleta Valley branch, we have continued to be active in our community. We have presented programs on varied topics including health concerns for mothers in developing countries, climate change, the impact of state and national elections on our local schools and city governments, and the services available locally for those with mental health issues. We participated in a forum on “Networking for Change” and The Great American Write-In.
As part of the local Coalition Against Gun Violence we have co-sponsored forums on “Interpreting the Second Amendment” and “The High Cost of Gun Violence.” We continue as an active partner in the Santa Barbara County Interbranch Council of AAUW. One major activity of the IBC is a Central Coast Fellows Luncheon in February to honor and hear from recipients of AAUW grants who are studying in this area.
This summer (2023) we sent 22 girls to Tech Trek, the AAUW CA science and math camp held at various California college campuses. Our campers attended the camp at UCSB, and branch members assisted with registration and organized the Career Night speakers for the camp.
We continue to support women’s education locally through the presentation of the Lynn Cavazos Fellowships each year, which is granted to women in their final summer session of a Masters in Education program at UCSB.
Clearly each separate branch brought a wealth of creative talent and energy to our new combined branch that will make us stronger – like the plant with the entwined branches. We are now better prepared to weather the winds of change and look to the future as we advance AAUW in our community.