History of AAUW Salem Branch

In October 21, 1922, Miss Frances Richards, Willamette University Dean of women, founded Salem Branch in Lausanne Residence Hall. This was a “town and gown” alliance with 44 colleagues and community members who shared and interest in furthering scholarships for women, cultural affairs, access to quality education, community service and international relations.


Education was and is the primary focus for Salem Branch. AAUW of Oregon and Salem Branch began lobbying for public school kindergarten in 1962. Before they finally became a reality in 1981, the Salem Branch established the parent cooperative “Happytime Nursery School and Kindergarten” which operated for decades. Lobbying for funding and improvements in the public schools and higher education system continues. Women now attend in equal or greater numbers than men on college campuses in the United States.


Salem Branch has sponsored foreign films, Pentacle Theater plays, and Children’s Theatre, and for 38 years a “Christmas Musicale” featuring local artists. Salem AAUW held the “Midsummer Night’s Musicale” with a gourmet picnic on the banks of the Millstream Creek at Willamette University followed by a concert beginning in the 1980’s. The proceeds from fundraisers supported AAUW’ s Educational Foundation and community service partners that include Family Building Blocks, HOME (Youth and Resource Center), Salem Speaks Up, Annual Peace Lecture, and Expanding Your Horizons in Science and Mathematics and Engineering Career Conference for Middle School Girls. See our community page for our recent activity.

Salem Branch Oral History Project

We interviewed nine of our long-time Salem Branch Members. Watch the interviews here: Oral History Playlist

  • Jo Bateman
  • Marian Churchill
  • Joanne Stern
  • Carol Neiger
  • Heraldine Schwartz
  • Meredie Sheehy
  • Rae Everett
  • Gloria Martin
  • Evelyn Smith-Lorence


Salem Branch played a pivotal role in Crossing the Line: Sexual Harassment at School, research published by the Educational Foundation in January 2006. Chemeketa Community College was awarded a grant to do an online survey about the prevalence, type and reaction to sexual harassment. The Educational Foundation used the data to develop campus training manuals to educate students and faculty about ways to recognize, respond to, and eliminate sexual harassment.

International Focus

International relations have been an annual area of study and action led by Dorothy Patch who started the first Great Decisions group in Oregon. Recent topics have included Muslim women, immigration issues, China’s economic impact worldwide, and relevance of the United Nations.
All of these endeavors build on the founding mission of AAUW, to help women gain access to higher education, and to achieve the yet-to-be realized goal of equity for all women and girls.

Salem AAUW cherishes the past and embraces the national AAUW mission statement: Advancing gender equity through research, education and advocacy.