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This month, AAUW was recognized as a top-rated women’s empowerment organization by GreatNonprofits, which catalogs and shares reviews of nonprofit organizations from around the world. The website allows the public to post stories about and rate their experiences with nonprofits and to find out more about organizations they are interested in supporting.

Here are a few of the wonderful reviews of AAUW.

“So proud to be a member — in the past year of buildup of attacks on what we thought were long-established rights and freedoms for women, AAUW is taking [the] lead in coordinating women’s voting projects, media campaigns, legal challenges, support for organizations providing health care, and other social services to women. Lobbying for equal pay and other issues on Capitol Hill and at the White House has focused attention on AAUW. AAUW staff have also modeled campaigns against street harassment and [have] use[d] social media to educate people on women’s issues. The scholarship program practices what AAUW preaches about educational opportunity for women. International outreach is also on the rise. Such a dynamic organization, so committed, so well-managed!”

— Marti S.

“As a volunteer AAUW leader on the national, state, and branch levels, I have many opportunities to raise a powerful voice — individually and collectively, in person and electronically — to make lasting changes that advance gender equality  … AAUW’s means of achieving equity (advocacy, education, philanthropy, and research) are effective, influential, and resonant with multiple generations of equality-minded individuals. I give this organization my highest rating.”

— Amy B.

“I was selected as one of 10 university students from across the country to be an AAUW Student Advisory Council member for the academic year 2011–12. Through my association with AAUW, I have met amazing and incredible women. … I have garnered lots of support and mentoring to enable me to start an AAUW [student organization at my university]. I also will have the opportunity to mentor the next group of SAC members. AAUW has enriched my life and given me opportunities I otherwise would not have had.”
— Maria M.

“I love their research reports — important issues, timely, and actually readable — unlike so many policy papers. It’s nice to know that gender inequality is not a forgotten cause, because we are far from done.”

— shcollina

The GreatNonprofits 2012 women’s empowerment campaign extends through June 15. With so many women’s organizations to choose from, find out why AAUW received a top rating. And share your own AAUW story!

This post was written by AAUW Development Intern Sarah Spencer.

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AAUW is gearing up for our 2011 National Convention June 16–19. We have a great lineup of speakers and more exciting developments to announce in the next few weeks. We also just released a fun video to highlight Washington, D.C., as a great place to visit, apart from all the fun you’ll have at the convention!

I know I’m really looking forward to the convention because I can’t wait to meet other AAUW members. Let’s face it, we’re a pretty cool community. Many AAUW members have already registered to come, but there’s still room for you to join us.

And remember, any guest you bring who is not an AAUW member can experience the AAUW National Convention for half the price! Nonmembers who register as guests with your member ID pay just $250 for four days of inspiration, advocacy, networking, and more. Make it a family affair, a friends’ retreat, or a chance to visit D.C. with the important people in your life. Don’t wait another minute to build our community … your AAUW!

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This is the next in our summer series introducing you to some of the passionate and committed members of the AAUW Action Fund Capitol Hill Lobby Corps. Do you have a lobbying story of your own? Share it in the comments box below. We want to hear from you, too.

Nancy MacKenzie was driving along the highway when she heard on the radio that, according to an organization in New England, women did not want to be empowered. This caused Nancy to nearly drive off the road. That message served as a wake-up call, helping her to realize that women were never going to be given equality — they were going to have to fight for it. And once women gained equality, they were going to have to keep fighting for it, or they were going to lose it again.

This incident set the stage for Nancy to join the AAUW Manassas (VA) Branch in 1974 and later, in 1981, to join the AAUW Action Fund Capitol Hill Lobby Corps.

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Photo by Kevin McCoy

During Nancy’s 29 years with Lobby Corps, she has experienced the delight of passing essential legislation and the tireless fight to maintain the rights that women had previously gained. Title IX, in particular, is a bill that Nancy has continued to lobby for.

When Nancy attended Purdue University before Title IX was passed, only one athletic scholarship given to a woman — for the role of the majorette. Even though Nancy was not personally engaged in sports, she thought the discrimination against female athletes was terrible. This personal experience inspired Nancy to seize the opportunity to lobby congressional offices to strengthen and enforce Title IX.

Nancy also participated in Lobby Corps when AAUW focused on passing the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Over a seven-year period, Nancy lobbied as the bill evolved from a maternity leave bill to a parental leave bill to a general medical leave bill. Soon after President Clinton was sworn in, the FMLA was finally signed into law.

While Nancy was thrilled that the hard work of Lobby Corps helped pass such a critical bill, she never thought that it would influence her personally. However, when her son was able to rely on the FMLA to take time off from work to aid his pregnant wife, Nancy was proud that a bill she had spent so much time advocating for actually helped her family.

Over the years of lobbying, Nancy has had a number of positive experiences with congressional offices. Once when she was waiting in a senator’s office, the receptionist told her that no one was free to meet with her. When the senator appeared and noticed that an AAUW Lobby Corps member was visiting his office, he insisted that the receptionist call a legislative assistant to meet with Nancy. Another senator told her how grateful he was for the accurate information and statistics that AAUW provides and noted that he even quoted AAUW reports on the Senate floor.

Nancy is thankful that the Public Policy and Government Relations Department staff provides such accurate material and are always there to assist Lobby Corps members. While all her experiences lobbying and interacting with congressional staff have been meaningful, the best part of Lobby Corps for Nancy is getting to know all the AAUW members in the surrounding area. Without the AAUW Action Fund Capitol Hill Lobby Corps, she would never have gotten the opportunity to meet all these great women.

This post was written by AAUW Public Policy Fellow Eliza Horn. Eliza is a senior at Vanderbilt University, majoring in Law & Social Justice as well as Creative Writing. Eliza works at the Women and Gender Studies Program at Vanderbilt and has organized and presented her research at their annual conference.

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This is the next in our summer series introducing you to some of the passionate and committed members of the AAUW Action Fund Capitol Hill Lobby Corps. Do you have a lobbying story of your own? Share it in the comments box below. We want to hear from you, too.

As a child growing up on Federal Hill in Providence, Rhode Island, a neighborhood of Italian immigrant families, Norma Kacen experienced life through social justice. Families struggled to win respect in a world where those who could see only their difference were blind to their talents. From these childhood experiences, Norma’s passion for equal rights flourished.

When Norma attended Trinity University, she was delighted that Trinity taught its students social responsibility and encouraged volunteering their time and talents in the local neighborhood, for this was rare at the time. After college, Norma pursued a graduate degree at Yale in diplomatic history and then went on to serve on the staff at Brown University.

Norma was an employee for the National Education Association during the civil rights movement, working toward desegregating schools in the Houston Independent School District. Trying to end racial inequalities in the South during the 1960s fueled Norma’s commitment to promoting equity in education.

This passion is what attracted Norma to AAUW. About 30 years ago, one of Norma’s friends encouraged her to attend a meeting. Norma was instantly impressed by the fact that the women were focused on real issues instead of on conducting the branch as a social sorority. This focus on issues was what initially attracted Norma to AAUW, and it’s what has encouraged her to stay active and involved.

Norma was not aware of the AAUW Action Fund Capitol Hill Lobby Corps until she moved to the AAUW Arlington (VA) Branch. Five years ago, Norma began attending Lobby Corps when her schedule allowed, and she has continued to dedicate her Thursday mornings to Lobby Corps because it is a unique and continuing presence on Capitol Hill. She appreciates how much organization and support AAUW provides to Lobby Corps, particularly staff member Anne Hedgepeth’s explanations of the political implications and status of the issues that they lobby on each week.

U.S. Capitol photo by Jorge Gallo

As an example of Lobby Corps’ impact, Norma relates an experience she had while lobbying for a specific bill. At first, the legislative assistant with whom Norma met had not heard of this bill, but she became excited about it and eagerly followed up with Anne and Lisa Maatz in AAUW’s Public Policy and Government Relations Department about how her boss could become involved. For Norma, this demonstrated the importance of Lobby Corps.

Lobby Corps is not an easy task, especially in today’s political climate. While Norma recognizes that there were politically ugly times in the past, she feels we have lost those leaders in Congress who understood, after all the arguments and disagreements, how to come together and seek agreement. This is why Norma believes that young women desperately need to continue the fight. For, as she learned many years ago, you don’t win your rights once and for all. You have to win them over and over again.

This post was written by AAUW Public Policy Fellow Eliza Horn. Eliza is a senior at Vanderbilt University, majoring in Law & Social Justice as well as Creative Writing. Eliza works at the Women and Gender Studies Program at Vanderbilt and has organized and presented her research at their annual conference.

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This is the first in our summer series introducing you to some of the passionate and committed members of the AAUW Action Fund Capitol Hill Lobby Corps. Do you have a lobbying story of your own? Share it in the comments box below. We want to hear from you, too.


AAUW Lobby Corp member Kitty Richardson

In January 1980, Kitty Richardson saw an ad in the newspaper for an AAUW meeting. Having just graduated from George Mason University with a degree in nursing, Kitty was ready to meet new people from different backgrounds. AAUW instantly appealed to her because of the diversity of ages and experiences of the members.

Because of her lifelong passion for politics, Lobby Corps was the perfect fit for Kitty. While she was attending St. Louis University in 1965, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) began organizing bus rides down to Alabama to promote desegregation. Kitty and her friends agreed to travel together, but as the departure date got closer, everyone but Kitty decided the trip was too dangerous.

She called her father and asked him whether he, like her friends’ parents, thought the trip posed too great a risk. Kitty’s father had taught her that every man, regardless of race, color, or religion, deserved to be treated equally and with respect. When she told him of her plan, he told her to follow her conscience. So, scared of the very real threat of violence, she boarded the bus without her friends and rode down to Alabama.

Such experiences have given Kitty a different perspective on the current political scene. She remembers that, before strong civil rights laws were enacted, awful things were said and done in the political arena. Even though Lyndon Johnson’s administration was considered “stable,” Kitty feels that things only ran smoothly because Johnson was a great politician. Today is a different time, and Kitty is optimistic because, at least now there can be an open dialogue about disagreements; in the past, the party in power simply ruled the day.

This perspective has caused her to appreciate the work that the AAUW Public Policy and Government Relations Department does, especially under the leadership of Lisa Maatz. Kitty feels that Lisa is eager to build relationships with congressional offices. Even if a member of Congress disagrees with AAUW 80 percent of the time, Lisa will still build an alliance from that 20 percent. Kitty recognizes this is essential, particularly because of the political diversity among AAUW members.

One of Kitty’s favorite experiences while lobbying was when she went on to Capitol Hill to advocate for a bill that would help women pursue careers in nontraditional fields. When she was discussing this bill with a congressional legislative assistant, he mentioned that his boss had recently gone to Ruth Motors and was delighted when Ruth herself came and fixed his car. The legislative assistant knew that this had made an impression on the member of Congress, and that he would be willing to support a bill to help more women become mechanics and enter other nontraditional fields. For Kitty, that was what Lobby Corps was all about: making sure that people got their fair share. Even though it’s not always the easiest thing to do, Kitty speaks up when she sees that something is wrong, and she encourages others to do the same.

This post was written by AAUW Public Policy Fellow Eliza Horn. Eliza is a senior at Vanderbilt University, majoring in Law & Social Justice as well as Creative Writing. Eliza works at the Women and Gender Studies Program at Vanderbilt and has organized and presented her research at their annual conference.

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Left to Right: Ellen McGovern, Lobby Corps founder; Marion Mudd, Lobby Corps member; Lobby Corps Ally of the Year award recipients Leticia Mederos, Legislative Director for Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), and Nikki McKinney, Senior Legislative Assistant for Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)

Both times I’ve seen AAUW Public Policy and Government Relations Director Lisa Maatz speak to young women about lobbying on Capitol Hill, she has conveyed two general ideas. The first is that Capitol Hill is not just run by bald white men anymore. The second is that we should not let the marble halls and professional garb intimidate us, because it is our government, and we have a place there.

At the first statement, the group of women usually laughs, but, at the second statement, they look skeptical. The role and power of female citizens, even in the minds of young women working for some of the most progressive women’s groups in the country, remains in question.

Lisa then says, “Raise your hand if you’re scared. It’s okay to be scared.” I don’t raise my hand because I’m not really intimidated by that arching sculptor in the middle of the lobby of the Hart Senate office building or that college freshman with greased-back hair sitting at a senator’s receptionist desk, basking in power every time he transfers a call. I’m not scared, but, at the age of 21, after studying politics and volunteering in campaigns, I’ve become jaded about our political system. I can’t help wondering if the few girls that didn’t admit to being scared of lobbying feel the same way that I do.

Or the way I did feel. On June 24, AAUW celebrated the 35th anniversary of the AAUW Action Fund Capitol Hill Lobby Corps on the ground floor of the Rayburn House office building. As I stood sipping cranberry juice and trying to determine the ideal brie-to-cracker ratio, I scanned the crowd for the few women I did recognize. There was Kathy Kelm, who had been my partner on my first week of Lobby Corps. We were on the House side, going to various offices to promote co-sponsorship of the International Violence against Women Act. Even before we reached the first office, she encouraged me to take the lead. While she taught me how to present our card and organize our paperwork, probably the most valuable lesson she offered me was during our conversations with the legislative assistants. Kathy repeated over and over again to every office we went to, “This is a good bill. This bill will help a lot of people.” I don’t know how often legislative assistants hear this from people that are not motivated by politics or ambition disguised as compassion, but I would guess that it’s rare.

Considering the large crowd that filled room that night, clearly I was not the only one that had recognized the uniqueness of Lobby Corps. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) spoke about his appreciation for all of AAUW’s work. During Kathy’s speech about the accomplishments of Lobby Corps, the founder of Lobby Corps stated how proud she was that her idea had manifested into something so influential. Then Lisa Maatz presented Letty Mederos and Nikki McKinney, two congressional staffers, with the inaugural AAUW Action Fund Lobby Corps Ally of the Year awards. Both women discussed how, when they needed to increase co-sponsorship on a bill that related to AAUW’s issues, they could always rely on the troop of gray-haired ladies to descend upon Capitol Hill and make it happen.

As everyone was applauding, I glanced around the room at the AAUW staffers, Lobby Corps members, and Hill staffers intermingling. Lisa was right. Capitol Hill is not dominated by bald white men, and some of those bald white men that are there actually do care about AAUW’s issues. There’s nothing to be scared about, because Hill staffers appreciate AAUW’s work. And I realized that I don’t have to be so cynical about politics, because Lobby Corps is proof that there actually is an eager audience for women’s voices and women’s issues on Capitol Hill.

This post was written by AAUW Public Policy Fellow Eliza Horn. Eliza is a senior at Vanderbilt University, majoring in Law & Social Justice as well as Creative Writing. Eliza works at the Women and Gender Studies Program at Vanderbilt and has organized and presented her research at their annual conference.

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FROM THE AAUW ACTION NETWORK:

On Wednesday, December 2, AAUW and coalition partners will join forces for a National Day of Action to protest the Stupak amendment, anti-choice legislation that would jeopardize women’s access to complete and safe reproductive health care coverage. Join us in Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress and rally on Capitol Hill to protect women’s reproductive rights as negotiations over health care coverage move forward.

The Stupak amendment, which greatly limits women’s access to reproductive health care and was included in the House-passed health reform bill, is the biggest attempt to effectively ban abortion services in years.  Similar amendments are already in the works in the Senate.  Now is the time to make your voice heard to ensure that language like the Stupak amendment is not included in the Senate bill or the final conference bill.

While federal law currently bans the use of federal funds to cover abortion services, the Stupak amendment would effectively force private insurance companies to eliminate abortion coverage for all members, instituting what amounts to a domestic gag rule.  Millions of women, including those in private plans, would lose the coverage they currently have. Tell Congress that health care reform should not come at the cost of women’s reproductive health.

Take Action! Join AAUW in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, Dec. 2 for the National Day of Action.  If you can participate, please fill out our online form and let us know you’ll be joining us.  AAUW will assist you in setting up meetings with your senators.  If you’re not able to make it to D.C. but are interested in participating in a local event, let us know; we’ll do our best to inform you of events in your area.

Stop Stupak National Day of Action Details and Tentative Schedule:

Who: AAUW and coalition partners
Where: Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.
When: Wednesday, Dec. 2, 9:30am – 5:30pm
Tentative Schedule:  9 – 9:30am: Lobby training
9:30 – 10:30am: Lobby briefing
10:30 – 12pm: Lobby visits (AAUW can assist in scheduling visits)
12 – 2pm: Rally on Capitol Hill
2 – 4:30pm: Lobby visits (AAUW can assist in scheduling visits)
4:30 – 5:30pm: Closing event
If you haven’t already done so, email your senators and urge them to oppose any amendments that jeopardize women’s access to complete reproductive health care coverage.  Then, contact your representative about his or her vote on the Stupak amendment.  Read more about AAUW’s position on health care reform and reproductive rights.

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