A Chat with Founding Feminist Activists at UGA
When we walked into the room, we couldn’t help but smile at the sight of warm reunions amongst women who had not seen each other in years. More than 40 years had passed since they were spearheading feminist activism at the University of Georgia (UGA) in the 1960s and 1970s.
This panel discussion hosted by UGA’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) on March 24, 2016 shared the stories and history of the feminist activism movement in Athens and UGA. The OLLI@UGA organization offers a space for individuals over the age of 50 dedicated to meeting the intellectual, social and cultural needs of mature adults through lifelong learning. OLLI graciously allowed us to stream live via Periscope and live tweet on Twitter. Please view part of the discussion here.
Collective pins were lying on a table and read Jeannette Rankin Brigade, Catalyst for Change, and Shirley Chisholm for President. A woman even shared her 1972 first edition copy of Ms. Magazine, the first national publication focused on the advancement of women's rights. Unapologetic mediums on feminism including: books, letters, papers, t-shirts, and photos were also present.
We were in a room filled with feminists who had decided as students at UGA that they would speak out and advocate for gender equality, around the time of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and long before the 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling. Two of the panelists, Sue Bailey and Margaret Holt, helped found the Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund in 1976 with $16,000 in seed money from Rankin’s estate. The third panelist was Sharron Habbon, founder of the Athens National Organization for Women (NOW) Chapter in 1982.
The panelists shared that for many women, including themselves, coming to UGA for school was their first time ever away from home. When most of us recall our experiences as college students and young adults, organizing housing protest sit-ins in the president’s office and marches on Washington (Jeannette Rankin Brigade) aren’t exactly the first thoughts that usually come to our minds. They laughed at learning to master a pelvic exam on each other at a friend’s house during a time when women’s health was not a societal priority or even a public topic of discussion. Those shared times were challenging, yet laughter and sisterhood often kept them centered amidst opposition.
During their time at UGA, job postings were organized by gender preference. It was normal to see an advertisement in the UGA career services office that read, “Seeking accountant. Must be male.” In the Athens Banner Herald, “Help Wanted” postings with “Male” jobs were on one page and “Female” jobs on a separate page with women historically limited to secretarial or administrative roles.
We were shocked to learn from the panelists that if a female student married a man from out of state, she would have to pay out-of-state UGA tuition even if she was a Georgia resident. Only after being married could she then own a credit card and her husband’s name still had to be displayed. One participant in the discussion shared her struggle of getting a credit card with her first and last name, without Mrs. and without her husband’s name on it. She recalled that at the time her husband was in law school so she was the breadwinner for the family, but still his name was required for validity.
These challenges that the panelists and OLLI class participants had to endure may seem dated and ridiculous to us today, yet here we are in 2016 still advocating for gender equality and a woman’s right to education. We’ve certainly come a long way though from remarks like “why would anyone want to take a course about women?” a direct quote from a former UGA dean. But as we learned from the panelists’ account of their grassroots efforts, the work is not done yet.
As scholar bell hooks eloquently says, “feminism is for everybody” and it continues to be molded and shaped today by women and men, young and old, of all races and backgrounds with the common goal of gender equality. Because of the efforts of the golden men and women on this panel, in the audience, and in the community, feminism was brought to the forefront in the small town of Athens, GA. It is important that we remember that feminist activism is alive and there are more stories for all of us to create.
Thank you to the everyone at OLLI@UGA for inviting the Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund (JRWSF) staff to listen to your stories that continue to provide fuel to the our organization’s mission. In 1978, JRWSF awarded its first scholarship in the amount of $500. For four decades JRWSF has provided more than $2.3 million in college scholarships and support to low-income women age 35 and older to nearly 800 women.
For more information on how you can be an activist of feminism TODAY and empower women through education, please click here.
The Opportunity to End Generational Poverty
The Opportunity to End Generational Poverty
There is much talk in the nonprofit community about eliminating generational poverty. A Jeannette Rankin Scholarship has the potential to do just that. Your gift towards a scholarship could turn into $2.8 M for a woman and her children over the course of their lifetimes. How?
The median income for a woman with a high school education is $30,056. The median income for a woman with a college education is $54,548. The difference is $24,492 a year.
A JRF Scholar that receives her degree at age 40 and then works until age 65, could realize an additional $612,300 in wages in her lifetime. ($24,492 x 25 = $612,300)
A JRF Scholar who has two children that go on to get a college education (because of the great example mom provided in getting her degree) and work from age 22 until 65 could realize an additional $1,057,456 each. ($24,492 x 43 = $1,057,456) The total of increased earnings is potentially $2,727,212 over the course of two generations. ($612,300 + $1,057,456 + $1,057,456 = $2,727,212)
Your gift towards a Jeannette Rankin Scholarship is a gift that is leveraged in the very best way to change women and their children's lives.
Your Gift Makes a Difference
Jeannette Rankin Scholars succeed! Alumnae surveyed in 2013 and 2014 report 95.2% have graduated with the skills needed to secure careers along with pursing higher degrees.
For women ages 35 years and older (at the time they first enrolled), 31% graduate with a degree or certificate within 6 years of enrollment, and 58% leave college without attaining a degree or certificate in that same time frame. ( Institute for Women’s Policy Research)
It is with an overwhelming joy that I now join the staff of Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund. I couldn’t imagine being in any other career, working with individuals more dedicated than all who are involved with JRF.
Jeannette Rankin Fund was celebrating 35 years of changing women's lives in 2011 when we were first introduced. I have been blessed to witness an increase in the number of women receiving the scholarship since I was a recipient. As the Fund approaches 40 years of helping women over 35 further their education, it just floods my soul with hope. Jeannette Rankin Fund's quest to help women invokes an untapped potential while providing the privilege to others who witness Jeannette Rankin scholars conquer their dreams.
Supporters have helped to fuel the fire by providing more than 1,200 scholarships. I hope to see that number double as I am committed to working alongside the team to move the mission forward. The best is yet to come and I’m honored to be on the front lines working with an organization that is making a difference.
The Founders Challenge
Join us for the Founders Challenge! We’re the Founders of Jeannette Rankin Fund, pictured here presenting the first award to Barbara Dixon. It’s exciting to still be helping women achieve their goal of higher education, particularly as the Fund enters 2016, its 40th Anniversary Year.
To start 40 off strong, we’re coming together to match every dollar in new or increased donations up to $40,000!
Did you know that we started Jeannette Rankin Fund in a pizza shop in Athens, GA? We emptied our wallets into a breadbasket and combined that money with Jeannette’s bequest of $16,000. Here we are 40 years later asking for you to put money in the basket, too!
In the past four decades, Jeannette Rankin Fund has awarded 1,133 scholarships. Imagine how many lives have been changed for the better because of these awards. Imagine how many more we can help in the next 40 years!
In our wildest dreams, we never imagined Jeannette Rankin Fund having such an impact on so many women and families. Please join us to make the next 40 even bigger!
The Jeannette Rankin Founding Mothers
Susan Bailey Gail Dendy Margaret Holt Heather Kleiner Reita Rivers
Press Release: Prosperity Together
Local Organization joins $100 Million Pledge to Create Pathways to Economic Security for Women and Their Families in America
Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund Joins the Partnership to Demonstrate the Collective Power of Women’s Foundations in Effective Grantmaking
Athens, Georgia—Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund, a member of Prosperity Together, a nonpartisan partnership of public U.S. women’s foundations, announced a collective five-year, $100 million funding commitment. The funding will create pathways to economic security for low-income women and their families.
Jeannette Rankin Fund, founded in Athens, Georgia in 1976, has helped 47 Georgian women and provided a total of 1,236 scholarships nationally. Currently, two women are receiving scholarships to attend Athens Technical College.
The Prosperity Together partnership will fund local programs with a proven track record in providing women with access to higher education, job training, and child care, among other supports. Prosperity Together made the announcement at the White House Summit on Advancing Equity for Women and Girls of Color on November 13, 2015, which focused on a wide range of issues including the barriers and solutions to economic security confronting millions of low-income women living in America.
While women account for 57 percent of the workforce, they too often occupy minimum wage or part-time jobs, with little to no employer-sponsored benefits, and limited opportunity for growth and advancement. In Georgia, 19.7 percent of women live in poverty.
"Jeannette Rankin Women's Scholarship Fund has been helping women improve their lives through college completion for almost 40 years," Karen Sterk, Executive Director of Jeannette Rankin Fund, said. "We are encouraged by the potential of Prosperity Together to maximize our collective impact and significantly improve so many more lives."
Prosperity Together will harness the collective power, leadership and proven effectiveness of women’s foundations working together to ensure women’s economic security in America. The partnership will also issue a call to policymakers, business leaders, the philanthropic community and the public to understand that economic prosperity for all is guaranteed only when economic security and equal opportunity are guaranteed for low-income women.
Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund was chartered in 1976 and is named after the first woman elected to U.S. Congress. The 501(c)(3) charity provides scholarships and support for low-income women 35 and older across the U.S. to build better lives through college completion. Jeannette Rankin scholars come from diverse backgrounds, yet they are united in their determination to break the cycle of poverty, better provide for their families and give back to their communities. To learn more about Jeannette Rankin Fund, visit www.rankinfoundation.org.
Prosperity Together is a nonpartisan partnership of public U.S. women’s foundations dedicated to improving the economic security of low-income women and their families in America. Prosperity Together demonstrates the critical role and power of women’s foundations to drive this work in communities, state by state, across the country. For more information, visit http://www.womensfundingnetwork.org/initiatives/prosperity-together/.