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AAUW supports education, advancing equity for women

March 3, 2017 GMT

The Aiken Branch of the American Association of University Women, or AAUW, is the organization behind the popular Books ’n’ Things Fair, which begins today and continues tomorrow in the mini-mall next to North Augusta’s Riverfront Antique Mall.

The event is the Aiken Branch’s biggest fundraiser, and some of its proceeds are used for scholarships.

“We give $7,000 to USC Aiken, $7,000 to Aiken Technical College and $7,000 to Public Education Partners each year,” said Aiken Branch President Martha Ebel. “We also give money to Reach Out and Read and other organizations involved in education.”

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The first meeting of the Aiken Branch was held on March 25, 1953, and 20 women attended. Today, there are approximately 70 members.

“As a national organization, AAUW is officially interested in advancing equity for women and girls,” Ebel said. “Women who have either a four-year degree or a two-year associate degree can be members. We are the biggest AAUW branch in South Carolina. Two of our members are men.”

Socializing is not the Aiken Branch’s top priority.

“The thing I really love is we do everything we can for other people,” Ebel said. “We never have a Christmas party for ourselves; we give a Christmas party for the residents of Croft House. We’re not a group that gets together to go to a movie or something. We’re always working toward a goal.”

In the early 1960s, the Aiken Branch played an important role in convincing the University of South Carolina to establish a new satellite campus here, Ebel said.

Vivian Miller led a campaign that involved contacting lawmakers and local education officials to urge them to support the creation of USC Aiken.

“We are really proud that,” Ebel said.

Members of the Aiken Branch also were instrumental in starting the summer concert series in Hopelands Gardens.

In addition, the Aiken Branch established a teen pregnancy prevention program in Aiken and participated in an exchange program with Russian women in an effort to educate them about women in business, in this country.

Last year, “we went to USC Aiken with a bunch of posters that pointed out that in South Carolina and the United States as a whole, a woman typically gets paid 80 cents for every dollar that a man gets paid for the same job,” Ebel said. “We also took a bunch of PayDay candy bars, and we sold them to women for 80 cents and to men for $1. We also did a lot of voter registration for the election in November.”

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The hours for the Books ‘n’ Things Fair are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

“We’re estimating that we have about 100,000 books,” Ebel said.

Most hardbacks will cost $1 apiece, and most paperbacks will cost 50 cents each.

CDs, DVDs and other items also will be offered.

“We have an Attic Treasures section that is like a rummage sale,” Ebel said. “People have donated all kinds of stuff.”

Ebel and the Aiken Branch’s treasurer, Lee Dane, are serving as the Books ‘n’ Things Fair’s chairwomen for the third consecutive year.

Riverfront Antique Mall is at 5979 Jefferson Davis Highway.