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American Association of University Women, Las Cruces Branch records

Identifier: Ms-0290

Scope and Contents

The AAUW/LC Collection has documents and materials that span over 70 years, from 1937 through 2019. The records reflect the association’s interest in local, state, and national issues. The collection is divided into five series: 1) Administration Records; 2) Meeting Records; 3) Outreach and Public Relations; 4) Publications; and 5) Audiovisual as well as four subseries: 1) Administrative Records; 2) Mary Welsh Research Files; 3) Photographs; and 4) Video recordings.
The correspondence in the collection ranges from personal letters, as well as a number of letters from state legislators, senators, and congressional representatives regarding a variety of issues. These correspondents include: Senator Harrison Schmidt, Senator Pete Domenici, Congressman Joe Skeen, and Senator Jeff Bingaman. Dr. Mary Welsh’s Research files include materials from her professional life in education and counseling.


  • 1937 - 2019

Biographical / Historical

In May 1923, the first branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) in New Mexico was founded at the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts in Las Cruces. Shortly thereafter, on June 25, 1923, the national association of AAUW formally recognized the branch as an affiliate, incorporating it into a national structure. Mrs. Mary Lizzy Curtis Foster was a founding member and became its first president that year. Mrs. Foster had a teaching certificate from Upper Iowa University in Fayette Iowa. After teaching for one year, she enrolled in Iowa Agricultural College in Ames, receiving her B.S. in 1875.
Within ten years after the Las Cruces branch’s founding, four other New Mexico branches had been established - Albuquerque, Carlsbad, Santa Fe, and Roswell - to form AAUW’s New Mexico Division. Other branches followed and as of December 2019, the New Mexico Division had eight branches. Since April 25, 1959, the Las Cruces branch has been known as AAUW/LC. In 1960, the college changed its name to New Mexico State University (NMSU).
From the beginning, branch members pursued national and local recognition, striving to help the college become an AAUW college/university accredited member. As part of the initiative, AAUW/LC campaigned for a woman on the college’s Board of Regents. In August 1954, the Board welcomed its first woman, Ms. Earl Corn, from Dexter NM, who replaced a deceased member. That fall, in November 1954, after more than thirty years of working toward the goal, AAUW/LC finally got the college accredited into AAUW’s national membership. This meant that graduates with degrees in home economics, home economics education, and foods and nutrition could become AAUW members.
But, just three years later, in 1957, the college’s AAUW accreditation was threatened after a post accreditation inspection by the national AAUW found the woman’s physical education program was poor and the campus lacked decent gym facilities for women. The college took steps to address the issue, using $150,000 from a Building and Improvement Bond. By December 1959, it dedicated the Rentfrow Gymnasium as the first women’s physical education facility.
There are no written records of the branch activities between 1923 and 1938 and no known activities were planned nor were events held. However, there are indications the branch was active but very small due to the limited number of women in the community eligible for AAUW membership. Membership appears to have fluctuated with at least one document showing that during the 1932-33 branch year, it had 38 members but by December 1933, eleven members had resigned because they moved away for various reasons.
The following bullets highlight a few of AAUW/LC’s accomplishments throughout the years.
  1. • 1935-1936: Established a child study group – the first of its kind. Also, members organized a literature study group and at each monthly meeting one person reviewed a prominent new book. The public and college libraries added the group’s books to their collections.
  2. • 1941-1942: Sponsored one of its first projects - hot lunches for children attending the Booker T. Washington School in Las Cruces. The program lasted through the 1947-1948 school year.
  3. • 1942-1945: Members worked in the Red Cross Surgical Dressing Rooms, on war bond drives, and relief drives as well as helping with parties for servicemen stationed in the area. In 1944, they sold $2,210 in bonds and stamps.
  4. • 1946: The social studies committee analyzed problems low income families were encountering in a post-war economy. This led to collaborations with other community groups, which ultimately sponsored a series of well-child clinics throughout Doña Ana County for nine months starting in June 1949.
  5. • 1953: Initiated a radio book quiz to stimulate interest in reading among young people. The project continued through 1958; then it was co-sponsored with the PTA and various other sponsors until 1970.
  6. • 1955: Began “Girl of the Month,” honoring an outstanding senior high school girl each month. (This program ended in April 1978)
  7. • 1958: Helped form a mental health committee, which brought the first psychiatrist and psychiatric social worker to the community.
  8. • 1965-1966: The juvenile justice committee began working to introduce a juvenile jury project in the county. The branch presented its opinion to the county commissioners that the new jail being built must provide separate facilities for juveniles and the mentally ill.
  9. • 1975: Joined other organizations to fight bills introduced in the legislature to rescind the New Mexico ratification of the federal Equal Rights Amendment and attempts to initiate actions to repeal the amendment NM voters had already approved.
  10. • 1975-1985: Had a national and state-wide presence through Mary Welsh, Ed. D., branch president from 1976-1977. Ms Welsh helped establish the creation of the NM Commission on the Status of Women and regularly made presentations at annual conferences for organizations like the NM Vocational Home Economics Association and the NM Home Economics Association. She was appointed to AAUW’s National Topic Committee, “Families Facing Change,” contributing to the national discussion on the topic. Over the years, she made more than 135 prepared speeches at meetings and conferences around NM. Dr. Welsh was the frequent guest on several television programs in Albuquerque and Las Cruces and on local radio talk shows, promoting family studies classes.
  11. • 1982: Held financial planning workshops open to the public which over 100 people attended. As a result, a series of workshops, called Money Talks, were held.
  12. • 1982: Held financial planning workshops open to the public which over 100 people attended. As a result, a series of workshops, called Money Talks, were held.
  13. • 1997 – Inspired by Careers A to Z and How Schools Shortchange Girls, the branch sponsored a careers workshop “Expanding Your Horizons” in 1996. It was co-sponsored by the NM Network for Women in Science and Engineering. In 1997, the branch sponsored Girls Can! in which 156 sixth grade girls attended more than 20 career exploratory workshops. The program continues today with over 250 girls attending in 2019.
  14. • 2003 – Established the Scholarship Endowment for Women program to make an annual award to a student living in Doña Ana County with a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or higher.
  15. • 2014 – Hosted the inaugural Tech Trek NM (TTNM) program in Las Cruces in July on the NMSU campus, hosting 52 young women from 19 cities throughout NM. TTNM 2015 was held at NM Highlands University in Las Vegas, bringing in 50 young women. Since 2016, TTNM has been held at New Mexico Tech at Socorro hosting 60-65 rising 8th-grade girls. The program is a week-long science, technology, engineering, and math summer camp for rising eighth-grade girls. The camp is designed to develop girls’ interest, excitement, and self-confidence in STEM fields.


34.5 Linear Feet (29 Regular Hollinger boxes (.50), 3 Thin Hollinger boxes (.5), 5 Paige boxes (1.5), 6 Over-sized boxes (1.75), and 2 Other small boxes (.25). )

Language of Materials



An organization of women who are college graduates involved in community projects, legislative lobbying actions, and social interaction study groups.

Processing Information

Marvin Steinback, September-December 2004. Additional material intergrated by Ruth Juare and Baylee Russo, 2020. Under direction Jennifer Olguin.
Guide to the American Association of University Women, Las Cruces Branch records
Finding aid by Ruth Juare, Baylee Russo and Jennifer Olguin.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the New Mexico State University Library Archives and Special Collections Repository

Branson Hall
PO Box 30006
MSC 3475
Las Cruces New Mexico 88003 USA