What do women want?

As we think about AAUW’s competition, it’s clear that some “women’s groups” are doing better than we. The explosive growth of the relatively new Red Hat Society has been noted in many conversations. Federated Woman’s Clubs and Junior Leagues are much larger than we in some areas of the country.

This week’s Raleigh News and Observer highlighted two different groups that I wasn’t aware of but which are much bigger (at least locally) than we:

March 15, 2007: Wake County Extension and Community Association

The group, formed in the 1920s as a social network for women, wants to reach out to younger women looking to learn how to can fruit and vegetables, sew, quilt and do other handicrafts that once were commonplace in Wake County households. …

[There are] nearly 200 … members of Wake County’s 12 ECA clubs. … The ECA used to be an integral part of the social fabric of Wake County and North Carolina, Laymon said. Statewide membership was nearly 17,000 in the 1960s; it now stands at 5,000.

March 13, 2007: Two (!) stories on the Sweet Potato QueensOverview with background on national organization, Highlighting one of the local groups

“We’re like the Red Hat Society with a libido,” author Jill Conner Browne said from her home in Jackson, Miss. Browne has built a royal empire based on her best-selling Sweet Potato Queens books, which offer everything from advice to recipes.

Since Browne started the first SPQ club more than two decades ago, more than 5,000 chapters have sprouted around the globe, including about 100 in North Carolina and a dozen in the Triangle area. … Most of the Carolina SPQs are women in their 30s and 40s. They are teachers, nurses, lab techs, stay-at-home moms and school administrators. … Having fun is a major component of the chapters. But, more important, members say, the clubs are an ideal way to celebrate womanhood and sisterhood, as well as support charitable causes.

For context, AAUW has two branches in the “Triangle,” and one in Wake County. The Chapel Hill branch has had 70-100 members recently, and Raleigh/Wake County ranges 40-65. There are about 1150 members in 21 branches in North Carolina with another 500-600 members-at-large.

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