Photo and story by Connor Burnard / Contributing Writer
The Murfreesboro branch of the American Association of University Women held a scholarship fundraiser in the Miller Education Center Tuesday afternoon called “Equali-Tea – A High Tea (Hats Optional) Scholarship Fundraiser.”
The AAUW event, sponsored by MTSU’s June Anderson Center for Women and Nontraditional Students and the MTSU President’s Commission on the Status of Women, studied the history of women’s rights and the erasure of women from historic events, distributed the Tempest Award to celebrate the “action to address systemic barriers to equity for women and girls,” awarded one graduate and one undergraduate scholarship to two MTSU students and, of course, tea and refreshments were served.
Barbara Scales, the co-chair of the AAUW Murfreesboro Event Committee and the Director of MTSU’s June Anderson Center for Women and Nontraditional Students and Elizabeth McPhee, First Lady of MTSU began the event by welcoming the crowd and thanking everyone in attendance.
“As I welcome you, let me tell you what I see: I see your hearts, full of love and compassion. I see your minds, full of can-do’s, will-do’s and ‘oh, yes we can’s.’ I see your hands, ready to lift us up to a higher place, give thanks for what we have accomplished and grasp new ways we can make this year even better than last year,” McPhee said in her opening statement.
The event’s keynote speech entitled “Equali-Tea: A Historic Brew of Women, Work and Wages” was delivered by Rebecca Price, current Tennessee Association of Museums board member and founder and president/CEO of a nonprofit called Chick History that focuses on women’s history and overlooked perspectives of women in history. Price was introduced by current Ruth M. Houston Memorial Scholar Bethany Jackson. Price discussed the implications of editing women out of history and how it affects the fight against the gender pay gap today.
“Women not receiving credit for their achievements for so long has influenced our opinions of women’s professionalism and credibility,” Price said. “We have perceptions about women and women’s history that are very limited in experience and historical accuracy, and that influences the argument for equal pay. The historical perception that women don’t have a long history of professionalism or professional contribution creates a bias.”
After the keynote, the president of the Murfreesboro chapter of the AAUW, Dia Cirillo, awarded former Murfreesboro Mayor Tommy Bragg with the Tempest Award for enacting proclamations in his time as mayor that addressed gender inequality. The three proclamations included the designation of November 28 as American Association of University Women Day in 2006 for the organization’s 125th anniversary, a 2013 celebration for the centennial of the Murfreesboro chapter of the AAUW and a mayoral proclamation in 2014 for equal pay.
“For all of you who are here, as we go out into the world, remember that you are not alone. We can work together to make this happen,” Bragg said in his statement of thanks.
After the Tempest Award was given, B. Ayne Cantrell, co-chair of the AAUW Murfreesboro Event Committee and Professor Emerita at MTSU, spoke of the AAUW’s scholarships and showed a presentation of past MTSU recipients.
The scholarships were then presented by Yuan-ling Chao, chair of the AAUW Murfreesboro Scholarship committee and professor of history at MTSU. The first scholarship, the Ruth M. Houston Memorial Undergraduate Scholarship, has been given to women at MTSU since 1965. The scholarship went to Clelie Cottle Peacock, a junior studying anthropology.
“You are all here today because you believe in equality and giving people chances and never giving up fighting for what you believe in. Your tenacity encourages me to be a better person and to set the example for future generations and to show others that even when the odds seem to be entirely stacked against you, success is achievable,” Peacock said in accepting the scholarship.
The second scholarship, the Butler-Fouts Memorial Graduate Scholarship, was established this year in honor of Mattie Raybon Butler and Leola Page Fouts, two longtime members of the Murfreesboro AAUW that recently passed away. The first recipient of this award is Keira Crutchfield, who is pursuing a master’s degree in business administration.
“Getting a master’s degree holds a special place in my heart. I come from a poverty, drug and violence-stricken neighborhood. I want to make a difference in my surroundings by being the change I would like to see,” Crutchfield said. “Gaining education was always the navigation tool I envisioned that would uproot me from those circumstances.”
After the scholarships were given, the event concluded with a door prize in the form of a $450 portrait package from Shacklett’s Photography, given to a winner drawn randomly from a basket of names. The winner of the drawing was MTSU First Lady Elizabeth McPhee.
Follow Connor Burnard on Twitter at @connburn.
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