Can a 23 Year-Old-Change the World?

July 29, 2011

I help AAUW’s volunteer leaders grow their membership in their local communities. Sharing trend information about potential members is critical to the success of their recruitment and retention efforts.

I recently gave a presentation at the AAUW of New York State Summer Leadership Conference that a colleague had previously given at another event. Giving this presentation was tricky, because I had not seen the original workshop entitled “What Makes Women Decide to Join or Stay in an Organization Today?” That presentation included data from about engaging young women — so-called millennials — and what AAUW members and nonmembers were looking for when joining and staying in organizations. As I prepared my presentation, I included elements from that presentation and wanted to incorporate information I recently learned from the National Council on Aging and author Rosetta Thurman, but I needed to tie it all back to AAUW somehow.

Then I remembered Marion Talbot, (July 31, 1858–October 20, 1948) one of AAUW’s founders. Talbot was just 23 when she co-founded AAUW’s predecessor, the Association of Collegiate Alumnae (ACA), in 1881 and 37 when she became ACA’s first president. At that time, she would have been considered middle aged, but by today’s standards, she would have been a millennial.

Every woman who has or will attend a two- or four-year college or university is a testament to the ideas of this young woman, who had a passion for education and encouraging other women to achieve the same.

What should volunteer leaders remember when expanding AAUW’s member base in their communities?

  1. Each of us holds the success of the AAUW community in our own hands.
  2. All generations have something to teach and something to learn.
  3. There are 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day, and they want to get involved in their communities.
  4. Providing information and advice based on experiences helps younger leaders be more effective.
  5. Share power. Recognize that newer generations will be leading social change in the future.

Happy Birthday, Marion, and thank you!

Claudia Richards By:   |   July 29, 2011


  1. Avatar crtnyhks says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience & a bit of history. As a 23 year old, I immediately perked up to read about Talbot & remind myself of what a difference one person can make.

  2. Avatar Claudia says:

    Thanks Chuck!

  3. Avatar Chuck says:

    Bravo! Keep up the great work! Everyone from a 13 year old to an 88 year old can change the world with the right tools.

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