Purple flowers rest in vases surrounded by a circle of black mugs that read, “empowering women since 1998.” The smell of pecan tarts travels through the room. Soft chatter echoes across tables.
The occasion was Sunday’s afternoon tea celebration of the Women’s Center’s 20th anniversary in the Parkway Ballroom.
Since its conception on Sept. 16, 1998, the Women’s Center has established itself as a hub of community for App State’s female-identifying students, faculty and staff.
“The center has been able to bring us so many valuable things, but one that stands out to me is community,” sophomore history education major Maddie Mullins said. “Among the volunteers, I have met some of the most passionate, intelligent, kind and genuine women.
“In a world where girls are brought up to see other girls as competition, it is important to remember that empowered women empower women,” Mullins said.
Senior psychology major Jaxeli Martinez emphasized the importance of intersectionality in the Women’s Center.
“I was a brown, queer woman who was surrounded by people that were everything but that,” Martinez said. Martinez also said the Women’s Center was the first place where she saw women like her have a seat at the table.
“The Women’s Center has made me a more confident, intelligent, inclusive, shameless and loved woman,” Martinez said.
Many volunteers applauded the Women’s Center for not only providing community, but giving back to App State.
“Anyone who comes into the center leaves having gained something, whether it be a free tampon, or a condom, or a compliment or an encouraging word to get through a tough week,” sophomore education major Kat Ward said. “You leave with more than you came into the center with.”
Catherine Clark said she was surprised there wasn’t a women’s center when she began working at App State in 1996. Clark, professor of human development and psychological counseling, was on the committee that proposed the Women’s Center in 1997.
“The Chancellor said ‘I need a proposal on my desk in eight weeks,’” Clark said. “Eight weeks later we handed a proposal to the Chancellor and we asked for $1,200, a computer and a room in the (Plemmons Student) Union.”
Those three things were granted, and a year later, the Women’s Center was born on the first floor of the Plemmons Student Union.
“This 20th anniversary honestly is a monumental thing,” Women’s Center graduate assistant Hannah Eckler said. “That’s 20 years that women have been able to be together in a safe space that is comfortable for them to talk about what’s happening in the world without judgement.
“I think that for the Women’s Center to be on App’s campus for 20 years is phenomenal and hopefully we’ll get another 20 more years,” Eckler said.
Story by: Mickey Hutchings
Photo by Paola Bula-Blanco
Featured photo caption: The exterior of the Women’s Center in the International Hallway of the Student Union.