The Aiken Branch of the American Association of University Women reached a milestone in its history during the spring. March 25 was the organization’s 60th anniversary.


“We’ve been talking about it all year,” said Martha Ebel, who shares the Aiken Branch’s presidential duties with Linda Hook.


The Aiken Branch is known locally for its wildly popular Books ’n’ Things sale. Held the first weekend in March, the event attracts scads of people who enjoy reading and love to find bargains.


“This year we raised nearly $40,000,” Ebel said.


But while Books ’n’ Things attracts a lot of attention, it isn’t the only notable item on the Aiken Branch’s long list of activities and accomplishments.


“We were instrumental in establishing USC Aiken,” Ebel said. “Some of our members began the Monday night music program (the Hopelands Summer Concert Series) at Hopelands Gardens. We established a teen pregnancy prevention program in Aiken, and during the 1970s, we sponsored a group of women that came over from Russia to learn about education and women’s issues in America.”


The AAUW promotes equality and education for women and girls. The Aiken Branch held its first meeting on March 25, 1953. Twenty women representing 18 universities attended that inaugural gathering. Today, the Aiken Branch has approximately 50 members, including one man.


“Our branch is a leader in South Carolina in contributing to the national AAUW Educational Foundation,” Ebel said. “We have a scholarship at USC Aiken, and we give money to Aiken Technical College. We also give money to organizations in Aiken that promote women and are important in education.”


The Aiken Branch will observe its 60th anniversary on Saturday during its fall luncheon at the Woodside Plantation Country Club.


“We’ve been so busy doing other things that we didn’t have time to stop and celebrate until now,” Ebel said.


South Carolina’s AAUW president, Ann Terry, is scheduled to attend.


“She is bringing a letter from our national president, Patricia Fae Ho,” Ebel said.


Membership in the AAUW is open to anyone who holds a two-year associate degree or higher degree from an accredited college or university.


For more information on the Aiken Branch, visit www.aauwaikenbranch.org or call Ebel at 803-648-5227.


“We are always looking for new members, and we’re always on the lookout for an empty big box store space for our Books ’n’ Things sale,” she said. “We never know from year to year where we’re going to have to sale. You would think that there would be plenty of empty spaces. But many of the buildings’ owners don’t want to commit because they don’t want to miss a potential buyer or renter, so it’s a little tough to find one sometimes.”


Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C., she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.