Women Honored in Austin, MN

Austin, MN began honoring community members as Pillars of the Community in 2016.  The goal was to utilize the flood wall pillars on North Main Street to give recognition to people, in Austin’s past and present, who have made significant contributions to improving the quality of life in Austin related to growth, economic impact, health, education, culture, recreation, communications, business or scientific innovation.

Several women have been honored as a Pillar of the Community over time. Click on their names below to see how these women have contributed to Austin to make our community better.

Esther Mitchell Morse

Bonnie Besse Rietz AAUW member

Gertrude Ellis Skinner

Geraldine Rasmussen

Patricia Piper AAUW member

Susan Grove AAUW member

The Story Show 2023

The 2023 Story Show is scheduled for January 7 at 7pm at the Frank Bridges Theater at the Riverland Community College. Tickets are $20. All proceeds support scholarships at Riverland Community College.

This year’s topic is OPPORTUNITY. Each storyteller will share how they responded when opportunity knocked in their life.

Speakers include Emma Haugen, Kris Fadness, Brittany Carlin, Denver Ritz, Mike Ruzek, Trish HarrenEdward H. Hinchcliffe, and Varinh Van Vugt. 

We hope you can join for this unique and one-time event.

Quarantine Quotes From Some of Our Members!

Bonnie Rietz

“Oh, my goodness gracious sakes alive!  How our lives have changed since mid-March!  Now, instead of zipping here and there, I am Zooming at home.  Instead of getting fully clothed, I only concentrate on the waist up.  I am having trouble remembering what day of the week it is and a good friend of mine said, “Let’s just work on remembering the month!”  It is May isn’t it?

We have much to be thankful for and we keep the workers on the front lines in our prayers.  Hope that all you AAUW members are safe and healthy.

Remember to support our local businesses in every way you can!

I love this news that a friend sent me, “After years of wanting to thoroughly clean my house but lacking the time, this week I discovered that wasn’t the reason.””



Joyce Goetz

“I am getting lots of cleaning out of files done.  Reduced one file drawer to 1/2 it’s size.   We went through over 2000 of old picture slides we had and got about 270 of them sent in to be preserved on a memory stick.  Something we have been putting off doing for a long time.  Also finally getting some of my computer files cleaned up.  If this lasts too much longer, I will have the best organized home is the area!  Bob started a new hobby–jigsaw puzzles.  Also catching up with correspondence with long-distance friends, some by snail mail!!!!  We’re calling friends that we never seem to have the time to connect with. We miss seeing our son and family in PA.  We usually spend Easter with them. Not this year.  We all pray that this passes soon. Stay healthy.”

Catherine Haslag

“I am doing well and thankful that I am able to work safely from home.  All of my classes for the spring and summer are being taught completely online at Riverland, which has been a challenge that is allowing me to examine how I teach my classes during a non-pandemic semester.  I have a lot of great ideas for future semesters.

I have been reading, working in my yard, doing some home projects, and holding many virtual happy hours as well.  I am learning all about how to use new technologies or better use the ones I was already familiar with.  So thankful it is starting to warm up so I can get out and cycle too.”

Barb Hunter

“I am going between my home and my oldest son’s to provide childcare three days a week as both he and his wife are working from home. The positives are I get to spend a lot of time with my son and his little family and receive and give my granddaughter hugs. As someone who lives alone, I would greatly miss the physical contact a hug or handshake provides. Her little hugs aren’t the same as getting a great big hug from a loved one though. I have read a lot of books in my leisure time. The negatives are the loss of freedom to go where and when I want. I usually end up making do with what I have or decide that I really don’t want to do the project anyway. I miss the contact with my social activities but then I don’t feel the desire to connect virtually with them either.  We will wait and see what our new normal comes to be.”

Angie Ruther

“I am an essential worker so I still go to work.   The difference is that they cancelled all elective surgeries,therefore we don’t have a lot to do in surgery.   They have been having us cross train to other departments getting ready for a surge of patients.   We have been distributing masks.   Some I have picked up from local people (Jenny Braaten’s mom).  We did pull Lydia out of the group home.   She still works at Papa Murphys two days a week.  She is bored with us.  We play games when it has been cold.  My baby chicks came in.  We also are in the middle of having calves.

Katie Ulwelling

“On the positive side:  having time to reflect on all the things I haven’t done in my life, I am trying to remedy some of my “never dones.”  For example, I have tackled my FIRST EVER jigsaw puzzle.  Granted . . . it’s only 400 pieces, and it IS of the Peanuts family (Linus, Lucy, Woodstock, etc), so some might consider it a bit juvenile for a woman of my tender years.  However, I consider it “right up my alley.”  That being said, I see now why I’ve never done a jigsaw puzzle before . . . I find it a bit slow paced, resulting in some additional boredom.  When I’m not bored, I’m frustrated because I can’t find the right piece for this or that area . . . resulting in some additional stress!  I fear this will be my first and last jigsaw puzzle . . . at least I can cross it off my “bucket list.”  Gee, what will I do next?  Well . . . let’s see . . . I’ve never played Monopoly; I’ve never played Scrabble . . . perhaps I’ll have time.

On the more challenging side:  Wearing a mask in a public place (such as Hy-Vee) has proven to be just about more than I can handle.  Here’s why:  first of all, I wear eyeglasses.  At Hy-Vee the other day,  when I had the mask on, my glasses fogged up, so I had to move them to the top of my head.  Then, if I had to read something on a label, I had to move my glasses back down and SPEED read before they fogged up again!!   Do they offer on-line speed reading courses?

Secondly, I had to wear the mask for a significant amount of time that morning (which is only necessary since Hy-Vee recently rearranged ALL their shelves and now ALL the aisles are one way, too).  This extended mask usage resulted in my body overheating, which resulted in me nearly passing out.  Seriously, it reminded me of my menopausal days.  This, naturally, was not a fond memory and added to my stress.

Thirdly, and worst of all . . . the other day when I was shopping, I suddenly needed to blow my nose.  This meant I had to figure out a way to get my Kleenex and my two hands up inside my mask to accomplish this task, without exposing my mouth and nose to the outside potentially contaminated air.   Okay . . . I wish someone would have been videotaping me during this particular adventure.  I swear, if I had any sort of comedic talent I would work this into a stand-up routine to present to a live audience when the time finally comes.”


Jenn Lawhead

A positive for us is that I think we are discovering creative ways to engage with family. I learned about Zoom calls which we did on Easter with both families. I joined Marco Polo and am communicating with my sister in a better way all the way in Honduras. We are enjoying more family time – playing spoons, board games, cooking meals together.

My dad and Will and I played three handed cribbage over facetime for the first time.

I am also  thinking about what we want to add back/keep when these restrictions are lifted? I think I am going to add/require family game night even for my big kids… it has been glorious. I am going to “keep” making more home cooked meals. I am going to keep giving myself permission to stretch, take a breath and clear my head during the day.


Normally, AAUW membership dues for the upcoming year are collected at the spring banquet in May. Due to concerns of exposing members to the transmission of COVID-19, the AAUW Board canceled the banquet this year. As a result, all dues the upcoming 2020-2021 AAUW year will be collected through mailing a check made out to AAUW in the amount of $75 to:

Jenni Braaten

If you have decided to not renew your membership for the upcoming year, please send Jenni a text message or email. That will ensure you will not continue to receive pestering emails. Thank you in advance for renewing and hopefully, we will be to a more normal way of living next fall!