By Grace Mayfield
A great deal of activity in a small community like Beaufort can take place unnoticed and while noteworthy go unreported. Such is the case of a group of women who were members of the American University Women Beaufort Branch (“AAUW”).
Carole Geiger was president from 1979-80 when she launched a special interest group amongst the membership. At the behest of Mrs. Geiger, Leola Fanning, now a retired science educator, chose literature. The insightfulness and enthusiasm of Deo Boyland spearheaded other members of AAUW Beaufort to gather for the initial organizational meeting held on October 25, 1979. The Literary Criticism Group subsequently met a few months later on December 6 to discuss William Shakespeare’s “Henry IV” (Part 1 – King John), recounts Mrs. Fanning, who remains a guiding light of the group which is now in its fourth decade.
The format for the last 35 years has revolved around a singular theme. Authors or a subject matter are chosen. The group convenes about eight months of the year. In 2012-13, the Civil War was the focus; 2013-14, women writers; 2014-15, mystery writers. The leader for each meeting gives an in depth summary of the author’s life and literary work. Members read any book by the designated author or related focus. Each member relates her own critique in an informal manner during the discussion.
Owing to attrition, the original group has morphed over time. Current attendees are now an independent group of women who enjoy the Literary Criticism Group and the camaraderie it engenders. Individuals also share reading lists throughout the year. The collective goal remains unchanged and continues to encourage reading literature on a broad range of subjects. Leola Fanning recognizes that this venture has been rewarding and continues to participate. Readers in the group revel in Leola’s shared personal recollections of growing up in South Carolina.