What Does the League Do?
The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.
Principles of the League of Women Voters
The League of Women Voters believes in representative government and in the individual liberties established in the Constitution of the United States.
The League of Women Voters believes that democratic government depends upon the informed and active participation of its citizens and requires that governmental bodies protect the citizen’s right to know by giving adequate notice of proposed actions, holding open meetings and making public records accessible.
The League of Women Voters believes that every citizen should be protected in the right to vote; that every person should have access to free public education which provides equal opportunity for all; and that no person or group should suffer legal, economic, or administrative discrimination.
The League of Women Voters believes that efficient and economical government requires competent personnel, the clear assignment of responsibility, adequate financing and coordination among the different agencies and levels of government.
The League of Women Voters believes that responsible government should be responsive to the will of the people; that government should maintain an equitable and flexible system of taxation, promote conservation and development of natural resources in the public interest, share in the solution of economic and social problems which affect the general welfare; promote a sound economy and adopt domestic policies which facilitate the solution of international problems.
The League of Women Voters believes that cooperation with other nations is essential in the search for solutions to world problems, and that the development of international organization and international law is imperative in the promotion of world peace.
To achieve its mission, the LWV:
* researches and studies issues
* discusses findings to reach consensus in an open, constructive, and stimulating setting
* observes and monitors public meetings
* takes action – for or against issues which the membership has studied and reached consensus
* lobbies and testifies on current issues
* promotes active and informed participation through voter registration and voter education
History of the League
From the spirit of the suffrage movement and the shock of the first World War came a great idea—the idea that a nonpartisan organization could provide political education and experience that would contribute to the growth of the citizen and thus assure the success of democracy. The League of Women Voters was founded on that idea.
In 1920, when woman’s suffrage was finally written into the Constitution after a 72-year struggle spearheaded by the National American Woman Suffrage Association, the League of Women Voters was established. The League immediately took on the task of teaching 20 million women how best to exercise their new political rights and responsibilities and enlarged the scope of League work to include all citizens. Realizing that citizens must do more than vote to have an impact on public policy, the founders of the League also made political action a keystone of the League’s wide-ranging agenda.
The League’s progenitors have memorable names like Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Carrie Chapman Catt. Here in Oregon, there was Abigail Scott Dunniway, who often rode horseback from town to town, through mud and over corduroy roads to talk about women’s rights.
In 1919, Carrie Chapman Catt came to Oregon to urge greater efforts to obtain ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, and while she was here Oregon women became interested in the possibility of an ongoing political organization for women to be known as the League of Women Voters. So, when a Victory Convention of the National American Women’s Suffrage Association was held in February 1920 in Chicago, Oregon sent a delegate, Mrs. C. B. Simmons. At this convention, the Suffrage Association dissolved and the League was formed. Mrs. Simmons came home to Oregon as an elected Director of Region 7 with the responsibility of organizing Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and Idaho.
The new Oregon League held a “stirring victory luncheon” in Portland. City and state dignitaries were there, church bells rang, sirens and whistles blew.
In the beginning there were only state Leagues and the National League. All program was determined at the national level for all Leagues in the country. “A kettle of eels,” was what Maud Wood Park, first National president, called the first League program, adopted in 1920. It contained 69 items, grouped under child welfare, education, home and high prices, employment for women, public health and morals, and independent citizenship for married women. The concept of grassroots program planning evolved as local Leagues did.
The first effective local League in Oregon was in Salem, organized in 1923. It died several times before the present Salem League was formed in 1947. Corvallis followed Salem, died, and was reorganized in 1949.
Membership was extended to men in 1974. Today, the League has 130,000 members in 1,000 local Leagues, 50 state Leagues and Leagues in the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Hong Kong.
Want to know more? Visit www.lwv.org/about/pastfuture/past_history.html