On Feb. 14, 1920, six months before the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, the League of Women Voters was formally organized in Chicago. This year, 2020, the League celebrates our 100-year anniversary.
The 19th Amendment guarantees all American women the right to vote. Achieving this milestone required a lengthy and difficult struggle; victory took decades. Beginning in the mid-19th century, several generations of women’s suffrage supporters lectured, wrote, marched, lobbied and practiced civil disobedience to achieve what many Americans considered a radical change of the Constitution. Few early supporters lived to see final victory in 1920.
Without supporting or opposing political candidates, the League encourages voter engagement and social policy advocacy. From the beginning, the League educated voters and hosted candidate forums. The first League program adopted in 1920 contained some 69 items grouped in broad subject areas: child welfare, education, the home and high prices, women in gainful occupations, public health and morals, and independent citizenship for married women. The League’s first major national legislative success was the passage of the Sheppard-Towner Act providing federal aid for maternal and child care programs.
The League also set up classes to train volunteer teachers for citizenship schools and developed candidate questionnaires and meetings as well as nationwide get-out-the-vote campaign activities. In 1928, the League sponsored “Meet the Candidates,” the first national radio broadcast of a candidate forum.
Membership in the League of Women Voters is not restricted to women. Today, the League advocates for a variety of government, natural resource and social policy issues. However, voter service and education efforts remain a hallmark of the League’s services to the electorate because we believe YOUR VOTE MATTERS.
Kathy Casenave, president, League of Women Voters of San Joaquin County