What Is the League of Women Voters?
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. We never endorse or oppose political parties or candidates, but we are political.
The centerpiece of the League’s efforts remains to expand participation and give a voice to all Americans. We do this at all three levels of government, engaging in both broad educational efforts as well as advocacy. Our issues are grounded in our respected history of making democracy work for all Americans.
Why Should I Support the League of Women Voters?
The League is a grassroots organization providing every member with opportunities to learn and educate about government and take action on public policy. We believe that we need everyone to participate in order for our community to be strong, safe, and vibrant. Whether you contribute your time, your money, or both, you can feel confident that your investment in democracy goes further with the League.
League members discuss topics in a respectful setting. They learn effective techniques for public discussion, how to advocate on specific policies, and what the issues beneath the rhetoric are. Our study and consensus process ensures that we are fully informed on issues before we take a stand. We also host public forums and debates which are well known for being fair, transparent, and civil. This approach has earned the League a global reputation for integrity and thoroughness.
Your participation in League will expose you to a breadth of experiences and issues that will not only inform you but create greater possibilities for civic engagement. You can spend as much or as little time with the League as you wish. Whether you aspire to leadership or follow the lead of experienced members, the League will excite, nurture, and utilize your civic curiosity, ideals, and desire for action. We offer our members webinars, conference calls, workshops, mentorship opportunities, and other events throughout the year at the local, regional, state, and national levels.
What is the History of the League of Women Voters?
In her address to the National American Woman Suffrage Association's (NAWSA) 50th convention in St. Louis, Missouri, President Carrie Chapman Catt proposed the creation of a "league of women voters to finish the fight and aid in the reconstruction of the nation." The next year, on February 14, 1920 - six months before the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified - the League was formally organized in Chicago as the national League of Women Voters. Maud Wood Park became the first national president of the League and steered the women's suffrage amendment through Congress in the last two years before ratification.
From the very beginning, however, it was apparent that the legislative goals of the League were not exclusively focused on women's issues and that citizen education aimed at all of the electorate was in order. Since its inception, the League has helped millions of women and men become informed participants in government. The first league convention voted 69 separate items as statements of principle and recommendations for legislation. Among them were protection for women and children, rights of working women, food supply and demand, social hygiene, the legal status of women, and American citizenship. The League's first major national legislative success was the passage of the Sheppard-Towner Act, which provided federal aid for maternal and child care programs.
When was the Chicago League formed?
The Illinois League was organized in 1920, and shortly thereafter several Leagues were formed in Chicago neighborhoods. By 1923, Chicago had Leagues in many parts of the city, ranging in size from the Austin League with thirty members to the Hyde Park League with four hundred and ﬁfteen.
ln 1946, the National League Convention decided that there could be only one League in each governmental unit such as the city, but to reorganize the several Chicago Leagues into one group proved very difficult. For four long years, representatives from local Leagues met to work out the details, and, finally, in 1950, Chicago became a single League with ten branches — Douglas, Downtown, Englewood, Hyde Park, Lake Shore, North Side, South Shore, Southwest, West Side, and Woodlawn.
Dorothy Ogram was LWV Chicago’s first president. The portfolios of the first board of directors indicate the extent of LWV Chicago’s policy interests at the time: natural resources, welfare, finance, international trade, civil rights, education, housing, and government structure.
Over sixty years later, LWV Chicago attracts members from just as many areas of the city who advocate for just as wide a range of policies as it did when it was founded.