History of the National League of Women Voters
The League of Women Voters was founded by Carrie Chapman Catt in 1920 during the convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. The convention was held just six months before the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, giving women the right to vote after a 72-year struggle.
The League began as a "mighty political experiment" designed to help 20 million women carry out their new responsibilities as voters. It encouraged them to use their new power to participate in shaping public policy. From the beginning, the League was an activist, grassroots organization whose leaders believed that citizens should play a critical role in advocacy. It was then, and is now, a nonpartisan organization. League founders believed that maintaining a nonpartisan stance would protect the fledgling organization from becoming mired in the party politics of the day. However, League members were encouraged to be political themselves, by educating citizens about, and lobbying for, government and social reform legislation.
This holds true today. The League is proud to be nonpartisan, neither supporting nor opposing candidates or political parties at any level of government, but always working on vital issues of concern to members and the public. The League has a long, rich history,that continues with each passing year.
The Greater Lafayette League
Our local League was formed the same year as the organization was founded nationally, 1920.
Archives of the League of Women Voters of Greater Lafayette are stored at the Purdue University Libraries, Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center - 504 West State Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907 (765-494-2839).
Archived material includes the following:
- Material from the 1922 and 1945 state conventions held in Lafayette and 3 Histories of the League of Women Voters in Tippecanoe County.
- Constitutions and by-laws from the 1940s to 1970s
- Minutes from the Tippecanoe County League from 1930s to 1980s
- Correspondence and Annual Reports from the 1940s to 1970s
- Membership lists from the 1970s to 1970s
- Newsletters from 1950s to 1980s
- Various pamphlets about the League
- Committee reports from the 1950s to 1970s
- Records of meetings from the 1950s to 1970s
- Voters Service Committee materials from the 1950s to 1970s
- Studies conducted by the League (West Lafayette Public Library, 1957-8; Tippecanoe County area planning, 1950s to 1970s; Neighborhoods, 1960s to 1970s; Public Welfare, 1960s; Taxes; Foreign policy, 1950s to 1970s; Environmental quality including water resources and solid waste management, 1960s to 1970s)
- News-clippings and scrapbooks, 1950s to 1970s
Additional Resources in the Libraries
A Lafayette resident from 1860 to 1907 upon her death, Helen Gougar, was a national figure in the nineteenth century lecturing across the country on temperance and suffrage. Gougar also wrote, and practiced law in the state of Indiana.
A signed, digitized copy of Hoosier Helen Gougar's treatise The Constitutional Rights of the Women of Indiana from 1895 has been made available online through the Purdue archives.
Zerelda G. Wallace
Zerelda Wallace was a long time suffragette and resident of Crawfordsville, IN with numerous historical ties to the area. Read excerpts from the History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. III, 1876-1885 edited by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda Joslyn Gage related to the statements of Zerelda Wallace and with reference to Helen Gougar.
Paulina T. Merritt
An additional collection of interest on women's suffrage is titled Finding Aid to the Paulina T. Merritt Papers on Indiana Women's Suffrage, 1860-1906.