Cheryl Ashe - activist, organizer, leader, librarian, communicator and educator – is the winner of the 2020 Making Democracy Award.
Please join the League of Women Voters of the South Bend Area at 7 pm on Tuesday, August 25 for the award presentation via Zoom, which will include a video commissioned especially for the event.
Ms. Ashe is a woman who has believed in her government and in herself to improve the lives of underserved populations.
Like the early suffragists, she signed on for the long term in a legislative pursuit that took many years.
Starting in 2012, she began lobbying Indiana legislators to make it possible for people with felony drug convictions to receive food stamps by changing the law that barred them from the program. She fought for passage of the bill for many years.
Finally, in 2018, the bill passed both chambers of the Indiana General Assembly, and the law was changed. Cheryl’s proposal was supported by 15 different groups, including the Midwest Food Bank, Goodwill, United Way and the Indiana Township Association.
Ms. Ashe retired from the St. Joseph County Public Library in 2007. As a local librarian, she worked to establish modified library cards for patrons living in homeless shelters and other forms of temporary housing. She also worked for the inclusion of gay-oriented magazines in the library system’s collection.
During her library career in St. Joseph County, she also directed special services, including the organization of literacy volunteers serving the immigrant community. As head librarian at the LaSalle Branch Library, she organized book clubs for reluctant readers, particularly boys in grades 7-12.
In her retirement from library work, Cheryl has worked in voter registration and get-out-the-vote initiatives, and has driven voters to the polls for the organization called Faith in Indiana. She has encouraged them to engage in democracy by attending League of Women Voters’ candidate events.
Since 2012, she has also hosted “Have You Read,” a public access, live program about non-fiction books authored by African Americans and topics related to the African American experience.
After the award presentation, the League will host “Rhetoric and Reality; A Century of Votes for Women,” a lecture by Christina Wolbrecht, professor of political science and director of the Rooney Center for the Study of American Democracy at the University of Notre Dame.
Dr. Wolbrecht is co-author, with J. Kevin Corder of A Century of Votes for Women: American Elections Since Suffrage (Cambridge 2020). The book examines how women voted across the first 100 years since the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment.
In her lecture, Wolbrecht will explore a number of popular misunderstandings about women voters over the past century and show that women do not comprise a single voting bloc. Rather, women voters are diverse in their interests and identities, especially in terms of race. How are assumptions and perceptions leading the public, press, and politicians to misunderstand women voters today?
Both the award presentation and Dr. Wolbrecht’s lecture are part of the League’s 100th Anniversary Celebration. The League was launched after the 19th Amendment was signed into law on August 26, 1920.