In preparation for the 100th anniversary of the League of Women Voters of New York State in November 2019, the following history of the League of Women Voters of the Rivertowns was compiled to submit to the state league.
Our research found that the so-named Rivertowns League appeared in 2000 and included Hastings on Hudson, Dobbs Ferry and Irvington. Since that time the Rivertowns League has welcomed members from all Westchester County communities that do not have their own league. Our membership primarily consists of residents on or near the Hudson River: Yonkers, Hastings-On-Hudson, Dobbs Ferry, Irvington, Ardsley, Tarrytown, Sleepy Hollow, Ossining and Croton. Prior to 2000, many of our villages had individual Leagues.
The Hastings League first met on May 28, 1935. Topics under discussion were the legal status of women, fair utility rates, tax reduction and housing. In the ‘40s the League was instrumental in persuading the Village leaders to adopt the Council/Manager form of local government as a way to bring more professionalism to municipal management, as opposed to having elected politicians direct policy. Hastings continues this form of governance to this day. Later on in the ‘60s the League helped organize funding for a new library. Prior to that, the library was on the top floor of the Municipal Building. In the ‘80s, a League study resulted in the creation of a Senior Advocate, which position continues to this day and is a vital resource for our local senior citizens. Before computers, we produced a booklet called “Know your Village” that comprised a wealth of information about Hastings and which was revised every 5 years. The pamphlet was routinely given to realtors to distribute to newcomers. Membership has hovered around 100 members for many years.
Dobbs Ferry’s League was organized some time after the Hastings League, and by 1957 grew to over 100 members. In 1950 the League hosted an open forum on future village planning. This was cosponsored by the Dobbs Ferry Planning Board. In 1964 the League led a discussion of a proposed merger of the three school districts comprising Hasting, Dobbs Ferry and Irvington. The merger never happened, however, and the three school districts remain separate, although with some shared services. In 1969 the League hosted a dinner for 125 people to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the LWVUS. The event featured the modelling of vintage clothing from the suffragist era and the 1920s. It is interesting to note that the planners of the event were listed strictly by their husbands’ names, i.e., “Mrs. John Smith” etc.
We know there was a thriving League in Irvington during this time, but Historical Society records turned up little information, save for two League-researched pamphlets published in 1967 and 1979 respectively detailing village history, services and political structure. In the pamphlet from 1967 it was noted that first-time voter registrants were compelled to present either a diploma or proof of passage of a literacy exam. A member of our League recalled that the Irvington League actually disbanded in 1978, and members joined the Greenburgh League, which continuted to meet into the 80s until it too was dissolved, sending members to one or the other of the existing local leagues
Ardsley had a League of its own dating back at least to 1937, but research uncovered little. It appears that in the 70s they, too, may have folded into the Greenburgh League, eventually joining the Dobbs Ferry League.
Tarrytown’s League information is also somewhat scarce. In 1955 a meeting was held which attracted over 50 women. Babysitting was available! Their discussion included “permanent personal registration”, the NY Judicial System and International Trade. In 1957 there were 95 members. In 1959 the League published a history of Tarrytown entitled “The Tarrytown”. For many years they published a pamphlet entitled “They Represent You” – a detailed profile of local political office holders. In 1962 “Facts About Schools” was published. By 1964 membership had grown to 123, including Mrs. Nelson Rockefeller. In 1979 the Irvington LWV became subsumed under the Greenburgh League.