What Is the League of Women Voters' Mission?
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.
What Does the League Do Now?
The League of Women Voters is a peoples' organization that has fought since 1920 to improve our government and engage all Americans in the decisions that impact their lives. We operate at national, state and local levels through more than 800 state and local Leagues, in all 50 states as well in DC, the Virgin Islands and Hong Kong. We never endorse or oppose political parties or candidates, but we are politically and civically active.
Formed from the movement that secured the right to vote for women, the centerpiece of the League’s efforts remain 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 different from many organizations in that what it accomplishes comes directly from the involvement of its members. It is a grassroots organization providing every member with opportunities to learn and educate others about government, and take action on public policy. We walk our talk: 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, your talent or all you can feel confident that your investment in democracy goes further in the League.
Groups of League members meet to 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 the League will expose you to a breadth of experiences and issues that will not only inform you but create greater possibilities for civic engagement than you might imagine. You can spend as much or as little time as you wish. Whether you aspire to leadership or are keen to follow the lead of experienced members, the League will excite, use, and nurture your civic curiosity, ideals, or desire for action. We offer our members webinars, conference calls, workshops, other events and mentorship opportunities throughout the year, at the local, regional, state and national levels.
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What is the History of the League of Women Voters?
"The League of Women Voters is not to dissolve any present organization but to unite all existing organizations of women who believe in its principles. It is not to lure women from partisanship but to combine them in an effort for legislation which will protect coming movements, which we cannot even foretell, from suffering the untoward conditions which have hindered for so long the coming of equal suffrage. Are the women of the United States big enough to see their opportunity?"
Maud Wood Park became the first national president of the League and thus the first League leader to rise to the challenge. She had steered the women's suffrage amendment through Congress in the last two years before ratification and liked nothing better than legislative work. 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. In fact, the first league convention voted 69 separate items as statements of principle and recommendations for legislation. Among them were protections 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 providing federal aid for maternal and child care programs. In the 1930's, League members worked successfully for enactment of the Social Security and Food and Drug Acts. Due at least in part to League efforts, legislation passed in 1938 and 1940 removed hundreds of federal jobs from the spoils system and placed them under Civil Service.
During the postwar period, the League helped lead the effort to establish the United Nations and to ensure U.S. Participation. The League was one of the first organizations in the country officially recognized by the United Nations as a non-governmental organization; it still maintains official observer status today.
Votes for Women:
100 Years of Women’s Suffrage
Women posing in front of a Guthrie voting booth, June 1889
(2012.201.B0232.0194, Oklahoma Publishing Company Photography Collection, OHS)
full article: https://www.okhistory.org/learn/votesforwomen
While Oklahoma was a territory, only four states allowed women to vote: Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and Idaho. With the ability to decide their own voter qualifications, the 1890 Oklahoma Territorial Legislature determined that women could vote in school elections and would be eligible to hold public offices anywhere outside of first class cities, which had populations of 2,500 or more. However, women were not otherwise considered “qualified voters.” The introduction of a bill granting equal suffrage, put forth by Robert J. Barker of Logan County, quickly failed.
At the same time, the national movement for women’s suffrage was growing. The National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage Association united to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association. In 1895, the National American Woman Suffrage Association sent a representative on a speaking tour to towns throughout Oklahoma Territory. In Guthrie, Margaret Rees, “the Mother of Equal Suffrage,” became president of the newly formed Woman Suffrage Association of Oklahoma. By 1896, organization efforts resulted in the establishment of more than twenty local suffrage clubs across Oklahoma Territory.
In 1915, equal suffrage was not brought up in the regular session of the Oklahoma Legislature. Though an amendment passed the House during the 1916 extraordinary session, the Senate choose not to take up the issue. At this time, many legislators were concerned with getting a “Grandfather Clause” or literacy test on the ballot, meant to keep African Americans from voting. They feared that adding a women’s suffrage amendment would distract or confuse voters at the polls. Even without suffrage, the literacy test amendment failed.
By 1917, most legislators were favorable toward introducing the option of suffrage at the general election. Before the measure passed, however, there was a failed attempt to once again pass the literacy test, this time by putting it on the back of female voting rights and riding the increased popularity of the female cause. On March 16, 1917, the legislature finally voted for a clean suffrage amendment to be voted in the general election in November 1918.
Despite the efforts of some state election officials to rig the vote by not printing enough ballots or by failing to attach the constitutional questions to regular ballots, on November 5, 1918, the suffrage amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution was ratified by a vote of 106,909 to 81,481. Oklahoma joined the minority of states with legalized suffrage. Equal suffrage nationwide for white women was not granted until 1920 with the passage of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution. Black women did not get full voting rights until the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Oklahoma women continued to fight until 1942 to be granted the ability to hold state executive offices. The granting of this right ended the battle for full female suffrage within the state.
For more see the History section of the League of Women Voters of the US website.