Background

Background

suffragists

What Is the League of Women Voters' Mission?

The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in citizenship, elections and democracy, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues and to influence public policy through education and advocacy.

What Does the League Do?

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 the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands and Hong Kong.  We have many male members but we have not changed our name as a homage to our suffragist roots. We are a non-partisan organization that never endorses or opposes specific political parties or candidates. 

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. The issues we study and advocate are grounded in our history of making democracy work for all.

Why is the League Important?

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. 

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 that are well known for being fair, transparent and civil, earning the League a global reputation for integrity.  

You can devote as much or as little time as you wish to League activities. 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. 

What is the League's History?

In her address to the National American Woman Suffrage Association's (NAWSA) 50th convention in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1919, 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 NAWSA was then composed of organizations in the states where suffrage had already been attained. The next year, on Feb. 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. 
 
From the very beginning, it was apparent that the legislative goals of the League were not exclusively focused on women's issues but rather on citizen education aimed at all voters.
 

At the first League convention, members approved 69 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 providing federal aid for maternal and child care programs.

In the 1930s, 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 that 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.

In recent years, the League has been a leader in both legislative and judicial efforts to end gerrymandering, overturn laws that restrict access to voting and secure broader access to the polls.  

See the History section of the League of Women Voters of the US website.