LWV Centennial Anniversary

LWV Centennial Anniversary

Carrie Chapman Catt

The League of Women Voters is Turning 100!

The League of Women Voters celebrates its 100th anniversary this year; the LWV Charleston Area joins more than 700 other local and state chapters to celebrate this historic milestone.

On February 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

Since its inception, 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. The League has helped millions of women and men become informed participants in government.

The League of Women Voters president, Chris Carson, issued the following statement regarding the League’s efforts ahead:

Today we are faced with many challenges that threaten to compromise our democracy. Our efforts to support voting rights and to fight against voter suppression and discrimination at the local, state and national levels have been very successful, and this has been achieved primarily by educating and empowering voters, circulating special petitions, and intervening in several critical court cases.

The League’s historic commitment to register, educate and mobilize voters is not only stronger, but more effective than ever, utilizing such tools as Vote411.org—a cutting-edge election information website utilized by millions of voters each election cycle. As we look to a vibrant future on the threshold of our next 100 years, the League is excited that dedicated members across South Carolina continue to steadily attract significant numbers of activists who share the League’s commitment to Making Democracy Work.

1947: LWV of South Carolina is Formed

Thirty years after LWVUS was born, at a conference in Columbia, SC, delegates from the local Leagues of Charleston (1947), Columbia (1947), and Spartanburg (1948) joined with representatives from Greenville and Sumter to form the League of Women Voters of South Carolina (LWVSC). Official recognition for the LWVSC came in June 1951. Today, 12 local Leagues serve communities across South Carolina.

The following article, "League's 50 years promoting change," was published on the op-ed page of The Post and Courier on December 1, 1997. The article was written by Diane Shockey, who was president of the League of Women Voters of the Charleston Area at the time of publication.

LEAGUE'S 50 YEARS PROMOTING CHANGE

It was 50 years ago, early in December of 1947, that The League of Women Voters of the Charleston Area was formed. And like most golden anniversaries, the League is celebrating in a big way. Associate Justice Jean Toal, SC Supreme Court, will be the guest speaker at the anniversary dinner being held this Thursday. Past accomplishments and future goals will be highlighted.

Estella Fitch Harris and Harriet Simons, who served as the first president, were the founding mothers of the oldest local League in the state of South Carolina, with some 40 charter members.

Among the League's early efforts was making county government more open to citizens by supporting a change to a council-manager form of government. The Marshall Plan, for European recovery following World War II, was chosen as the League's first study item. League members could be seen observing meetings of public bodies, such as city council and school board.

Members worked hard to encourage voter participation by passing out information on candidates and issues from their card tables set up on King and Meeting Streets. Another early effort of the newly formed Charleston League was enforcing the voter registration board's compliance with state law in keeping open the mandated number of hours. The public schools, underprivileged children, a countywide library system, and planning and zoning were other issues addressed by the local League in the latter part of the 1950s.

The League studied governmental responsibility for the care of the indigent sick, water pollution in Charleston harbor, the building of a new auditorium, and the structure of county government. During that decade the Charleston League became the first in the state to have a black member. The League was active in assisting the local board of voter registration in bringing the city's registration books up to date. Forums were held regarding arguments for and against a merger of the city and the suburbs.

In the `60s, as a service to voters, the League began publishing a questionnaire prior to elections, setting forth the views of candidates on various issues. Major accomplishments at this time included assistance to the city in the auditorium referendum, support of the referendum for an appointed superintendent of education, and publication of the Charleston County Political Directory.

Areas of study included tax reassessment, the improvement of county government, and a re-evaluation of the financing of urban renewal. The League continued to support the council-manager form of government for the county, and an adequate library system, countywide planning and zoning, and a locally financed urban renewal program. Studied were prepared on the feasibility of consolidation of county services and on water and air pollution. The `70s brought out League support for a new countywide property assessment program and support for the county's case for a solid waste disposal system. Members continued voter registration and providing information on candidates and issues and in sponsoring candidates forums. Housing, welfare measures, pollution, countywide planning and zoning, and equalization of tax assessments were other issues addressed. By the end of that decade emergency medical service and home rule for the county were being addressed as well.

The `80s saw a continuation of candidates forums and concerns about the quality of education being offered in our schools. County council's method of appointments to boards and commissions was questioned, with the League stating that qualifications and not politics should be the prime consideration for candidates.

A state study consensus meeting on the subject of apportionment was held, and the League co-sponsored a panel discussion on the subject of double taxation. The League continued its support for a council-manager form of county government and continued to sponsor candidates debates.

The `90s finds the League continuing efforts to involve citizens in the affairs of their government. Important issues have been transportation, children at risk, education, nonpartisan city elections, and the national League program "Making Democracy Work." The five components of this program are voter participation, campaign financing reform, civic education and knowledge, diversity of representation, and civic participation. A highlight of this decade has been Mayor Riley's declaring Thursday, September 23, 1992, as Jean Hodges Day. Jean is one of the charter members of the League and is still an active member.

During the past 50 years, the Charleston Area League of Women Voters has worked toward encouraging informed and active participation in government by all citizens. Each year the League undertakes a full program of study on local, state and national issues, in addition to preparing and disseminating information for voters.

Reflecting on the issues studied, forums held and causes supported, it is easy to notice that change is slow to take place, and that repeated effort is needed to bring about that change and, finally, that change cannot or will not take place without grassroots citizen involvement and continued effort. This is what the League of Women Voters of the Charleston Area does best, and hopes to continue doing for the next 50 years.

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