LWV United States and our 100th Anniversary

Learn about the founding, history and upcoming 100th anniversary of the League of Women Voters of the United States.

Learn about the LWV Oregon and our local chapter HERE.

LWV United States history

History of the LWV

  • 1920 LWV founded as part of Women’s Suffrage Movement;
  • 19th Amendment to Constitution gave women the right to vote 6 months later
  • 1973 LWV charter amended to include male voters
  • by 2006 grassroots org. has chapters in 50 states, over 150,000 members
  • LWV is non-partisan;
    • does not endorse or oppose political candidates or parties at any level of govt.
    • does support or oppose many political issues after study and consensus
    • Our mission is to encourage the informed and active participation of citizens in their govt.

The League of Women Voters was founded in 1920 by Carrie Chapman Catt during the last meeting of the National American Woman Suffrage Association approximately six months before the 19th Amendment gave U.S. women the right to vote.  It began as a political experiment aimed at helping newly-enfranchised women exercise their responsibilities as voters.

The LWV works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and to influence public policy through education and advocacy, as well as through political lobbying of the United States Congress and state and local governments.

LWV United States organized

How LWV is organized

Voters Service and Citizen Education nationwide

The Voters Service and Citizen Education portion of the LWV informs and educates voters about candidates, the electoral process, and issues on which the LWV has no position.

  • 1976, 1980, and 1984, sponsored presidential debates
  • Sponsors and moderates candidates’ forums and debates for local and state elections across the country
  • Produces and disperses Voter’s Guides that compares candidates’ positions on various issues
  • Provides staff for precincts on Election Day
  • The LWV is a strong supporter of transparency in government and many chapters send members to observe meetings of governmental bodies.

On October 2, 1988, the LWVUS’s 14 trustees voted unanimously to pull out of national debate sponsorship because the demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter. On October 3, they issued a dramatic press release in protest of the major party candidates attempting to dictate nearly every aspect of how the debates were to be conducted, which ultimately resulted in the Democratic and Republican parties forming the Commission on Presidential Debates which gave the parties greater control over the debate environment.  LWVUS said “It has become clear to us that the candidates’ organizations aim to add debates to their list of campaign-trail charades, devoid of substance, spontaneity and answers to tough questions. The League has no intention of becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public.”

 Program and Action

Presents information on various issues

  • Studies issues at local, state, and national levels
  • Reaches consensus on issues
  • Writes Position Papers on issues for:
  • Voter education
  • Voter action

Our Program and Action component presents information on various issues that are studied for the purpose of taking a position.  Through a group discussion process, League chapters work to come to a consensus on a specific topic at local, state, or national levels.   When consensus is reached, a position statement can be issued that League members can then support and use to educate the general public or lobby government.

LWV United States vote

Joining locally makes a person a member at all levels, entitled to the National Voter magazine, and participation in activities at local, state, and national levels.

LWV 100th Anniversary

ABOUT THE 100th ANNIVERSARY: “Creating a More Perfect Democracy”

As the League of Women Voters prepares to celebrate our first centennial, collectively we will reflect on our history, showcase our current role as leaders in democracy, and set the stage for vibrant growth over the next century.
The League is proud of our rich history tied to the suffrage movement. We are the only organization founded before the 19th Amendment that is still in existence today.
In 2020 we will tell our stories and to showcase the impact of the League in our accomplishments at the local, state and federal levels.
Today the League is setting the stage for vibrant growth over the next century, with a new generation of leaders with the continued passion for active participation in government.

stay tuned for local events during 2019-2020 to celebrate the anniversary!

A Timeline of Historical Events

100 years ago, the U.S. House voted on passage of the 19th Amendment. Passage and ratification of the 19th Amendment meant that women across America would have the right to vote and make their voices heard on key policy development over the next hundred years.

After Congress passed the 19th Amendment in 1919, but before it was ratified in August of 1920, the same suffragists—who had fought for nearly a century to gain the right to vote for women—formed the League of Women Voters (LWV). 

In February 1920, after a 72-year struggle, passage of the 19th Amendment appeared to be imminent, and members of the National American Woman Suffrage Association met in Chicago to form the National League of Women Voters. From the start, the nonpartisan organization had a dual purpose: “To foster education in citizenship and to support improved legislation.” Today these two purposes of education and advocacy are still central to the LWV mission to “encourage informed and active participation in government.”

Several Oregon women were among the 2000 delegates to the NAWSA where the League of Women Voters was formed. One of them was Effie Simmons (Mrs. C.B. Simmons) who then became a member of the first board of directors of the National League of Women Voters and the regional director for the LWV in the states of Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington. Mrs. Simmons came back to Oregon to form the “Oregon Branch of the National League of Women Voters” in Portland in March 1920.

From that date on, many Leagues were activated across Oregon.  League of Women Voters Klamath County was founded in 1972.  One of our founding members was Nina Pence.  Her biography is quite a story and deserves our recognition during the coming 100th anniversary.

Nina Pence H & N article

Resources List

Below is a list of publications and films on the League’s history, women’s suffrage including information on Carrie Chapman Catt and the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association (NAWSA).

  • Born for Liberty: A History of Women in America – Sara M. Evans (1989, 1997)
  • Carrie Chapman Catt: A Life of Leadership – Nate Levin (1999)
  • Carrie Chapman Catt: Feminist Politician – Robert Booth Fowler (1986)
  • Century of Struggle: The Women’s Rights Movement in the United States – Eleanor Flexner and Ellen Fitzpatrick (1959, 1975)
  • Divided We Stand: The Battle Over Women’s Rights and Family Values That Polarized American Politics Marjorie Spruill (2017)
  • For the Public Record: A Documentary History of the League of Women Voters – Barbara Stuhler (2003)
  • The Ideas of the Woman Suffrage Movement 1890 – 1920 – Aileen S. Kraditor (1965, 1981)
  • Idols, Victims, Pioneers: Virginia’s Women from 1607 – James Wamsley with Anne Cooper (1976)
  • In League with Eleanor: Eleanor Roosevelt and the League of Women Voters 1921-1962 – Hilda R. Watrous (1984)
  • In the Public Interest: The League of Women Voters 1920 – 1970 – Louise M. Young (1989)
  • One Woman, One Vote: Rediscovering the Women’s Suffrage Movement (FILM) (1995)
  • One Woman, One Vote: Rediscovering the Women’s Suffrage Movement – Marjorie Spruill Wheeler (1995)
  • The Paradox of Gender Equality: How American Women’s Groups Gained and Lost Their Public Voice – Kristin A. Goss (2013)
  • Sustaining the League of Women Voters in America – Maria Hoyt Cashin (2012, 2013)
  • Voting Down the Rose: Florence Brooks Whitehouse & Maine’s Fight for Woman Suffrage – Anne B. Gass (2014)
  • Winning the Vote: The Triumph of the American Woman Suffrage Movement – Robert P. J. Cooney, Jr. (2005)
  • Woman Suffrage and the New Democracy – Sara Hunter Graham (1996)
  • New Women of the New South – Marjorie Spruill Wheeler (1993)

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