The League of Women Voters evolved out of the American suffrage movement as a civic organization to help women take a larger role in public life as they won the right to vote. At the final convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association in February 1920, the League of Women Voters was created under the leadership of President Carrie Chapman Catt and the Executive Board. Congress had already approved the Nineteenth Amendment the year prior, and with ratification imminent, the need was clear for a new organization to encourage informed and active participation in government by women. Maud Wood Park, former head of the suffrage association’s Congressional Committee, served as the League of Women Voters’ first President.
Since its inception, the League of Women Voters has supported millions of citizens in becoming more informed participants in our government and political processes. The first League convention passed 69 separate items as statements of principle and/or recommendations for legislation. Among the issues addressed were protection for women and children; the rights of working women; food supply and demand; social hygiene; the legal status of women; and American citizenship.
The League’s first major legislative success came in the passage of the Sheppard-Towner Act, which provided federal aid for maternal and child care programs. This first success established the League of Women Voters as a voice for reasoned domestic policy changes. Subsequent early advocacy efforts include the passage of the Social Security and Food & Drug Acts in the 1930s.
After World War II, the League of Women Voters helped lead the effort to establish the United Nations and to ensure US participation. The League was later one of the first entities in the United States to be recognized by the United Nations as a non-governmental organization, and it continues to maintain official observer status today.
Our local organization, the League of Women Voters of Bellingham /Whatcom County keeps all of its records at the Western Washington University Archives; those records are always available to the public.
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