The League of Women Voters started after women got the right to vote.
In her address to the National American Woman Suffrage Association’s (NAWSA) 50th convention in St. Louis, Missouri, 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.” Women Voters was formed within the NAWSA, composed of the organizations in the states where suffrage had already been attained.
The next year, 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. Catt described the purpose of the new organization:
“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 protection for women and children, right 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.
See also League History from the League of Women Voters of the US.
In Alpena in January of 1964, in the cold winter of northern Michigan, the League of Women Voters of Alpena County had their first organizational meeting. In just a year and a half, the League had done a “Know Your County” study and had the required 35 members. The President of the LWV US said in the letter to the new official League that she was proud of the money that we had raised and glad to see that our League could find good places to spend the money. One of the original members of our League is still an active board member. On the 21st Birthday Celebration, the League sponsored a contest for sixth graders in the local public and parochial schools. “What Freedom Means to Me” was the topic for the writing contest. Copies of the winning essays were sent to legislators in Washington, D.C. and Lansing, MI.
On the Fiftieth Anniversary of our League, we celebrated with a skit about how to adopt a study, and more serious matters, such as the history of our Waterfront and Water Quality since our town is on Lake Huron. We also reviewed our study of our nearby State Park-Negwegon.
Our League favors a park that is used for hiking and supports the development of nature trails. We have worked with others to continue to protect, preserve and promote the park. Our League had 34 members. Over the years, some of our most effective actions have been non-partisan voter education forums on local topics such as recycling, eradicating phragmites, encouraging candidates to run, and informing our community about issues related to our local schools, library and hospital.
In 2019 our Voters Service activities took up most of our time and energy. We registered voters in high schools and on the street, marched in parades, held voter forums, millage issue forums, and sent letters urging YES votes on state and local issues to our regional daily newspaper. We are considering expanding our League area to include several more counties.
Currently our League has five 50-year members and three student members. We have grown from the original 35 to our current membership of over 60 members. We are eager to enter the next year and decade.
In 2020 we changed our name to Northeast Michigan LWV. We will cover the counties of Alcona, Alpena, and Presque in all our activities. Our board has members from all 3 counties, and we covered all 3 counties in our Voter Service Activities. When the Covid 19 shutdown occurred, we moved to zoom format for our Candidate Forums, informational meetings, and board meetings. Our 2021 Annual Meeting was an in-person meeting. We just held our first in-person Lunch Bunch. We are ready to start up some of our past activities that have been canceled because of the Covid 19 virus shutdown.