Making Democracy Work

History of the League of Women Voters

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.

Carrie Chapman Catt, LWV Founder

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.

History of the League in Darke County

The pre-provisional League of Women Voters of Darke County held an organizational meeting at the First United Methodist Church, Greenville August 5, 1979.

The purpose of the meeting was to set things in order so the league could receive full recognition as a provisional league under the standards of the state organization. As a provisional league we could not take action on any issues.

The preliminary organization committee members were: Mabel Albrecht, Marilyn Delk, Eileen Litchfield, Enid Goubeaux, Ellen Teller and Martha Benkert.

The first meeting to establish a provisional league met with State Board members October 31, 1979. The pre-provisional League of Women Voters of Darke County held the organizational meeting at the First United Methodist Church, February 28, 1980.

The following officers and board members were elected and appointed: President -- Grace Schmidt; Vice President -- Marilyn Delk; 2nd Vice President --Margret Bixler; Secretary --Eva Hartzell; and Treasurer--Edris Jenkins. Board Members were: Mary Alice Barr, Enid Goubeaux, Holly Finnarn, Eileen Litchfield, Sue Searls, Ellen Teller, Irene Winterrowd.

Nominating Committee: Martha Benkert, Chairperson; Eileen Litchfield, Laurie Albrecht, Georgette Lee.

The first meeting of the Provisional League of Darke County was held March 21, 1980. Sixty people attended. A letter was read from the National League acknowledging our provisional status.

Regular meetings were set for the fourth Thursday, board meetings were set for the second Monday. Reports were given on the government survey.

To become a "full-fledged" league, the Darke County group needed to publish a book on "Your County Government."

The League voted to sponsor a "Meet the Candidates Night." The candidates' night was April 24, 1980. There were approximately 70 people attending.

The first programs of study were: Local Government, Hazardous Waste, Children Services, Voter Service and County Taxation.

The first issue of the "Know Your County Government" included the following chapters: Darke County Past and Present, Election and Political Parties, County Government and Services with an organizational chart, Financing county Government, Justice, Welfare, Health, Education and the other Government Services.

January 9, 1980; Three R's for membership --Recruit, Regain, Retain.

July 1980 President Grace Schmidt read a mail-o-gram from the state president asking us to send a telegram to Ronald Reagan protesting the Republican party's plank on ERA.

February 1981; Training for Board members

May 1981; Grace Schmidt and Irene Winterrowd were sent as delegates to state convention as observers. However, they could not vote until we became a full- fledged league.

April 23, 1981; we held our first annual meeting catered by the Drummer Boy Restaurant.

November 1981 we had a Flea Market as our first fund raiser.

November 10, 1982, the local league was granted official recognition as a full -fledged league, with all of the accompanying privileges and responsibilities.

May 1982 the group held training of our new officers.

May 1983, the league presented an organizational chart of the County Government to the Darke County Commissioners.

In 1987 the general meetings were changed to the fourth Tuesday and Board meetings to first Tuesday.

As of 2001, 11 of the original 60 charter members were still members of the league.

Programs and Issues Studied included: Child Welfare, Juvenile Justice, Hazardous Waste, Voters' Service, Health Care, Government Finance, Education + Government of State Financing, Housing, Land Use, Animal Waste, and County Taxation.

Sponsored Programs were: Growing Your Own Physicians and Meet the Candidates Night.

Our fund raiser for 27 years has been Tour of Homes held in September each year. We did not have a Tour of Homes in 2009 & 2010. We had small fund raisers in 2009 & 2010.

The past Presidents were: 1980 + 1982 Grace Schmidt 1982 + 1983 Eileen Litchfield 1983 + 1985 Christine Wright 1985 + 1986 Carol Hosbrook 1986 + 1987 Christine Wright filled un-expired term 1987 + 1988 Wilda Stanfeld --Irene Winterrowd completed Wilda's term 1988 + 1989 Ellen Teller 1989 + 1990 Dede Wissman 1990 + 1993 Esther Barkley 1993 + 1995 Ellen Teller 1995 + 1997 Holly Finnarn 1997 + 1998 Ellen Teller 1998 + 1999 Diane Johnson 1999 + 2002 Holly Finnarn 2002 + 2003 Diane Johnson 2003 + 2005 Carla Surber 2005 + 2006 Holly Finnarn 2006 + 2007 Holly Finnarn 2007 + 2009 Diane Johnson & Holly Finnarn: Co-Presidents 2009 -- 2010 Diane Johnson & Karen Brooks: Co-Presidents 2010 -- 2012 Karen Brooks & Lyn Bliss: Co-Presidents