The birthday party glowed with many women and men in white, with brilliant gold or purple “Votes for Women” sashes. Hats abounded. On February 14, the League of Women Voters (LWV)was 100 years young and Susan B Anthony had her 200 birthday on the 15th. The birthday celebration, on Saturday, February 15th was hosted by the LWV of Manatee County and included over 200 Manatee and Sarasota supporters.
Kathryn Chesley as Carrie Chapman Catt, the founder of the League, reached back to the past, telling of her motivations, struggles and triumphs. She was both enlightening and amusing. Patti Bingham, President of the LWV of Florida, moved the group to action, explaining that if the organization studies issues carefully and comes out with a position, they would never be in a position of supporting a candidate that does not supports all the positions of the league. The league advocates, educates and litigates and she asked for our support.
A historic exhibit of suffrage through the 100 years of the LWV was on display. There were 10 posters including such interesting items as 1848 women’s rights in the Iroquois nation vs US women, Sojourner Truth’s Ain’t I a Woman speech, League positions over the years, percentage of women vs men voting of the years, and many more. This exhibit can be obtained for use by schools, libraries and community organizations by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The League of Women Voters was formed six months before women gained the right to vote. Carrie Chapman Catt was the leader of the largest suffrage organization and, seeing the imminent passing of the 19th Amendment, established the League as a nonpartisan, voting rights, good governance organization to help women, and then all citizens in voting.
Founded in 1920, the League works to improve government systems and influence public policies through advocacy and education and it’s enduring vitality and resonance stem from its more than 800 state and local Leagues. Members do voter registration, hold candidate forums, issue Voter Guides to inform citizens on local races and ballot amendments, and sponsor educational programs on key issues.
An important key to its success has been its nonpartisanship, never endorsing or opposing particular political parties or candidates. Its membership includes citizens from all parties, or no party. LWV of Manatee President Alice Newlon says, “I think this is important, because it helps the League’s messages on issues and legislation remains above partisan politics. It also promotes inclusion for greater citizen involvement, and has allowed the League to develop a strong, trusted voice for its advocacy and education programs.”