League of Women Voters
Large parade of women. One woman holding a sign stating, "Women Started the Playground Movement," Cleveland, Ohio, 1930.
Women gained the right to vote in 1920 with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Many women did begin to vote in the 1920s, and a few also ran for office. The attitudes of American society had not really changed, however, and many women did not exercise their right to vote. The League of Women Voters was founded in 1920 to encourage participation in the political process and to educate voters about political issues and candidates. It was a nonpartisan organization, without ties to either the Democratic or the Republican political parties. Carrie Chapman Catt, the president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, helped to found the League of Women Voters.
The League of Women Voters has been active in Ohio from the outset. There are both local chapters and a state chapter of the organization in Ohio. One of the earliest chapters was founded in Cleveland in April 1920. Belle Sherwin, one of the leaders of the Cleveland League of Women Voters, became president of the national organization in 1924. She remained as president for the next ten years. The Cleveland chapter also was the first in the nation to publish candidate's views on major issues. Cleveland League members, as well as many women across the nation, became interested in international issues and became involved in the peace movement in the 1920s. In 1939, the League of Women Voters worked with the Ohio Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs and the National Women's Party to oppose passage of the Dunn Bill. The Dunn Bill would have prohibited the state from employing married women.
Although the League was originally focused on women voters, its mission has expanded to include all voters. Today, the League of Women Voters operates at the local, state, and national levels. Its members are involved in registering voters, providing nonpartisan information about political candidates, sponsoring debates and other public forums about political issues, and publishing educational pamphlets about public policy concerns. The League is involved in influencing public policy related to such issues as the democratic process, public health and safety, education, environmentalism, among many others.
- Stuhler, Barbara. For the Public Record: A Documentary History of the League of Women Voters. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000.
- Young, Louise M. In the Public Interest: The League of Women Voters, 1920-1970. New York, NY: Greenwood Press, 1989.