History of the League of Women Voters

In her address to the National American Woman Suffrage Association's (NAWSA) 50th convention in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1919, President Carrie Chapman Catt proposed the creation of a league of women voters to aid in the reconstruction of the nation as a nonpartisan organization providing political education and experience to contribute to the growth of active citizenship and thus assure the success of democracy. 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?

Over the years, the League has tackled a diverse range of public policy issues:

  • the Social Security and Food and Drug Acts in the 1930s, as well as a merit-based civil service
  • the formation of the United Nations, where the League maintains official observer status to this day
  • civil liberties in the 1950s
  • equal access to education, employment and housing in the 1960s
  • environmental issues in the 1980s.

In recent decades, the League has emphasized citizen education on the structure of government, from citizen schools for the study of principles of government to local Know Your Town surveys and publications, and voter education and rights, from support for the Voting Rights Act Amendments of 1982 to its current push to ensure access to the polls for every citizen.

See League of Women Voters: Making History, excerpted from the LWVUS document "In League" (PDF, 2002)

In 1939, the League of Women Voters of Amherst was founded by Amherst residents who already belonged to the Northampton League and twenty members of an Amherst reading club. The latter group had just read Gunther’s Inside Europe and wanted to continue studying world affairs. Over the following decades the Amherst League has studied and taken action on a wide range of national, state, and local issues. It has also provided voter information, registered voters, and worked on special projects. Of the many issues that have engaged the Amherst League, schools, planning, and town government have appeared on the agenda almost continuously over the years. In the past quarter century the issues of campaign finance and health care have emerged as major topics.

See League of Women Voters of Amherst: Eighty Years of Action, a history of the Amherst League prepared for our 80th anniversary (PDF, 2019)