League of Women Voters

Last updated
League of Women Voters of the United States
LWV Logo.svg
FoundedFebruary 14, 1920
Founder Carrie Chapman Catt
Type Political advocacy
FocusPolitical action, civic engagement
Key people
Chris Carson (President) [1]
$4,647,062 (2014) [2]
Website LWV.org

The League of Women Voters (LWV) is an American civic organization that was formed to help women take a larger role in public affairs after they won the right to vote. It was founded in 1920 to support the new women suffrage rights and was a merger of National Council of Women Voters, founded by Emma Smith DeVoe, and National American Woman Suffrage Association, led by Carrie Chapman Catt, approximately six months before the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution gave women the right to vote. The League of Women Voters began as a "mighty political experiment" aimed to help newly enfranchised women exercise their responsibilities as voters. Originally, only women could join the league; but in 1973 the charter was modified to include men. LWV operates at the local, state, and national level, with over 1,000 local and 50 state leagues, and one territory league in the U.S. Virgin Islands. [3]


The League of Women Voters is officially nonpartisan—it neither supports nor opposes candidates or parties. However, it does support a variety of progressive public policy positions, including campaign finance reform, universal health care, abortion rights, climate change action and environmental regulation, and gun control. [3] [4]


In 1909, Emma Smith DeVoe proposed at the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) convention in Seattle that a separate organization be created to educate women on election processes and lobby for favorable legislation on women's issues. When her proposal was ignored, DeVoe founded the National Council of Women Voters in 1911. She recruited western suffragists and organizations to join the league. [5] [6]

Ten years later, prior to the 1919 Convention of the NAWSA (in St. Louis, Missouri), Carrie Chapman Catt began negotiating with DeVoe to merge her organization with a new league that would be the successor to the NAWSA. Catt was concerned that DeVoe's alignment with the more radical Alice Paul might discourage conservative women from joining the National Council of Women Voters and thus proposed formation of a new league. As fifteen states had already ratified the 19th Amendment, the women wanted to move forward with a plan to educate women on the voting process and shepherd their participation.

Though not all members of either organization were in favor of a merger, a motion was made at the 1919 NAWSA convention to merge the two organizations into a successor, the National League of Women Voters. The merger was officially completed on 6 January 1920, though for the first year the league operated as a committee of the NAWSA. [7] [8] [9] The formal organization of the League was drafted at the 1920 Convention held in Chicago. [10]


The LWV sponsored the United States presidential debates in 1976, 1980 and 1984. [11] [12] On October 2, 1988, the LWV's 14 trustees voted unanimously to pull out of the debates, and on October 3 they issued a press release condemning the demands of the major candidates' campaigns. LWV President Nancy Neuman said that the debate format would "perpetrate a fraud on the American voter" and that the organization did not intend to "become an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public." [13] [14]

State and local leagues host candidate debates to provide candidates' positions at all levels of government. [15]

In 2012, LWV created National Voter Registration Day, a day when volunteers work to register voters and increase participation. [16]

The League sponsors voter's guides including Smart Voter and Voter's Edge, which was launched in collaboration with MapLight. [17] The League, including state and local leagues, runs VOTE411.org, a website that allows voters to input their address and get candidate information tailored to their ballot. [18]

Policy views

League of Women Voters members in front of the White House, 1924 League Women Voters, White House.jpg
League of Women Voters members in front of the White House, 1924

The League lobbied for the establishment of the United Nations, and later became one of the first groups to receive status as a nongovernmental organization with the U.N. [19]

The League has opposed voter ID laws and supported efforts at campaign finance reform in the United States. [20] LWV opposed the decision in Citizens United v. FEC . [21] [22] The League supports increased regulation of political spending. [23]

The League pushed for adoption of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which requires states to offer voter registration at all driver's license agencies, at social service agencies, and through the mail. [24] [25]

The League endorsed passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, which banned soft money in federal elections and made other reforms in campaign finance laws. [26] [27]

LWV supports the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the Kyoto Protocol. [28] [29] LWV opposes the proposed Keystone Pipeline project. [30]

In January 2013, the League of Women Voters in Hawaii urged President Obama to take action on climate change under his existing authority, the Clean Air Act of 1990, which the League supported. [31]

The League supports the abolition of the death penalty. [32]

LWV supports universal health care and endorses both Medicaid expansion and the Affordable Care Act. [33] [34] [35]

The League supports a general income tax increase to finance national health care reform for the inclusion of reproductive health care, including abortion, in any health benefits package. The League supports abortion rights and strongly opposed the passage of the Partial-Birth Abortion Act. [36] [37] [38]

The League actively opposed welfare reform legislation proposed in the 104th Congress. [39]

The League opposes school vouchers. [40] In 1999, LWV challenged a Florida law that allowed students to use school vouchers to attend other schools. [41]

In May 2019, the League joined 400 other national, state, and local groups, in urging Congress to ensure passage of legislation that offers a path to citizenship to Dreamers and beneficiaries of temporary protected status and deferred enforced departure. [42]

The League advocates gun control policies including regulating firearms and supporting licensing procedures for gun ownership by private citizens to include a waiting period for background checks, personal identity verification, gun safety education and annual license renewal. [43]


A national board of directors consisting of four officers, eight elected directors, and not more than eight board-appointed directors, most of whom reside in the Metro Washington D.C. area, govern the League subject to the Bylaws of the League of Women Voters of the United States. The national board is elected at the national convention and sets position policy. [44]

Local Leagues and state Leagues are organized in order to promote the purposes of the League and to take action on local and state governmental matters. These Leagues (chapters) have their own directors and officers. The national board may withdraw recognition from any state or local League for failure to fulfill recognition requirements. [44]

Notable members

Founder Carrie Chapman Catt Carrie Chapman Catt - National Woman's Party Records.jpg
Founder Carrie Chapman Catt

See also

Related Research Articles

Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution Grants women the right to vote; prohibiting denial of voting rights on the basis of sex

The Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the states and the federal government from denying the right to vote to citizens of the United States on the basis of sex. Initially introduced to Congress in 1878, several attempts to pass a women's suffrage amendment failed until passing the House of Representatives on May 21, 1919, followed by the Senate on June 4, 1919. It was then submitted to the states for ratification. On August 18, 1920, Tennessee was the last of the necessary 36 states to secure ratification. The Nineteenth Amendment was officially adopted on August 26, 1920: the culmination of a decades-long movement for women's suffrage at both state and national levels.

National Woman Suffrage Association US 19th-century suffrage organization

The National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) was formed on May 15, 1869, in New York City. The National Association was created in response to a split in the American Equal Rights Association over whether the woman's movement should support the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Its founders, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, opposed the Fifteenth Amendment unless it included women's right to vote. Men were able to join the organization as members; however, women solely controlled the leadership of the group. The NWSA worked to secure women's enfranchisement through a federal constitutional amendment. Contrarily, its rival, the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA), believed success could be more easily achieved through state-by-state campaigns. In 1890 the NWSA and the AWSA merged to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA).

National American Woman Suffrage Association organization

The National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) was an organization formed on February 18, 1890, to advocate in favor of women's suffrage in the United States. It was created by the merger of two existing organizations, the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) and the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA). Its membership, which was about seven thousand at the time it was formed, eventually increased to two million, making it the largest voluntary organization in the nation. It played a pivotal role in the passing of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which in 1920 guaranteed women's right to vote.

Carrie Chapman Catt 19th and 20th-century American social reformer and suffragist

Carrie Chapman Catt was an American women's suffrage leader who campaigned for the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which gave U.S. women the right to vote in 1920. Catt served as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and was the founder of the League of Women Voters and the International Alliance of Women. She "led an army of voteless women in 1919 to pressure Congress to pass the constitutional amendment giving them the right to vote and convinced state legislatures to ratify it in 1920" and "was one of the best-known women in the United States in the first half of the twentieth century and was on all lists of famous American women".

National Womans Party organization

The National Woman's Party (NWP) is an American women's political organization formed in 1916 to fight for women's suffrage. After achieving this goal with the 1920 adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the NWP advocated for other issues including the Equal Rights Amendment, which is still seeking ratification today. The most prominent leader of the National Woman's Party was Alice Paul, and its most notable event was the 1917–1919 Silent Sentinels vigil outside the gates of the White House.

Womens suffrage in the United States Womens voting rights in the USA

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Laura Clay, co-founder and first president of the Kentucky Equal Rights Association, was a leader of the American women's suffrage movement. She was one of the most important suffragists in the South, favoring the states' rights approach to suffrage. A powerful orator, she was active in the Democratic Party and had important leadership roles in local, state and national politics. In 1920 at the Democratic National Convention, she was one of two women, alongside Cora Wilson Stewart, to be the first women to have their names placed into nomination for the presidency at the convention of a major political party.

<i>Womans Journal</i> American womens rights periodical published from 1870-1931.

Woman's Journal was an American women's rights periodical published from 1870 to 1931. It was founded in 1870 in Boston, Massachusetts, by Lucy Stone and her husband Henry Browne Blackwell as a weekly newspaper. In 1917 it was purchased by Carrie Chapman Catt's Leslie Woman Suffrage Commission and merged with The Woman Voter and National Suffrage News to become known as The Woman Citizen. It served as the official organ of the National American Woman Suffrage Association until 1920, when the organization was reformed as the League of Women Voters, and the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was passed granting women the right to vote. Publication of Woman Citizen slowed from weekly, to bi-weekly, to monthly. In 1927, it was renamed The Woman's Journal. It ceased publication in June 1931.

Carrie Chapman Catt House United States historic place

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Kentucky Equal Rights Association

Kentucky Equal Rights Association (KERA) was the first permanent statewide women's rights organization in Kentucky. Founded in November 1888, the KERA voted in 1920 to transmute itself into the Kentucky League of Women Voters to continue its many and diverse progressive efforts on behalf of women's rights.

Minnie Fisher Cunningham Suffragist, politician

Minnie Fisher Cunningham was an American suffrage politician, who was the first executive secretary of the League of Women Voters and who worked for the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution giving women the vote. A political worker with liberal views, she became one of the founding members of the Woman's National Democratic Club. In her position overseeing the club's finances, she helped the organization purchase of its Washington, D.C. headquarters, which is still in use.

The Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association (MWSA) was an organization devoted to women's suffrage in Minnesota. From 1881 to 1920, the organization struggled to secure women's right to vote. Its members organized marches, wrote petitions and letters, gathered signatures, gave speeches, and published pamphlets and broadsheets to force the Minnesota Legislature to recognize their right to vote. Due to their efforts, the legislature approved the Nineteenth Amendment in 1919.

This timeline highlights milestones in women's suffrage in the United States, particularly the right of women to vote in elections at federal and state levels.

Women's suffrage in states of the United States refers to women's right to vote in individual states of that country. Suffrage was established on a full or partial basis by various towns, counties, states and territories during the latter decades of the 19th century and early part of the 20th century. As women received the right to vote in some places, they began running for public office and gaining positions as school board members, county clerks, state legislators, judges, and, in the case of Jeannette Rankin, as a Member of Congress.

The Woman Suffrage Party (WSP) was a New York city political organization dedicated to women's suffrage. It was founded in New York by Carrie Chapman Catt at the Convention of Disfranchised Women in 1909. WSP called itself "a political union of existing equal suffrage organizations in the City of New York." WSP was many New York women's first experience with politics and "contributed directly to the passage of a woman suffrage amendment in New York state."

The Texas Equal Suffrage Association (TESA) was an organization founded in 1903 to support white women's suffrage in Texas. It was originally formed under the name of the Texas Woman Suffrage Association (TWSA) and later renamed in 1916. TESA did allow men to join. TESA did not allow black women as members, because at the time to do so would have been "political suicide." The El Paso Colored Woman's Club applied for TESA membership in 1918, but the issue was deflected and ended up going nowhere. TESA focused most of their efforts on securing the passage of the federal amendment for women's right to vote. The organization also became the state chapter of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). After women earned the right to vote, TESA reformed as the Texas League of Women Voters.

The Missouri League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization to inform women voters in the American state of Missouri and encourage their participation in the political process. It was founded in 1919 as a successor to the Equal Suffrage League, a campaign for women's suffrage in the state, and appointed Edna Gellhorn as its first president. It is affiliated to the U.S.-wide League of Women Voters and organizes local branches in different parts of the state.

Women's suffrage in Virginia was granted in 1920 with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. The General Assembly, Virginia's governing legislative body, did not ratify the Nineteenth Amendment until 1952. The argument for women's suffrage in Virginia began in 1870, but it did not gain traction until 1909 with the founding of the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia. Between 1912 and 1916, Virginia's suffragists would bring the issue of women's voting rights to the floor of the General Assembly three times, petitioning for an amendment to the state constitution giving women the right to vote; they were defeated each time. During this period, the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia and its fellow Virginia suffragists fought against a strong anti-suffragist movement that tapped into conservative, post-Civil War values on the role of women, as well as racial fears. After achieving suffrage in August 1920, over 13,000 women registered within one month to vote for the first time in the 1920 United States presidential election.

Southern States Woman Suffrage Conference

The Southern States Woman Suffrage Conference was a group dedicated to winning voting rights for white women. The group consisted mainly of highly educated, middle and upper class white women of prominent families. They were originally part of the larger National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), but broke off in 1906. Prominent leaders in the group included Laura Clay and Kate Gordon, who supported and focused on local and state reforms rather than a national amendment. The group applied tactics like the Lost Cause, the belief that the Confederate cause was moral and just, and the Southern strategy, which appealed to white voters by promoting racism.


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Further reading