The League of Women Voters was formed in 1920 as an outgrowth of the movement to give women the right to vote following the passage of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That amendment was ratified in 1920, after a 57-year struggle. The League was characterized as a "mighty political experiment" designed to help 20 million women carry out their new responsibilities as voters. It encouraged them to use their new power to participate in shaping public policy.
Carrie Chapman Catt is generally credited as being the founder of the League. When she first wrote of how she envisioned the League in April 1919, she wrote, "The politicians used to ask why we wanted to vote. They seemed to think we want to do something particular with it, something we were not telling about. They did not understand that women wanted to help improve the general welfare of the people."
What issues has the League actively addressed?
Since 1910, the League has indeed helped improve the general welfare of the people. Some of the League's earliest causes included support for child labor laws, minimum wage, compulsory education and equal opportunity for women. Some of these issues affected the creation of laws that are still in force today.
A brief review of some other issues in which the League took a leadership role reads like a historical summary of our nation. The League has been involved in environmental issues, the fight against poverty and discrimination, the civil rights movement, reproductive freedom, health care reform and became a major advocate for campaign finance reform.
How does the League enhance democracy?
Many people talk about how we need greater participation from the public, but it may seem hard to find models of how to really put this to practice. The League of Women Voters is a model of participation in the democratic process at local, regional, state and federal levels.