Home » News » Strength through Defiance – My Love Letter to the League

Strength through Defiance – My Love Letter to the League

Dear Friend,

Today I decided to write a longer letter than usual.  It’s our League birthday, and I didn’t want to shortchange it in the interest of brevity.  I hope you’ll stick with me.

I look around the country every day and some days it feels like an assault on our existence.  Women’s rights to reproductive healthcare. The rights of transgender people to receive the medical care they need. The rights of children to learn a full and robust history that includes all people. In Duval County Florida, over 176 books have been banned as part of the erasure of the history and experiences of people of color and LGBTQ+ folks from children’s education.  Police violence against Black people continues to devastate lives, families, and communities. Drag shows have been banned in some states – and in some instances laws are being considered that would threaten the rights of gender non-conforming people to simply just be in public spaces. As of this writing, there are 318 anti-LGBTQ bills in state houses across the country.  We have seen the widespread efforts to block people from access to the ballot and to roll back the Voting Rights Act.

Sometimes, I feel like my mere existence is an act of defiance.

We aren’t immune in California. Just last week, the city of Huntington Beach banned the Pride Flag from being flown over City Hall. The Board of Supervisors in Shasta County made a unilateral decision to change voting systems against the recommendation of the experienced, elected Registrar of Voters – a decision rooted in political rhetoric and disinformation. A decision that will have far reaching consequences – particularly for voters with disabilities. And other California counties are contemplating making similar decisions that will disenfranchise voters and disrupt the administration of elections in their counties.

Some days, it’s overwhelmingly exhausting. Exhausting to know that the progress that so many of us have worked for – that we have seen in our lifetimes – is being rolled back.  We’ve fought these battles. For reproductive choice. For our rights. For healthcare. For quality education. For safety in our own neighborhoods. For representation. We made progress. And in so many ways, the League has been at the vanguard of this progress.  And as we celebrate our 103rd birthday – I can tell you unequivocally, we are not going to stop making progress. History demands it.

The League was forged in fire – women fighting for their rights. For their humanity. And while the history of the League is checkered with the same racism that has been embedded in our society, today we can acknowledge that and we are fully committed to a different future. THAT is how I know we will continue to make progress. The League was born in grit and determination. We were born to take power and make sure every person can access it and use it to build the future they want to see in this country, in this state, and in their communities.  And we will keep that work going. These assaults on our rights and freedoms?  They won’t win in the long run.

On our League birthday, I find myself wanting to showcase some of the work that we are doing and things that we have accomplished together. Have you seen Drag for Democracy?  What about our recent announcement that we are co-sponsoring ACA 4, which will restore voting rights to people completing their prison sentences?  Did you know that the League was a critical partner in the coalition to restore voting rights to people on parole? Or that we are partners in leadership on reforming the Fair Maps Act so the power to create local districts is fair and in the hands of the people – not politicians. How about our work as a co-sponsor of the Racial Justice Act and the Racial Justice Act for All – which are designed to root out and create accountability for racism in our criminal legal system.  Did you know that we reached millions of young people in our Youth Get Out the Vote project on TikTok and Snapchat?

We’re not just talking the talk. We’re doing the work. Together. We matter. That fire that burned in our foremothers to see their humanity recognized, to organize, to wield their power to build a better world – we have it. We have the grit. We have the determination. We have the passion.

I saw a quote recently that felt like the embodiment of the League to me – and on our 103rd birthday, I’d like to share it with you.

“People speak of hope as if it is this delicate, ephemeral thing made of whispers and spider’s webs. It’s not. Hope has dirt on her face, blood on her knuckles, the grit of the cobblestones in her hair, and just spat out a tooth as she rises for another go.”   – Author Unknown

I said earlier that sometimes my mere existence feels like an act of defiance. And hope itself, in so many ways, is an act of defiance. So dust off your face, spit out that tooth, and rise up for another go. Because we are the League. We are defiant, we are hopeful, we are powerful, and we will harness the 103 year legacy we carry and continue together to build a better future.

Stand with us in proud defiance. Donate today.
Happy birthday, fellow Leaguers.

Stephanie Doute, CAE
Executive Director, LWVC