Making Democracy Work

History of the League

The League of Women Voters started after women got the right to vote.

In her address to the National American Woman Suffrage Association's (NAWSA) 50th convention in St. Louis, Missouri, President Carrie Chapman Catt proposed the creation of a "league of women voters to finish the fight and aid in the reconstruction of the nation."  Women Voters was formed within the NAWSA, composed of the organizations in the states where suffrage had already been attained.

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?"

Maud Wood Park became the first national president of the League and thus the first League leader to rise to the challenge. She had steered the women's suffrage amendment through Congress in the last two years before ratification and liked nothing better than legislative work. From the very beginning, however, it was apparent that the legislative goals of the League were not exclusively focused on women's issues and that citizen education aimed at all of the electorate was in order.

Since its inception, the League has helped millions of women and men become informed participants in government. In fact, the first league convention voted 69 separate items as statements of principle and recommendations for legislation. Among them were protection for women and children, right of working women, food supply and demand, social hygiene, the legal status of women, and American citizenship.The League's first major national legislative success was the passage of the Sheppard-Towner Act providing federal aid for maternal and child care programs.  In the 1930's, League members worked successfully for enactment of the Social Security and Food and Drug Acts. Due at least in part to League efforts, legislation passed in 1938 and 1940 removed hundreds of federal jobs from the spoils system and placed them under Civil Service.

During the postwar period, the League helped lead the effort to establish the United Nations and to ensure U.S. Participation. The League was one of the first organizations in the country officially recognized by the United Nations as a non-governmental organization; it still maintains official observer status today.

Past Presidents of the San Diego League:
1945-47	Alfreda Raynes
1947-48	Mary L. Fay
1948-49	Floss Brownlee
1949-51	Dorothy Worral
1951-52	Marjorie R. Spear
1952-53	Frances Davis
1953-55	Ruth Lykos
1955-57	Connie Curl
1957-58	Peter Sargent
1959-60	Eleanor Barton
1960-61	Cecile Podoloff
1961-63	Muriel Goldhammer
1963-65	Jean Eason
1965-67	Elizabeth Pengalley
1967-69	Mary Helen Abbey
1969-71	LaDonna Hatch
1971-73	Lucia Smallheer
1973-75	Joyce Beers
1975-76	Nancy Findeisen
1976-77	Janet Chrispeels
1977-79	Susan Davis
1980-83	Pat Richardson
1983-85	Mary Hanson
1985-87	Julia Zalokar
1987-90	Alice McCauley
1990-91	Jonnie Stahl
1991-93	Louise Arnold
1993-94	Ramona Salisbury
1994-96	Sylvia Hampton
1996-99	Kathleen McIntosh
1999-01	Beryl Flom
2001 	Ruth Ann Hageman
2001-02	Jonnie Stahl
2002-04	Beryl Flom / Catherine Stoll
2004-06	Kay Ragan
2006-07	Linda Scott / Sarah Hurd
2007 	Shirley Vaine / Norma Damashek
2008-10	Norma Damashek / Anne Hoiberg
2010-11	Anne Hoiberg / Susan Baer
2011-12	Mary Jean Word / Jeanne Brown
2012-13	Jeanne Brown / Donna Bartlett-May
2013-14	Kay Reagan /  Donna Bartlett-May
2014-15  Kay Reagan
2015-17 Jeanne Brown

See also League History from the League of Women Voters of the US.

See also information from the movie Iron Jawed Angels from the HBO site.