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100 Years of LWV

A Century-Long Legacy

History

1920 — 2020

We believe in the power of women to create a more perfect democracy. That's been our vision since 1920, when the League of Women Voters was founded by leaders of the women’s suffrage movement. For 100 years, we have been a nonpartisan, activist, grassroots organization that believes voters should play a critical role in democracy.

1920
February 14 LWV Founded

The League was officially founded in Chicago in 1920, just six months before the 19th amendment was ratified and women won the vote. Formed by the suffragists of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, the League began as a "mighty political experiment" designed to help 20 million women carry out their new responsibilities as voters.

Women with Planks
August 26 19th Amendment Ratified

After it passed in the House and Senate, the final hurdle for the 19th Amendment was ratification by the states. As anti-suffrage groups still fought to oppose ratification, suffrage leaders mobilized to continue their pressure campaign in the states. Finally, the Amendment was ratified in Tennessee and officially made law on August 26.

19th Amendment picture from Wikipedia
The 19th & Women of Color
1944 — 45
UN Established & LWV Named NGO Observer

After World War II, the League carried out a nationwide public support campaign, at the request of President Franklin Roosevelt, to establish the United Nations and to ensure U.S. participation. Following the campaign, President Harry Truman invited the League to serve as a consultant to the U.S. delegation at the United Nations Charter Conference. One of the first organizations officially recognized by the UN as a non-governmental organization (NGO), the League still maintains official observer status today.

Harry Truman
LWV UN Observers
1957
LWV Education Fund Established

As the League became more active in issue advocacy, the need arose for a separate organizational arm for activities like voter registration and information. The League of Women Voters Education Fund was established to encourage the active and informed participation of citizens in government and to increase understanding of major public policy issues.

Vote baby vote women with signs
1972
Major Campaign to Ratify the ERA

In 1972, shortly after congressional passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), LWV voted officially to support “equal rights for all regardless of sex.” The League followed this vote with a nationwide pressure campaign that continued through the 1970s. That national campaign ended in 1982, but LWV continues to push for ERA ratification today.

Major Campaign to Ratify the ERA
ERA Letter to Congress
1976
Emmy Award for Presidential Debates

The League sponsored the first televised presidential debates since 1960, for which we received an Emmy award for Outstanding Achievement in Broadcast Journalism.

debate stage
1980s
LWV Sponsors Presidential Debates

The League sponsored televised general election Presidential debates in 1980 and 1984, as well as presidential primary forums in 1980, 1984, and 1988. The debates focused on nonpartisan issues with a main goal of informing voters. As candidates demanded increasingly partisan conditions, however, the League withdrew its sponsorship of general election debates in 1988. Leagues around the country continue to hold debates and forums for local and state offices today.

1993
NVRA Becomes Law

The League’s grassroots campaign for national legislation to reform voter registration resulted in passage of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), also known as the “motor-voter” bill. The goal: increase accessibility to the electoral process. The motor-voter bill enabled citizens to register at motor vehicle agencies automatically, as well as by mail and at agencies that service the public.

2002
HAVA Becomes Law

When the 2000 election exposed the many problems facing the election system, the League began to work on election reform. Working closely with a civil rights coalition, LWV helped draft and pass the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), which established provisional balloting, requirements for updating voting systems, and the Election Assistance Commission.

2006
LWV Launches VOTE411.org

The League provided a dedicated website for voter information as early as the 1990s. In 2006, the League launched the next generation of online voter education with VOTE411.org, a “one-stop-shop” for election-related information. Today, VOTE411 provides both general and state-specific nonpartisan resources to the voting public, including a nationwide polling place locator, a ballot look-up tool, candidate positions on issues, and more.

VOTE411 logo
VOTE411.org
2019
LWV Launches People Powered Fair Maps Campaign

In June 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that partisan gerrymandering cannot be solved by the federal courts. In response, the League initiated People Powered Fair Maps, a coordinated effort across all 50 states and D.C. to create fair and transparent, people-powered redistricting processes to eliminate partisan and racial gerrymandering nationwide.

PPFM Rally
People powered fair maps
2020
LWV Celebrates 100 Years

February 14th, 2020, marks 100 years that the League of Women Voters has empowered voters and defended democracy. Over the last century, we’ve fought for election protection, democratic reforms, and equal access to the ballot—all while maintaining our commitment to nonpartisanship and fostering an informed electorate. As we look into our next hundred years, we aim to build power for the next generation of women leaders and voting rights activists. That’s why we’re celebrating our 100-year milestone with a nationwide coordinated Day of Action called Women Power the Vote.

DOA Save the date
Women Power the Vote

What will the next 100 years hold?

The League of Women Voters has evolved from a mighty political experiment designed to help 20 million newly enfranchised women vote in 1920, to what it is today: a unique, nonpartisan organization that is a recognized force in molding political leaders, shaping public policy, and promoting informed citizen participation at all levels of government. To join us for our next 100 years, join your local League today!

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