On Feb. 14, the League of Women Voters celebrates 100 years of empowering voters and defending democracy. The League in Vermont joins more than 700 other leagues to celebrate this historic milestone and reflect on our history of advocacy, action, and accomplishment.
A century ago, women were on the verge of getting the vote as Carrie Chapman Catt and Alice Paul campaigned separately for ratification of the 19th Amendment. In 1920, six months prior to passage of the Amendment, Carrie Chapman Catt founded the League of Women Voters as a mighty political experiment to instruct women on political issues. Although Vermont had not ratified the 19th Amendment and would not do so until February 1921, suffragists organized a chapter, “…so that Vermont women may be prepared to use to their best advantage the ballot so recently won….”
From the beginning, the League became the voice of reason, renowned for fact-based, nonpartisan information. It had a bold agenda, adopting 69 items for study including child welfare, education, home and high prices, women in gainful occupation, public health and morals, and independent citizenship for married women. Formative leader Eleanor Roosevelt helped establish its policy agenda, and, as Vice President of Legislative Affairs, lobbied for reforms. Our first legislative victory, in 1921, secured the landmark $1,000,000 federal funding to reduce infant mortality rates.
Following World War II, the League launched an unprecedented nationwide campaign to establish the United Nations (UN) and ensure US participation, working for Americans to understand the vital importance of the UN. We were the first non-governmental organization to be officially recognized by the UN and, to this day, maintain official observer status. The League endorsed the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, NATO, Marshall Plan, economic aid to less-developed countries, arms control, and normalizing relations with China.