American institution turns 90 Feb. 14
Friday, Feb. 5, 2010
The League of Women Voters celebrates its 90th birthday this year, with the official anniversary occurring next Sunday, Feb. 14.
Since it was first established, the League has been known for its voter education efforts, nonpartisan study of issues, and good-government advocacy.
"In Columbus, the League of Women Voters has been leading voter registration drives, publishing the Voter Information Bulletin, setting up candidate forums, studying issues, monitoring public policy, and more since our first meeting at the Great Southern Hotel 90 years ago," said Janyce C. Katz, Esq., president of the League of Women Voters of Metropolitan Columbus. "We continue the tradition of those who started the League of Women Voters and have added to it in ways that our founders could not have imagined: For example, a web page at www.lwvcols.org and a Facebook page where anyone can go to find information important to voters as well as up-to-date information on League activities and on League studies."
Katz cited a current study of public transit in central Ohio, which includes a Mar. 18 panel discussion entitled "Beyond the Bus?" at the University Plaza Hotel. Panelists include Chester Jourdan, executive director of the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission; Bill Lhota, president and chief executive officer of the Central Ohio Transit Authority, and Brent Simonds, advocacy coordinator of the Mid-Ohio Board for an Independent Living Environment, Inc. (MOBILE). The 7:15 p.m. program is free and open to the public; a 5:30 cash bar and 6:15 dinner for $25 will be available for those who register.
The League of Women Voters of Metropolitan Columbus will formally celebrate its 90th birthday in conjunction with its annual celebration of Democracy in Action May 13.
The League of Women Voters was founded nationally on Feb. 14, 1920, about six months before ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution giving women the right to vote. The leaders of the last leg of the long struggle to give women the right to vote reorganized the National American Woman Suffrage Association into the League of Women Voters.
As Carrie Chapman Catt, first president of the League of Women Voters and a key leader in the suffrage movement, said, "Winning the vote is only an opening wedge. To learn to use it is a bigger task." The goals of the League of Women Voters in that first year, as set forth by Catt, were to finish the fight of getting women the right to vote in all states, to end other forms of discrimination against women, and to promote democracy in the U.S. and abroad, with education about issues and candidates a critical component of that process. To meet those goals, the members established citizen schools, teaching newly enfranchised women how to register and how to educate themselves about the candidates and issues.
With volunteers organized into 850 chapters across the country, the League of Women Voters today is open to men and women of all ages. "Some of our members have been active in the League for more than 55 years," Katz said. "We take seriously our legacy of providing trustworthy and balanced resources to citizens and lawmakers. Over the last 90 years, the League of Women Voters has left its footprint on American history, and our democracy is stronger for it. We look forward to continuing to strengthen our democracy over the next 90 years.
"After all, the League is the organization where hands-on work to safeguard democracy leads to civic improvement," Katz concluded.