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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.
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.
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.
The 19th & Women of Color
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.
LWV UN OBSERVERS
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.
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.
ERA Letter to Congress
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
People Powered Fair Maps
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.
women power the vote
What will the next 100 years hold?
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