The League of Women Voters is celebrating its 90th birthday in 2010. Known widely for its voter education efforts, this non-partisan government watchdog group has been an institution in the Long Beach area for decades.
“This year we’ll celebrate our milestone anniversary with a birthday celebration on February 20 at the Los Altos Library from 10am to noon, by featuring representatives from all levels of the League, honoring our 13 members who have been in the League for more than 50 years, and sharing archival material in a slideshow presentation,” said local League president Phyllis O’Connor. “But throughout the year, we’ll be doing what we always do: providing programs to keep Long Beach, Signal Hill and Lakewood residents informed on important issues and making sure that voters are provided with information to make informed decisions in each election.” According to O’Connor, in the last few months the League has conducted meetings on health care, the Long Beach and Southern California economy, the county jail system and the LBUSD parcel tax measure.
In 1920, after a 72-year struggle, and when passage of the 19th amendment appeared to be imminent, members of the National American Woman Suffrage Association met to form the League of Women Voters. Carrie Chapman Catt first proposed the creation of a League to “finish the fight” and to work to end all discrimination against women. While initially concerned with the status and rights of women, the League of Women Voters gradually expanded its interests to include issues affecting the whole community.
Today, the League works to effect change on a wide variety of issues including health care, education, climate change, land use, and election and campaign finance reform.
“The women who started the movement to give women the right to vote really didn’t know if, how or when they would succeed,” said O’Connor. “And yet they persevered– changing our democracy and society. Today we are equally committed to improving our democracy, and keeping our community healthy, vibrant and strong for all.”
With volunteers organized into 850 chapters across the country, membership in the League is open to men and women of all ages. According to O’Connor, “We have members that have been League activists for over 50 years and members who have just joined, inspired by a particular issue or after attending one of our events.”
This year there are elections in April, June and November, bringing to the forefront the League’s role in raising public awareness of the candidates and issues. “We’d love to bring in new members to help us on our election events,” said O’Connor. “We will be moderating candidates forums, presenting pros and cons on ballot measures and registering voters– any number of involvement opportunities for new members.”
The League takes its legacy of providing trustworthy and balanced resources to citizens and lawmakers seriously. 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,” said O’Connor.