Next week will mark the 94th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote. With that ratification, the work of the newly formed League of Women Voters, which was founded to finish the fight for suffrage, really began. An estimated 25 million women were, with the stroke of a pen, eligible to vote. The task of registering and informing those new women voters was enormous. Add to that the understandable desire of those who had worked so long and hard for woman suffrage to make a difference with their votes.
It is tempting to look back on those early days of the League for inspiration, especially as we look forward to a federal midterm election where much is at stake, but where too often voter enthusiasm is low. While it may be challenging, I am also inspired by the fact that so many Leagues and members are already out in their communities registering and educating voters through voters' guides, candidate debates and VOTE411.org. I also find inspiration in the following passage from a convention speech by the League's first president Maud Wood Park referring to interests hostile to the mission of the League:
By far the most serious of our opponents is the colossal inertia of large numbers of persons. If this nation ever faces final disaster, it will be because what ‘is everybody's business is nobody's business except the self-seekers.' We need to rewrite that old adage...In this respect ours is a stupendous undertaking, for inertia is a thoroughly uninteresting opponent. Thrills do not come easily in a struggle against sheer dead weight, but that weight must be moved if we are to succeed...If we have the courage to try, we do not need genius or even extraordinary qualities in order to succeed. All that we shall require is steadfast faith in democracy, common sense and persistence...if we have all three - and keep them together - we are invincible.
All these years later, the League has had those qualities and kept them together, and we have been and will continue to be invincible.