The League of Women Voters was founded by Carrie Chapman Catt in 1920 during the convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. The convention was held just six months before the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, giving women the right to vote after a 72-year struggle.

The League began as a "mighty political experiment" designed to help 20 million women carry out their new responsibilities as voters. It encouraged them to use their new power to participate in shaping public policy. From the beginning, the League has been an activist, grassroots organization whose leaders believed that citizens should play a critical role in advocacy. It was then, and is now, a nonpartisan organization. League founders believed that maintaining a nonpartisan stance would protect the fledgling organization from becoming mired in the party politics of the day. However, League members were encouraged to be political themselves, by educating citizens about, and lobbying for, government and social reform legislation.

This holds true today. The League is proud to be nonpartisan, neither supporting nor opposing candidates or political parties at any level of government, but always working on vital issues of concern to members and the public. The League has a long, rich history,that continues with each passing year.

For additional historical information about the League, please visit the Issues section of this web site.

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The League and Presidential Debates

After a sixteen year period in which there were no public presidential debates, the League of Women Voters Education Fund (LWVEF) sponsored three presidential debates in 1976.

The League and the National Voter Registration Act - “Motor Voter Act” of 1993

Increased accessibility to the electoral process is essential to ensuring a representative electoral process and every citizen’s right to vote. The fight for the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) was long and arduous, but the League stayed the course.

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Articles about the League

The League of Women Voters Through the Decades! - The 1920s

Since the League had inherited its structure from the National American Women Suffrage Association, in 1920 it was a federation of affiliated state Leagues, most of which had been in existence as state headquarters of the NAWSA. State Leagues were the keystone of the League's structure, and had the responsibility for organizing local Leagues. By 1924, the National League was organized in 346 of 433 congressional districts. Twenty-three state Leagues and 15 city Leagues maintained regular business headquarters, nearly all with one or more paid staff.

The League of Women Voters Through the Decades! - The 1930s

The depression of the 1930s and the onset of World War II brought far-reaching change to the League. Membership fell from 100,000 in 1924 to 44,000 in 1934. The National League's budget was cut in half, necessitating a major reduction in staff and services to Leagues. Perhaps the most important change was that because of gas rationing, League members started meeting in small groups in their neighborhoods to discuss fundamental issues. These issues included the threat to democracy itself and the importance of the informed individual to the success of democracy.

The League of Women Voters Through the Decades! - The 1940s

The 1944 convention made major changes in the basic structure of the League, proclaiming it an association of members, rather than a federation of state leagues, and abolishing the department system of managing the various facets of the League program. At the 1946 convention, the name was changed to the League of Women Voters of the United States, and the national program was considerably shortened.

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