League of Women Voters

League of Women Voters
League of Women Voters of the United States
LWV Logo.svg
Founder(s) Carrie Chapman Catt
Type Political advocacy
Founded 1920
Location Washington, D.C.
Key people Elisabeth MacNamara (President)
Focus Political action, responsible government
Members ~150,000
Motto "Making Democracy Work. Grassroots Leadership since 1920."
Website lwv.org

The League of Women Voters is an American political organization founded in 1920[1] by Carrie Chapman Catt during the last meeting of the National American Woman Suffrage Association approximately six months before the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution gave women the right to vote. It began as a "mighty political experiment" aimed to help newly enfranchised women exercise their responsibilities as voters. Originally, only women could join the league; but in 1973 the charter was modified to include men. The league is a grassroots organization with chapters in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The league has approximately 150,000 members (as of 2006).[2]

The League of Women Voters has as its official position that it is strictly nonpartisan; it neither supports nor opposes candidates for office at any level of government. At the same time, the League is wholeheartedly political and works to influence policy through advocacy. The league takes a stand on many political issues after studying them and coming to a consensus on a position. The league works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and to influence public policy through education and advocacy, as well as through political lobbying of Congress.

The league is organized into two complementary halves: Voter service and citizen education; and program and action.


Program and action

The Program and Action portion of the league studies issues, develops consensus positions and lobbies for changes in law and public policy. Program and Action is divided into four broad categories: Representative Government, International Relations, Natural Resources, and Social Policy.

Representative government

The league supports "an open governmental system that is representative, accountable and responsive." [3]

The league has worked to reduce barriers to voting, to implement campaign finance reform, and to prevent gerrymandering. The league is a strong supporter of transparency in government and in Open Meeting Law. In 2003, the league worked to incorporate key voter protection and civil rights provisions into Help America Vote Act (HAVA). In 2004, the league lobbied Congress in favor of the bi-partisan Security and Freedom Ensured Act (SAFE) which attempted to scale back some portions of the PATRIOT Act which affect individual liberties.

International relations

The league believes that the United States should "promote peace in an interdependent world by working cooperatively with other nations and strengthening international organizations". [4]

The league is a strong supporter of the United Nations. During the 1940s, the league launched a nationwide campaign to build public support for the United Nations. The league was one of the first non-government organizations affiliated with the UN.

The league supports a liberal U.S. trade policy aimed at reducing trade barriers and expanding international trade.[5]

Natural resources

The league works to "promote an environment beneficial to life through the protection and wise management of natural resources in the public interest". [6]

The league has worked to promote clean air, clean water and to manage solid waste in an environmentally sound way.

The league was a strong proponent of the Clean Air Act of 1990. The league continues to work for stronger Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards to improve energy efficiency and reduce pollution.

The league promoted the passage of the Clean Water Act of 1987.

Social policy

The league works to "secure equal rights and equal opportunity for all, to promote social and economic justice, and to secure the health and safety of all Americans," yet has previously opposed lowering the voting age.[7] [8]

The league has worked on a broad range of activities under the rubric of Social Policy including ending racial discrimination, providing equal access to quality education, fair housing, health care, and gun control.

Specifically in the area of gun control, according to the organization's website,

The 1990 League convention took the rare step of adopting the gun control position by concurrence at convention. Proponents had sent two informational mailings to all Leagues before convention, and spirited debate on the convention floor persuaded the convention to concur with the statement proposed by the LWV of Illinois.

Following the convention action, the LWVUS wrote to all members of Congress, announcing the League’s new position on gun control and urging passage of federal legislation to control the proliferation of handguns and semi-automatic assault weapons in the United States. In 1991, the League joined with other organizations to support legislation banning semi-automatic assault weapons. In 1992 and 1993, the League supported congressional passage of the Brady bill, to institute a five-day waiting period and background check for the purchase of handguns. Following enactment of the Brady bill in November 1993, the League stepped up its lobbying efforts in a successful 1994 House campaign to force inclusion of the assault weapons ban in the final conference report on omnibus crime legislation."[9]

The league endorsed and supported the Mother’s Day 2000 Million Mom March of the Brady Campaign through the activities of many league members across the country who participated in the event, as well as by the official involvement of the organization's leadership and board.[9]

See also


  1. ^ About Us, an organization profile at www.lwv.org
  2. ^ "New member welcome". League of Women Voters of the United States. http://www.lwv.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Home&template=/CM/HTMLDisplay.cfm&ContentID=2375. 
  3. ^ Impact on Issues: 2004 - 2006. A Guide to Public Policy Positions. League of Women Voters. 2005. pp. 6. 
  4. ^ League of Women Voters, 2005, p. 25.
  5. ^ "Trade: The League's Position". League of Women Voters. 2002. http://www.lwv.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Trade&TEMPLATE=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm&CONTENTID=952. Retrieved 2008-06-23. 
  6. ^ League of Women Voters, 2005, p. 40.
  7. ^ League of Women Voters, 2005, p. 56.
  8. ^ SciVille. "Should 16 Be The "New 18"". http://www.youthrights.org/2011/09/03/should-16-be-the-“new-18”/. Retrieved 10 September 2011. 
  9. ^ a b "Gun Control: The League's History". League of Women Voters. http://www.lwv.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Home&template=/CM/HTMLDisplay.cfm&ContentID=1850. Retrieved 2008-06-23. 


  • Handbook for Members. Boston: League of Women Voters of Massachusetts. 
  • Impact On Issues: 2004 - 2006. Washington,D.C.: League of Women Voters of the United States. ISBN 0-89959-446-8. 
  • Lee, Percy Maxim; Young, Louise Merwin; Young, Ralph B. (1989). In the public interest: the League of Women Voters, 1920-1970. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-25302-1. 
  • Stevens, Jennifer A. "Feminizing Portland, Oregon: A History of the League of Women Voters in the Postwar Era, 1950-1975," in Laughlin, Kathleen A., and Jacqueline L. Castledine, eds., Breaking the Wave: Women, Their Organizations, and Feminism, 1945-1985 (New York: Routledge, 2011) pp. 155-72

External links

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