|Founded||February 14, 1920|
|Founder||Carrie Chapman Catt|
|Focus||Political education and advocacy|
|Deborah Ann Turner (President)|
|$ 9,183,106 (2020)|
|This article is part of a series on the|
|Politics of the |
The League of Women Voters (LWV) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan political organization in the United States. Founded in 1920, its ongoing major activities include registering voters, providing voter information, and advocating for voting rights. In addition, the LWV works with partners that share its positions and supports a variety of progressive public policy positions, including campaign finance reform, women's rights, health care reform, gun control and LGBT+ rights.
The League was founded as the successor to the National American Woman Suffrage Association, which had led the nationwide fight for women's suffrage. The initial goals of the League were to educate women to take part in the political process and to push forward legislation of interest to women. As a nonpartisan organization, an important part of its role in American politics has been to register and inform voters, but it also lobbies for issues of importance to its members, which are selected at its biennial conventions. Its effectiveness has been attributed to its policy of careful study and documentation of an issue before taking a position.: 92, 127–161 
The League's founder, Carrie Chapman Catt, felt strongly that first NAWSA and then the League of Women Voters should be nonpartisan. In founding the League of Women Voters, Catt sought to create a political process that was rational and issue-oriented, dominated by citizens, not politicians. She feared that alliance with political parties would reduce the independence of these organizations and swallow up their concerns in more partisan concerns. In addition, by endorsing one candidate the organization would inevitably lose the support of the opposing candidate. As time passed, women's political organizations did find that political parties redefined issues of concern to them as "women's issues" and pushing them aside.: 93 : 94–96 
In 1921, the League was instrumental in passing the Sheppard-Towner Maternity and Infancy Protection Act, providing federal aid for maternal and child care programs. In the 1930s, the League was supportive of New Deal programs such as Social Security and the Food and Drug Acts. In 1945, the League advocated for the United Nations, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, and was recognized by the UN as a permanent observer, giving it access to most meetings and relevant documentation.      In the 1950s, League member Dorothy Kenyon was attacked as a Communist by Joseph McCarthy and president Percy Maxim Lee testified before Congress against Senator Joseph McCarthy's abuse of congressional investigative powers.  In 1960, the League supported the Resources and Conservation Act of 1960 (S. 2549), beginning a long history of environmental engagement.  In 1969, the League was one of the first organizations in the United States calling for normalizing relations with China. 
The League has not been a progressive organization in all its actions. Throughout the first part of its history, the League of Women Voters was not welcoming to women of color and its predecessor NAWSA ignored issues involving race due to fears that it would reduce support for equal suffrage. In the 1960s, the league ultimately supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but their efforts came too late to have major impact. After first refusing to oppose discrimination in housing in 1966, the 1968 program included opposition to discrimination in housing and support for presidential suffrage for citizens of Washington DC. 
In the 1970s, after years of opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment as proposed by the National Women's Party, the League offered support to an Equal Rights Amendment. In 1974, the League began to admit men. The League fought for the 1982 Amendments to the Voting Rights Act and in the 1990s was important in the passage of Motor Voter.  In 1998, the League elected its first African-American president, Carolyn Jefferson-Jenkins.  She served two terms, until 2002, and wrote a book "The untold story of women of color in the League of Women Voters" documenting the history of the League and women of color.
In 2002, the League supported the Help America Vote Act (with some reservations about the final compromise)  and the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.  
The League of Women Voters came about as the merger of two existing organizations, the long-established National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) and the National Council of Women Voters (NCWV), created in 1911.
The founding goals of the National League of Women Voters were to educate women on election processes and lobby for favorable legislation on women's issues. These were the same as the goals of the NCWV, which had been founded by Emma Smith DeVoe after her proposal for such an organization was rebuffed at the 1909 National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) convention in Seattle. When her proposal was ignored, DeVoe founded the National Council of Women Voters in 1911. She recruited western suffragists and organizations to join the league.
Ten years later, prior to the 1919 Convention of the NAWSA (in St. Louis, Missouri), Carrie Chapman Catt began negotiating with DeVoe to merge her organization with a new league that would be the successor to the NAWSA. Even though continuing as the NCWV might have made sense because the goals were essentially those that Catt proposed for the new organization, Catt was concerned that DeVoe's alignment with the more radical Alice Paul might discourage conservative women from joining it and thus proposed the formation of a new league. As fifteen states had already ratified the 19th Amendment, the women wanted to move forward with a plan to educate women on the voting process and shepherd their participation.
A motion was made at the 1919 NAWSA convention to merge the two organizations into a successor, the National League of Women Voters. Although not all members of either organization were in favor of a merger, the merger was officially completed on January 6, 1920. For the first year the league operated as a committee of the NAWSA. The formal organization of the League was drafted at the 1920 Convention held in Chicago.
In her presidential address on March 24, 1919, at the above-mentioned NAWSA convention, Catt had said:
Let us raise up a League of Women Voters—the name and form of organization to be determined by the voters themselves; a League that shall be non-partisan and non-sectarian in character and that shall be consecrated to three chief aims:
- To use its utmost influence to secure the final enfranchisement of the women of every state in our own Republic and to reach out across the seas in aid of the women's struggle for her own in every land.
- To remove the remaining legal discriminations against women in the codes and constitutions of the several states in order that the feet of coming women may find these stumbling blocks removed.
- To make our democracy so safe for the Nation and so safe for the world, that every citizen may feel secure and great men will acknowledge the worthiness of the American Republic to lead.”
Carrie Chapman Catt was named honorary chairman of the League instead of president because she insisted that it was for younger and fresher women to lead the new work.
In subsequent years, due to the increasing influence of women in politics, the league has evolved a more inclusive mission, to "protect and expand voting rights and ensure everyone is represented in our democracy."
During the 1920s, the League of Women Voters of New York sent an annual questionnaire to candidates for local office, and published the answers in the publication "Information for Voters." In 1929, the questionnaire covered maintaining the 5 cent subway fare, creation of a permanent city planning board, immediate action on a sewage and waste disposal plant, unlimited building heights in certain districts, and reclassification of civil service employees to provide automatic salary increases.
In early 1921, the League of Women Voters of New York reported an increase in the number of members after Governor Nathan L. Miller attacked the League, calling it a "menace" to our form of government. The organization launched a state-wide campaign of education to inform "misguided individuals laboring under such misapprehensions."
In 1923, a special committee of the national League of Women Voters picked twelve women as the "greatest living American women." They were Jane Addams, Cecilia Beaux, Annie Jump Cannon, Carrie Chapman Catt, Anna Botsford Comstock, Minnie Maddern Fiske, Louise Homer, Julia Lathrop, Florence Rena Sabin, M. Carey Thomas, Martha Van Rensselaer, and Edith Wharton.
At the 1926 convention of the national League, Belle Sherwin, the League president, emphasized education in politics as the right road toward true democracy.
Whether it is possible to develop in this country an education which will qualify citizens to be partners in government is a question to face squarely. For many, education today is either remote and limited to a brief period or is highly specialized for vocational purposes. Education for active citizenship has hardly been tried.
She went on to mention "the modest attempts of schools here and there to teach critical reading of the newspapers and other means of avoiding mob-mindedness." Prohibition and birth control were hot issues that year, but were not included in the subjects for study and legislation during the ensuing year.
In 1926, The New York League together with the Women's National Republican Club established information booths in seven department stores, explaining to women how to register to vote, and installed a voting machine at League headquarters to demonstrate how to vote. The League members explained literacy tests and requirements and hours for registration. A frequent question involved the status of an American woman married to an immigrant. The League also presented a series of pre-election talks, including a talk on "National and State Legislators," "The Judiciary," and "Machinery of Elections."
Also in 1926, the New York League regional director Mrs. Charles L. Tiffany emphasized the League's non-partisan nature, saying that "The League of Women Voters is taking no part in any campaign. ... If any individual members of the league wish to take part in the campaign, they will do so as individuals and not as members of the league."
On October 17, 1929, Belle Sherwin, the president of the League of Women Voters, and Ruth Morgan of New York City headed a delegation to ask President Herbert Hoover to support the renewal of Federal aid to the States in maternity and infancy work.
At the 1929 convention of the League of Women Voters of New York, the members voted for a New York State prohibition enforcement act. They also voted to favor old age pensions and ask the Legislature to give women the right to do jury service, to permit physicians to give contraceptive information to married persons, and to extend the benefits of workmen's compensation for all occupational diseases.
In 1975, a bill entitled "The Indian Law Enforcement Improvement Act" was introduced in the Senate and supported by the League of Women Voters of Nebraska, saying "We support self determination and therefore self government of all citizens, in this case Native Americans." After two days of hearings, the bill was not reported out of committee.
In 1993, the League pushed for the adoption of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which requires states to offer voter registration at all driver's license agencies, at social service agencies, and through the mail.    
In 2002, the League supported the Help America Vote Act (with some reservations about the final compromise)  and the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act.  
In 2020, the League of Women Voters supported Native Americans in seeking to remove restrictions on ballot delivery from reservations.
The Native American voting rights group Four Directions filed a suit on behalf of six voters from the Navajo Nation asking the court to extend the deadline for Arizona counties to receive the ballots of voters, because of "lack of home mail delivery, the need for language translation, lack of access to public transportation and lack of access to any vehicle." The court declined to extend the deadline due to lack of standing of the plaintiffs.
The League of Women Voters of Arizona filed an amicus curiae, saying that
Most Arizonans take access to mail receipt and delivery as a given. By contrast, the District Court recognized the painful reality that "several variables make voting by mail difficult” for Native American voters. More specifically, “[m]ost Navajo Nation residents do not have access to standard mail service,” including home delivery, and must travel “lengthy distance[s]” to access postal services—a burden compounded by “socioeconomic factors.”
In 2021, the League of Women Voters of Florida partnered with Voteriders to get word out to eligible voters about the changes made due to Floria Senate Bill 90, signed into law in May 2021. The Florida League also partnered with the Black Voters Matter Fund and the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans to file lawsuits against the changes. The trial court struck down multiple provisions of the law but the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay reinstating the restrictive law.
The LWV sponsored the United States presidential debates in 1976, 1980 and 1984. On October 2, 1988, the LWV's 14 trustees voted unanimously to pull out of the debates, and on October 3 they issued a press release condemning the demands of the major candidates' campaigns. LWV President Nancy Neuman said that the debate format would "perpetrate a fraud on the American voter" and that the organization did not intend to "become an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public." All presidential debates since 1988 have been sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates, a bipartisan organization run by the two major parties.
State and local leagues host candidate debates to provide candidates' positions at all levels of government.
In 2012, LWV created National Voter Registration Day, a day when volunteers work to register voters and increase participation.
The League sponsors voter's guides including Smart Voter and Voter's Edge, which was launched in collaboration with MapLight. The League, including state and local leagues, runs VOTE411.org, a bilingual website that allows voters to input their address and get candidate and election information tailored to their location.
The League lobbies for legislation at the national, state, and local levels. Positions on national issues are determined by decisions at the most recent national convention. Members of state and local leagues determine their leagues' positions on state and local issues, consistent with the national positions.
The League was founded by suffragists fighting for the right of women to vote and has always been concerned with issues around voting and representative government. Other issue areas in which the League currently advocates are international relations, natural resources, and social policy.
In 1993, the League pushed for the adoption of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which requires states to offer voter registration at all driver's license agencies, at social service agencies, and through the mail. 
The League works with the non-partisan VoteRiders organization to spread state-specific information on voter ID requirements. In 2002, the League endorsed passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, which banned soft money in federal elections and made other reforms in campaign finance laws. It was also a major proponent of the Help America Vote Act.
In 2010, the League opposed the Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which removed limits on corporate contributions to candidates. It filed an amicus brief in support of the FEC.
The League supports the DISCLOSE Act, which would provide for greater and faster public disclosure of campaign spending and combat the use of "dark money" in U.S. elections.
The League currently opposes restrictive photo ID laws and supports campaign finance reform in the United States, including public financing of elections, restrictions on spending by candidates, and abolishing super-PACs.
The League lobbied for the establishment of the United Nations, and later became one of the first groups to receive status as a nongovernmental organization with the U.N. The League was active from the beginning in promoting world peace and international organizations. At the second League of Women Voters convention, in 1921, Carrie Chapman Catt spoke, and said:
The people in this room tonight could put an end to war. There is no audience in the world that won't applaud him who talks of world peace. Everybody wants to and every one does nothing.
I am for a league of nations, a Republican league or any kind the Republicans are in. I believe it is the duty of every one who wants the world to disarm to compel action at Washington.
Our country is not judged by its parties; it is judged as a nation. But why don't we do something? I ask you: Is there anybody anywhere with an earnest crusading spirit who is trying to arouse America? No. We are as stolid and as inactive as if we did not face the greatest opportunity in history.
We are the appointed leaders. It isn't possible for us to see the horrors of the other side. We go on daily living in a pardise while tragic Europe tries to gather its ruins together. We have waited too long, and we will get another war by waiting.
Let us make a resolution tonight; let us consecrate ourselves to put war out of this world. It is necessary that we rise out of narrow partisanship, that we act as women."
The League supported the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the Kyoto Protocol. The League opposes the proposed Keystone Pipeline project. In January 2013, the League of Women Voters in Hawaii urged President Obama to take action on climate change under the authority given him by the Clean Air Act of 1963.
The League opposes school vouchers. In 1999, the League challenged a Florida law that allowed students to use school vouchers to attend other schools. 
The League supports universal health care and endorses both Medicaid expansion and the Affordable Care Act.
The League supports the abolition of the death penalty.
LWV supports LGBT+ rights and has stated that "defending our democracy and ending discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community go hand in hand."
A national board of directors consisting of four officers, eight elected directors, and not more than eight board-appointed directors, most of whom reside in the Metro Washington D.C. area, govern the League subject to the Bylaws of the League of Women Voters of the United States. The national board is elected at the national convention and sets position policy.
Local Leagues and state Leagues are organized in order to promote the purposes of the League and to take action on local and state governmental matters. These Leagues (chapters) have their own directors and officers. The national board may withdraw recognition from any state or local League for failure to fulfill recognition requirements.
The League of Women Voters has state and local leagues in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands, and Hong Kong.
|State||Women's suffrage in||Timeline for||Associations|
|Alabama||Women's suffrage in Alabama||Timeline of women's suffrage in Alabama|
|Alaska||Women's suffrage in Alaska||Timeline of women's suffrage in Alaska|
|Arizona||Women's suffrage in Arizona||Timeline of women's suffrage in Arizona|
|Arkansas||Women's suffrage in Arkansas||Timeline of women's suffrage in Arkansas|
|California||Women's suffrage in California||Timeline of women's suffrage in California||California Equal Suffrage Association|
|Colorado||Women's suffrage in Colorado||Timeline of women's suffrage in Colorado|
|Connecticut||Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association|
|Delaware||Women's suffrage in Delaware||Timeline of women's suffrage in Delaware|
|Florida||Women's suffrage in Florida||Timeline of women's suffrage in Florida||League of Women Voters of Florida|
|Georgia||Women's suffrage in Georgia (U.S. state)||Timeline of women's suffrage in Georgia (U.S. state)||Georgia Woman Suffrage Association|
|Hawaii||Women's suffrage in Hawaii||Timeline of women's suffrage in Hawaii|
|Illinois||Women's suffrage in Illinois||Timeline of women's suffrage in Illinois||League of Women Voters of Naperville|
|Iowa||Women's suffrage in Iowa||Timeline of women's suffrage in Iowa|
|Kentucky||Kentucky Equal Rights Association|
|Maine||Women's suffrage in Maine||Timeline of women's suffrage in Maine|
|Maryland||Maryland Woman Suffrage Association|
|Massachusetts||Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association|
|Minnesota||Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association|
|Missouri||Women's suffrage in Missouri||Timeline of women's suffrage in Missouri||Missouri League of Women Voters|
|Montana||Women's suffrage in Montana||Timeline of women's suffrage in Montana|
|Nevada||Women's suffrage in Nevada||Timeline of women's suffrage in Nevada|
|New Jersey||Women's suffrage in New Jersey||Timeline of women's suffrage in New Jersey|
|New Mexico||Women's suffrage in New Mexico||Timeline of women's suffrage in New Mexico|
|North Dakota||Women's suffrage in North Dakota||Timeline of women's suffrage in North Dakota|
|Ohio||Women's suffrage in Ohio||Timeline of women's suffrage in Ohio|
|Pennsylvania||Women's suffrage in Pennsylvania||Timeline of women's suffrage in Pennsylvania|
|Rhode Island||Women's suffrage in Rhode Island||Timeline of women's suffrage in Rhode Island|
|South Carolina||Women's suffrage in South Carolina||South Carolina Equal Rights Association|
|South Dakota||Women's suffrage in South Dakota||Timeline of women's suffrage in South Dakota|
|Texas||Women's suffrage in Texas||Timeline of women's suffrage in Texas||Texas Equal Suffrage Association|
|Texas Equal Rights Association|
|Utah||Women's suffrage in Utah||Timeline of women's suffrage in Utah|
|Virginia||Women's suffrage in Virginia||Timeline of women's suffrage in Virginia||Equal Suffrage League of Virginia|
|West Virginia||West Virginia Equal Suffrage Association|
|Wisconsin||Women's suffrage in Wisconsin||Timeline of women's suffrage in Wisconsin|
|Wyoming||Women's suffrage in Wyoming|
The National League of Women Voters (NLWV) was established in 1920...Rather than directly entering electoral politics, the NLWV dedicated its efforts to educating newly enfranchised women, studying national legislation and social policy, and participating in local civic matters.
Anticipating the difficulty of integrating former suffragists into partisan American politics, Catt called for a successor organization to the NAWSA that would train new women voters in electoral procedures and further the interests of women within the platforms and administrative structures of political parties.
The League of Women Voters' work includes get out the vote efforts, often shortened to GOTV. These are concerted efforts to register voters and increase voter turnout during elections. ... As part of their GOTV efforts, the League of Women Voters was designed to educate voters on the issues and candidates on their ballots during each election cycle.
The League's advocacy work is issued based, and we arrive at our positions based on careful study and input from our members in communities across the country. We never derive our positions from politicians, and even when candidates or parties support the same issue, we never endorse them.
The organization has won the respect of both political parties for its scrupulous nonpartisan-ship.
The Women's Joint Congressional Committee is a well set up piece of machinery which functions for a combined membership of organized women numbering literally millions. Mrs. Maud Wood Park, then President of the National League of Women Voters, took the lead in carrying out the idea by calling the other women together to discuss it...the National League of Women Voters... was planned definitely as a non-partisan political organization of women.
Last summer, the league (in New York) registered 18,000 new voters in 80 communities where enrollment was below 30%.
The league from the national to the local level spends a lot of time on advocacy work. An issue is intensely studied -- for years sometimes -- and a consensus is reached among members. The league then discusses, urges, and "we lobby like crazy," according to Percy Lee Langstaff, president of the Connecticut League.
A look at the decline of civic engagement, and how nonpartisan organizations like the League of Women Voters can help save and promote democracy.
this was the first town-hall forum on Social Security in the nation's history.
The league came under the scrutiny of Sen. Joseph McCarthy during Lee's tenure, when the senator searched for Communist infiltration of American government and organizations.
Miss Dorothy Kenyon...was accused of having an affinity for Communist-front organizations by Senator Joseph R. McCarthy ...She later appeared at a hearing and challenged Senator McCarthy as an "unmitigated liar."
The League was founded in 1920—just months before the ratification of the 19th Amendment—by American suffragist Carrie Chapman Catt. Catt was a complicated character, a political operative, and by modern standards, yes, racist.
A coalition of 60 voter and civil rights groups lobbied hard for the Senate measure with letter-writing and telephone campaigns. "Persistance has paid off," Susan S. Lederman, president of the League of Women Voters, said today.
Dr. Jefferson-Jenkins has also been deeply involved with the League of Women Voters for many years. She was elected as the 15th national president of the League of Women Voters in 1998; the first woman of color to hold the position
In 1998 Dr. Carolyn Jefferson-Jenkins of Colorado Springs, Colorado, was elected the first African American President of the National League of Women Voters.
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.
Lloyd J. Leonard, legislative director of the League of Women Voters of the United States, expressed doubts about the compromise.
It lobbied strongly for the passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, cosponsored by Senators McCain and Feingold and passed in 2002.
On March 27, 2002, the League's five-year campaign for the McCain-Feingold-Shays-Meehan bill reached fruition when the President signed the legislation into law.
good government" organizations such as Common Cause and The League of Women Voters of the United States argued ... to distinguish "unlimited speech" from "unlimited money.
Ever aware of racial and gender inequality, she joined local chapters of the League of Women Voters, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Urban League, as well as the Democratic Party club in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
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after the 1920 presidential election, Roosevelt became a board member of the New York State League of Women Voters and began to direct the League of Women Voters' national-legislation committee.
The Untold Story of Women of Color in the League of Women Voters explores ways in which these women have been marginalized and recognizes how their contributions will positively influence the organization as it moves into its next 100 years.
Examining the development of organizations previously considered traditional and nonpolitical—the League of Women Voters, the Women's Co-operative Guild, and the Union féminine civique et sociale—Black concludes that the social feminism which characterizes these groups is a genuinely radical approach to social change.
A look at the decline of civic engagement, and how nonpartisan organizations like the League of Women Voters can help save and promote democracy.
Breaking the Wave is the first anthology of original essays by both younger and established scholars that takes a long view of feminist activism by systematically examining the dynamics of movement persistence during moments of reaction and backlash.
Through a judicious selection of documents from the papers of the League of Women Voters of the United States in the Library of Congress, Stuhler reveals the rich history of an organization designed to serve the public interest.
The Reader's Guide to Women's Studies is a searching and analytical description of the most prominent and influential works written in the now universal field of women's studies.
This is NAWSA's final report. With the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, its work came to a close and the association was reorganized as the League of Women Voters.
League Basics contains essential policy and organizational information applicable to every local and state League. League Basics offers advice, guidelines and more detailed information to help leaders develop specific methods of operation to enable a League to accomplish its goals.
Discusses the sources of nuclear waste, the biological effects of radiation, past methods of waste management, political implications, and permanent solutions