The League of Women Voters has two separate and distinct roles.
- Voters Service/Citizen Education: we present unbiased nonpartisan information about elections, the voting process, and issues.
- Action/Advocacy: we are also nonpartisan, but, after study, we use our positions to advocate for or against particular policies in the public interest.
To conduct our voter service and citizen education activities, we use funds from the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts Lotte E. Scharfman Memorial Education Fund, which is a 501(c)(3) corporation, a nonprofit educational organization. The League of Women Voters, a membership organization, conducts action and advocacy and is a nonprofit 501(c)(4) corporation.
Our Vision, Beliefs, and Intentions guide our activities.
We make voting easier through varied voter education programs.
The League of Women Voters Education Fund conducts voter service and citizen education activities. It is a nonpartisan nonprofit public policy educational organization, which:
- Builds citizen participation in the democratic process.
- Studies key community issues at all government levels in an unbiased manner.
- Enables people to seek positive solutions to public policy issues through education and conflict management.
Donations to the Education Fund (a 501(c)(3) corporation), are fully tax-deductible where allowed by law.
We are truly a grassroots organization…
The League of Women Voters takes action on an issue or advocates for a cause when there is an existing League position that supports the issue or speaks to the cause.
Positions result from a process of study. Any given study, whether it be National, State, or Local, is thorough in its pursuit of facts and details. As the study progresses, a continuing discussion of pros and cons of each situation occurs. Prior to the results of the study being presented to the general membership, study committee members fashion consensus questions that are then addressed by the membership.
Additional discussion, pro and con, takes place as members (not part of the study committee) learn the scope of the study. After the members reach consensus, the board forms positions based on that consensus.
It is the consensus statement — the statement resulting from the consensus questions — that becomes a position. Firm action or advocacy can then be taken on the particular issue addressed by the position. Without a position, action/advocacy cannot be taken.
The principles that guide our organization…
The goal of the League of Women Voters is to empower citizens to shape better communities worldwide.The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political membership organization which:
- acts after study and member agreement to achieve solutions in the public interest on key community issues at all government levels;
- builds citizen participation in the democratic process; and
- engages communities in promoting positive solutions to public policy issues through education and advocacy.
The League of Women Voters Education Fund is a nonpartisan public policy educational organization which:
- builds citizen participation in the democratic process;
- studies key community issues at all governmental levels in an unbiased manner; and
- enables people to seek positive solutions to public policy issues through education and conflict management.
We believe in:
- respect for individuals;
- the value of diversity; and
- the empowerment of the grassroots, both within the League and in communities.
- act with trust, integrity and professionalism;
- operate in an open and effective manner to meet the needs of those we serve, both members and the public;
- take the initiative in seeking diversity in membership; and
- acknowledge our heritage as we seek our path to the future.
The League of Women Voters started after women got the right to vote.
In her address to the National American Woman Suffrage Association’s (NAWSA) 50th convention in St. Louis, Missouri, President Carrie Chapman Catt proposed the creation of a “league of women voters to finish the fight and aid in the reconstruction of the nation.” Women Voters was formed within the NAWSA, composed of the organizations in the states where suffrage had already been attained.The next year, on February 14, 1920 – six months before the 19th amendment to the Constitution was ratified – the League was formally organized in Chicago as the national League of Women Voters. Catt described the purpose of the new organization:
“The League of Women Voters is not to dissolve any present organization but to unite all existing organizations of women who believe in its principles. It is not to lure women from partisanship but to combine them in an effort for legislation which will protect coming movements, which we cannot even foretell, from suffering the untoward conditions which have hindered for so long the coming of equal suffrage. Are the women of the United States big enough to see their opportunity?”
Maud Wood Park became the first national president of the League and thus the first League leader to rise to the challenge. She had steered the women’s suffrage amendment through Congress in the last two years before ratification and liked nothing better than legislative work. From the very beginning, however, it was apparent that the legislative goals of the League were not exclusively focused on women’s issues and that citizen education aimed at all of the electorate was in order.
Since its inception, the League has helped millions of women and men become informed participants in government. In fact, the first league convention voted 69 separate items as statements of principle and recommendations for legislation. Among them were protection for women and children, right of working women, food supply and demand, social hygiene, the legal status of women, and American citizenship.The League’s first major national legislative success was the passage of the Sheppard-Towner Act providing federal aid for maternal and child care programs. In the 1930’s, League members worked successfully for enactment of the Social Security and Food and Drug Acts. Due at least in part to League efforts, legislation passed in 1938 and 1940 removed hundreds of federal jobs from the spoils system and placed them under Civil Service.
During the postwar period, the League helped lead the effort to establish the United Nations and to ensure U.S. Participation. The League was one of the first organizations in the country officially recognized by the United Nations as a non-governmental organization; it still maintains official observer status today.
See also League History from the League of Women Voters of the US.