Making Democracy Work

History of the League

The League of Women Voters started after women got the right to vote.

National History

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.

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.

Local History

The Needham LWV was formed in 1940 when Needham was a small town of 12,000 people. The first order of business for the Needham LWV was to lead the town's part in the national defense drive for aluminum during World War II. During the 1950s, the LWVN was concerned with the tremendous increase in development and sponsored a forum entitled "Problems of a Growing Town". In 1955 the LWVN spoke on the floor of Town Meeting in support of long-range planning and supported the merger of the parks committee with the recreational council as a new town department with more extensive year round recreation programs for all age groups.

In the 1970s, the LWVN was involved with issues such as affordable housing, protection of open space, support of handgun control, and a graduated income tax. In the 1980's and 1990's, issues facing the LWVN included transportation and education. The LWVN recommended that Needham High School eliminate numerical class rank, and the school committee ultimately agreed.

More recently we have focused our efforts on climate change and natural resources, voter and citizen education, immigration, campaign finance reform, and participation in town government.

When the 1961 time capsule was opened in Needham on July 4, 2011, there were three LWVN items deemed worth saving in that time capsule. The items included:

1961 Voters' Information Handbook
the 1961 Voters' Information Handbook

1961 Handbook for Town Meeting Members
the Town Meeting Member Handbook

1961 Town Summary for Needham
and the Town Summary

all clearly labeled as LWV of Needham publications.

Through the Decades