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In 1920 when the 19th amendment brought women the constitutional guarantee of full voting rights, an offspring, The League of Women Voters emerged. Although born of the feminist struggle for suffrage, the League is not a feminist organization. Its agenda is far broader than overcoming the legacy of patriarchy. The compass guiding the League is public interest.
It is impossible to discuss the League without mention of its founder, Carrie Chapman Catt. To share Louise M. Young's description of Ms. Catt in IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST "Carrie Chapman Catt almost single-handedly transformed the major wing of the suffrage movement into a parapolitical organization on the eve of enfranchisement and phrased its initial political-educational goals. Her farsighted purpose was to shape a political role for women.
"Catt was the prototype of the professional woman, successfully integrating her private and public lives by the strength of her adaptive intelligence and resolute will, though not without severe struggle. Her innate talents were strongly executive, developed and disciplined by a succession of obstacles in the path of their realization. Gifted and ambitious to leave her mark on events she found herself balked by convention and denied status by law... Her talent for analysis and problem solving eventually shaped a personality that was "victory organized". But Catt's incomparable leadership.. .was an achievement of self-discipline and control, reinforced by a firm grasp of reality ... She never blundered into success. Her battles were won in her head before she won them in the field."
Political education is the pivot around which the League turns. In the selection of issues for agenda action, development of consensus through educating ourselves, sustained study and extensive discussion. The political education process is then carried into the community at large through a range of devices crafted by League over the years: public testimony, action coalitions, publications, forums, debates, and so on.
The strength of League lies in the quality of our human resource base, and the mode of operation developed to deploy our energies. League members contribute to the organization the social commitment, high intelligence, and solid education of a talented pool of people, offering substantial amounts of volunteer time. This activity is an invaluable training ground for leadership.
Although we affirm the national policy of nonpartisanship, members are urged to be as active in political parties as possible without hampering League work
In the words of Carrie Chapman Catt to the Jubilee Convention in 1920, she reminded the delegates that "the real struggle for emancipation is yet to be won on the inside of political parties." She outlined the prospect: "Perhaps, when you enter the party-you will find yourselves in a sort of political penumbra where most of the men are. These men will be glad to see you... you will be flattered ... think how charming it is to be partisan; but if you stay longer you will discover a little denser group... the umbra of the.. .party. You won't be so welcome there. Those are the people ... planning the platforms and picking the candidates ... that is the place-to be. And if you are active enough to see something else--the real thing in the center, with the door locked tight... there is the engine that moves the wheels of your party machinery... if you really want women's vote to count, make you way there."
Happy 70th Birthday, League of Women Voters!
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