The League of Women Voters was formed in 1920 as an outgrowth of the movement to give women the right to vote following the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
That amendment was ratified in 1920, after a 57-year struggle. The League was characterized as a "mighty political experiment" designed to help 20 million women carry out their new responsibilities as voters. It encouraged them to use their new power to participate in shaping public policy.
Since 1910, the League has indeed helped improve the general welfare of the people.
Some of the League's earliest causes included support for child labor laws, minimum wage, compulsory education and equal opportunity for women. Some of these issues affected the creation of laws that are still in force today.
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A brief review of some other issues in which the League took a leadership role reads like a historical summary of our nation. The League has been involved in environmental issues, the fight against poverty and discrimination, the civil rights movement, reproductive freedom, health care reform and became a major advocate for campaign finance reform.
Every year local Leagues set a program into place for the upcoming year. The Santa Maria Valley League has focused on topics relevant to our community. Studies and public forms have focused on water, county split, health care services, mental health services, immigration, housing, and many others. Of note, many of these topics continue to be relevant to today’s issues and concerns.
Many people talk about how we need greater participation from the public, but it may seem hard to find models of how to really put this to practice. The League of Women Voters is a model of participation in the democratic process at local, regional, state and federal levels.
Feb. 14 is known as the anniversary date for the League of Women Voters. Our Santa Maria Valley League has much to be proud of regarding registration of voters and education of our community on upcoming measures and issues.
Every election we provide the League’s Pros and Cons on measures and provide candidate forums. Many of our community organizations support these forums including the Santa Maria Times, Fund for Santa Barbara, NAACP, AAUW, and CAUSE.
Please join us Thursday morning, Feb. 13 at Hancock College to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the League of Women Voters. We are hosting a panel titled “Women in Government” starting at 9 a.m. All are welcome!
Lisa Thornhill is the President League of Women Voters Santa Maria Valley.