The League of Women Voters continues its mission of civic engagement.
by Betsy Patterson, President, League of Women Voters of Ventura County
The League of Women Voters is celebrating its 100th anniversary, having been founded after the passage of the 19th amendment to the US Constitution, granting women their right to vote. Tennessee was the last state to ratify the amendment on August 18, 1920 due to the tie-breaking vote of one Harry T. Burn, acting on the advice of his mother. It was officially adopted on August 26, 1920, and the work of the League of Women Voters began in educating voters about the process of voting and about the candidates and issues.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our celebration will not be all that we intended. However, we must take time to recognize the historic significance of these women who pushed for their right to vote, even during their own 1918 influenza pandemic.
We have seen many changes over the past 100 years. Few women had access to higher education; now over 50% of college graduates are women. When women married, they took their husband’s name; but they lost their right to own property, manage business, and could not have their own bank account or, later, a credit card without the signature of their husbands. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act passed in 1974.
During wartime, women ran the farms, worked in industry and continued to manage the household and raise the children. Post-World War II, many women were expected to return to their previous roles of home-maker and mother and not work outside the home. It took a 2nd wave of feminism to break down some of these social barriers.
Women entered politics. Jeannette Rankin was the first woman to serve in Congress, elected in 1917 from Montana, serving only one term. Nellie Tayloe Ross was the first female governor, serving from 1925-1927 in Wyoming. Shirley Chisholm was the first Black woman elected to Congress in 1968 and served until 1983. Today women currently hold 25% of the Senate seats and 23% of the House of Representative seats. Women make up 50.9% of the US population, as of 2019.
Locally, Susan K. Lacey and Maggie Erickson Kildee were the first women elected to the Ventura County Board of Supervisors, both in 1980. Today the Board of Supervisors and all ten city councils in Ventura County have one or more elected women serving.
The League of Women Voters is a non-partisan and non-profit organization with over 500,000 members and supporters today, including men since 1974. Our local League began in 1960 with 22 members under the leadership of Mrs. John (Carol) Quinn. Today we have 125 members. Our members come from a wide array of fields, including education, environmental studies, corporate and small business, law, agriculture, arts, medicine, science, and politics.
So, as we celebrate our 100 years, the League of Women Voters continues its mission of civic engagement, encouraging voters to become informed about the candidates and issues and to vote. In the coming months we will be helping the VC Elections Office (venturavote.org) to educate voters and answer questions about the upcoming November election.
Check our website: http://www.lwvventuracounty.org and follow us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/LWVVenturaCo/ ,Twitter https://twitter.com/LwvVentura and Instagram https://www.instagram.com/lwvofventura/