The League's History - National and Local

Photo of Carrie Chapman Catt

Carrie Chapman Catt, LWV Founder

In her address to the National American Woman Suffrage Association's 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 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 Act and Food and Drug Act. 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.

The Ames Connection: A dynamic beginning

The Ames League was founded in 1933 by local women who shared Carrie Chapman Catt's vision. Today, its members are men and women (citizens over 18) from across Story County who share common goals with others across the country. It is an integral part of the community, state and national levels.

We Stimulate Democracy

The essence of democracy is informed citizen participation in government. The Ames League publicizes and observes city board and commission meetings, registers voters, sponsors candidate for­ums for local elections, hosts meetings where citizens can question area state representatives and senators during the legislative session, and provides free guides to county, city and school government.

The community de­pends on the League to monitor the open meet­ings law. The League remains neutral about candidates and knowledgeable about issues. Citizens expect the League to provide infor­mation about election laws and procedures.

The League of Women Voters, because of its reputation for fairness and objectivity, is often called to convene community forums on issues of local concern.  The Ames League also works at the local educating policy makers and the general public on pressing issues and takes concerted action to bring about positive change.

The LWV of Ames & Story County has been in the forefront of many changes that citizens take for granted today. Imagine what Ames would be like without…

  • Cy-Ride
  • Minimum health and safety housing code
  • Resource Recovery Plant
  • Greenbelt of Story County
  • Expanded Ames Public Library
  • 13th Street fire station
  • Covered garbage trucks!
  • Municipal Utility Plant with citizen board
  • Long-term, comprehensive Land Use Plan
  • All-America City designation
  • Consolidated City Hall

Advocacy works when study leads to action.  Members participate in study groups, attend information meetings, speak their minds, observe meetings or reg­ister voters, and develop leadership talents and sharpen their skills.

Past presidents of the LWV of Ames & Story County