On July 19, 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York, women’s right to vote was proposed by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Seventy two years later on August 26th, 1920, the 19th amendment to the US Constitution was ratified and signed by Secretary of State giving women their right to vote!! Seventy two years demonstrates the long struggle for suffrage by generations of remarkable women, truly a mark of forbearance, patience, and perseverance.
The League of Women Voters descends from the suffragists. In 1920, Carry Chapman Catt, a dedicated suffragist, proposed the formation of the League of Women Voters, an organization to help 20 million women carry out their right to vote as informed citizens. The League encouraged women to use their new power to participate in shaping public policy. From the beginning, the League has been an activist, grassroots organization whose leaders believed that citizens should play a critical role in advocacy. It was then, and is now, a nonpartisan organization. The league neither supports nor opposes political candidates or parties.
You might be interested to know that Wisconsin was the first state to ratify the 19th amendment. However, there is some question as to which state,Wisconsin or Michigan, was actually the first. But we call it a happy challenge. No matter who was first, the Midwest showed leadership in doing the right thing, empowering American Citizens with their right to vote.
Our local league, the League of Women Voters of Appleton was founded in 1939. We have board minutes from the first meeting date, May 15, 1939. However, a bit of mystery remains to this day. In an article in the Appleton Post-Crescent October 26, 1929, it states that “The decision to form an Appleton League of Women Voters was made at a meeting of about 30 women at the home of Miss Elizabeth Wilson.” And further, a later reference in the Post Crescent states that Mrs. Wilson Naylor was a delegate from the newly organized Appleton League to the state League of Women Voters convention. There are no further records until 1939. Well, who doesn’t love a good mystery!