You are here:   About Us > Mission and History
Register   |  Login

 

Minimize

Membership in the League offers personal involvement for the public good.

The League of Women Voters is where hands-on work to safeguard democracy leads to civic improvement.

 

Minimize
What are our Mission, Principles and Roles? How are we structured? What is our history? What do we do? What is our vision? How to support our work?

Our Mission

The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.

Principles

The League of Women Voters believes in representative government and in the individual liberties established in the Constitution of the United States.

The League of Women Voters believes that democratic government depends upon the informed and active participation of its citizens and requires that governmental bodies protect the citizen's right to know by giving adequate notice of proposed actions, holding open meetings and making public records accessible.

The League of Women Voters believes that every citizen should be protected in the right to vote; that every person should have access to free public education that provides equal opportunity for all; and that no person or group should suffer legal, economic or administrative discrimination.

The League of Women Voters believes that efficient and economical government requires competent personnel, the clear assignment of responsibility, adequate financing, and coordination among the different agencies and levels of government.

The League of Women Voters believes that responsible government should be responsive to the will of the people; that government should maintain an equitable and flexible system of taxation, promote the conservation and development of natural resources in the public interest, share in the solution of economic and social problems that affect the general welfare, promote a sound economy, and adopt domestic policies that facilitate the solution of international problems.

The League of Women Voters believes that cooperation with other nations is essential in the search for solutions to world problems and that development of international organization and international law is imperative in the promotion of world peace.

Our Role

The League began 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. From the beginning, the League was 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. League founders believed that maintaining a nonpartisan stance would protect the fledgling organization from becoming mired in the party politics of the day. However, League members were encouraged to be political themselves, by educating citizens about, and lobbying for, government and social reform legislation.

This holds true today. The League is proud to be nonpartisan, neither supporting nor opposing candidates or political parties at any level of government, but always working on vital issues of concern to members and the public. The League has a long, rich history, that continues with each passing year.

As an organization the League does not support or oppose any political party or candidate for office. However, the League does take positions on selected issues that members have studied and agreed upon.

The League of Women Voters has two separate and distinct roles.
 
  *Voters Service/Citizen Education: we present unbiased nonpartisan information about elections, the voting process, and issues.
  *Action/Advocacy: we are also nonpartisan, but, after study, we use our positions to advocate for or against particular policies in the public interest.

Our Vision, Beliefs, and Intentions guide our activities.

 

Our Organization

The League's enduring vitality and resonance comes from its unique decentralized structure. The League is a grassroots organization, working at the national, state and local levels.

There are Leagues in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Hong Kong, in addition to the hundreds of local Leagues nationwide. The League of Women Voters of the United States and the League of Women Voters Education Fund operate at the national level with grassroots support from state and local Leagues.

League of Women Voters is strictly nonpartisan; it neither supports nor opposes candidates for office at any level of government. At the same time, the League is wholeheartedly political and works to influence policy through advocacy. It is the original grassroots citizen network, directed by the consensus of its members nationwide. The 900 state and local Leagues - comprising a vast grassroots lobby corps that can be mobilized when necessary.

Over time, the League’s legislative priorities change to reflect the needs of society and critical issues of concern. The organization remains true to its basic purpose: to make democracy work for all citizens. The League of Women Voters makes a difference in the lives of citizens because of the energy and passion of thousands of members committed to our principles.

To find more about the National League go to their site at http://www.lwv.org

Local League in Iowa
    * Ames 
    *Hamilton County 
    *Jasper County 
    *Johnson 
    *Metro Des Mount 
    *Oskaloosa 
    *Ottumwa 
    *Sioux City
    *Grinnell 
    *Cedar Rapids/Marion
    *Black Hawk/Bremer Counties

Our History

A dynamic beginning
Carrie Chapman Catt, long-standing leader of the women's suffrage movement and 1880 graduate of the present Iowa State University, brought the League of Women Voters to life in 1919. Her purpose was to harness the political energy of millions of women who were working diligently for the right to vote. Mrs. Catt envisioned an organization dedicated to informed citizen participation in government and to advocacy for progressive legislation on carefully studied issues.

In her address to the National American Woman Suffrage Association's (NAWSA) 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 the organizations in the states where suffrage had already been attained.

The League of Women Voters was founded in 1920 during the convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. The convention was held just six months before the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, giving women the right to vote after a 72-year struggle.

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 and Food and Drug Acts. 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.

To read the history of the Iowa League please click here

See also League History from the League of Women Voters of the US.

Voter Education

We make voting easier through varied voter education programs

The League of Women Voters Education Fund conducts voter service and citizen education activities. It is a nonpartisan nonprofit public policy educational organization, which:

  • Builds citizen participation in the democratic process.
  • Studies key community issues at all government levels in an unbiased manner
  • Enables people to seek positive solutions to public policy issues through education and conflict management

Action and Advocacy

We are truly a grassroots orgnization . . .

The League of Women Voters takes action on an issue or advocates for a cause when there is an existing League position that supports the issue or speaks to the cause.

Positions result from a process of study. Any given study, whether it be National, State, or Local, is thorough in its pursuit of facts and details. As the study progresses, a continuing discussion of pros and cons of each situation occurs. Prior to the results of the study being presented to the general membership, study committee members fashion consensus questions that are then addressed by the membership.

Additional discussion, pro and con, takes place as members (not part of the study committee) learn the scope of the study. After the members reach consensus, the board forms positions based on that consensus.

It is the consensus statement -- the statement resulting from the consensus questions -- that becomes a position. Firm action or advocacy can then be taken on the particular issue addressed by the position. Without a position, action/advocacy cannot be taken.

Through this study process the Local League, State and National Leagues' follow the same procedure to adopt State and National Positions.

Consensus/group discussion is the technique most often used in the League for reaching member agreement. It is a process whereby members participate in a group discussion of an issue. The consensus reached by members through group discussion is not a simple majority, nor is it unanimity; rather it is the overall sense of the group as expressed through the exchange of ideas and opinions, whether in a membership meeting or a series of membership or unit meetings.

Vision, Beliefs, and Intentions

 The principles that guide our organization...

The goal of the League of Women Voters is to empower citizens to shape better communities worldwide.The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political membership organization which:

  • acts after study and member agreement to achieve solutions in the public interest on key community issues at all government levels
  • builds citizen participation in the democratic process. engages communities in promoting positive solutions to public policy issues through education and advocacy.

The League of Women Voters Education Fund is a nonpartisan public policy educational organization which:

  • builds citizen participation in the democratic process
  • studies key community issues at all governmental levels in an unbiased manner
  • enables people to seek positive solutions to public policy issues through education and conflict management.

We believe in:

  • Respect for individuals
  • The value of diversity
  • The empowerment of the grassroots, both within the League and in communities

We will:

  • act with trust, integrity and professionalism
  • operate in an open and effective manner to meet the needs of those we serve, both members and the public
  • take the initiative in seeking diversity in membership
  • acknowledge our heritage as we seek our path to the future.

Supporting your League

 Have you ever thought about:

  • Getting more involved and sharing your opinions?
  • Becoming better informed?
  • Shaping the policy decisions that affect your everyday life?

Then consider connecting with a group that helps you do all of that - group focused on current issues affecting you, your community, your state and your country .issues on which you can make a difference.

That group is the League of Women Voters! Each member participates in the League as personal time and preference permit. There is a place for everyone and every lifestyle. Even if you don't have the time now to be active, your membership is important to the League's continued success.

You have choices that fit your busy life and schedule, whether it's taking ten minutes from the convenience of your home to send an email "Action Alert" to your member of Congress. Spending a couple of hours at a forum on a topic of interest to you, or participating once a month in meetings discussing neighborhood issues.

Contributions to the Local Leagues of Women Voters provides direct support for the League’s work mobilizing citizens and influencing public policy through advocacy.

Contributions to the League of Women Voters Education Fund provides direct support for our citizen education, public engagement and research activities at home and around the world in emerging democracies. Please note that only contributions to the LWVEF are tax deductible. Donations can be made In Memoriam, to remember someone special by giving a gift in their memory, or In Honor of someone close to you for a birthday, anniversary, wedding or other special occasion.

TO BE PART OF THIS GROUP OF PEOPLE