19th at 100: Commemorating the Suffrage Struggle and Its Legacies in Northeast Ohio

League of Women Voters

In 1909, Emma Smith DeVoe first proposed the idea of an organization dedicated to educating women on the voting process at the National Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) convention. Attendees largely ignored DeVoe’s proposal, yet she decided to create an organization herself dedicated to the issue. She founded the National Conference of Women Voters in 1911, which mainly operated on the west coast. Following the passage of the 19th Amendment, the belief that women needed to be educated on the voting process and be encouraged to participate grew in popularity. Carrie Chapman Catt negotiated with DeVoe to merge her association with a new organization that would succeed NAWSA. Catt worried that DeVoe’s alignment with the radical Alice Paul would alienate conservative women. The merger occurred in 1920, officially creating the League of Women Voters.

Since its creation, the League has had an active role in politics, both at the national and local Politics. Each state has its own chapter of the organization. Additionally, many cities and counties have chapters dedicated to their local politics. While initially, only women could join the League, the organization began allowing men to become members in 1973. The League’s mission is to educate both men and women so they can make more informed political decisions. Since its founding, the League has maintained its nonpartisanship. While it has taken official positions on certain issues, it does not endorse candidates. In the Cleveland area alone, ten chapters exist to cover the whole community. The first Cleveland chapter of the League was formed in 1920. Belle Sherwin, a Cleveland local, became the first president of the League of Women Voters of Cleveland. As of 2020, Audrey Morris and Catherine LaCroix serve as co-presidents of the Greater Cleveland chapters.

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