One hundred years ago, Carrie Chapman Catt, speaking at the 50th anniversary celebration for the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), proposed the formation of a league of women voters to finish the fight for women’s equality. Catt wanted the new group to focus on civic engagement and political issues rather than partisan politics. Within a year, on Feb. 14, 1920, Catt’s vision was realized, and the founding of the National League of Women Voters was formed. (On Aug. 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment was ratified, closing decades-long work to give women the right to vote.)
Currently, local and state leagues number 800, and more than 500,000 women and men members and supporters. We are proud to still be staunchly non-partisan and to encourage informed and active participation in government and elections. Our work includes increasing the understanding of major public policy issues through education, advocacy and action. You probably know us for the many non-partisan candidate forums and voter registrations we offer throughout the state.
On Feb. 14, 2020, leagues throughout the nation (and one in Hong Kong) will join together for a day of action to celebrate the 100th anniversary of seeing Catt’s vision come to fruition. With Catt’s legacy in mind, we call on Rhode Islanders to register to vote if you have not yet done so and remember to fill out the U.S. Census form in April. Everyone needs to vote and be counted so Rhode Island retains two representatives in Congress and continues to receive federal funding to help pay for important programs.
In Rhode Island, the State League represents three local leagues, South County, Newport and Providence, in addition to members at-large. You will find league members registering voters at the Weaver Library, 41 Grove Ave., East Providence, on the first Tuesday of every month between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., and at its farmer’s market this summer. On Feb. 14, the League of Women Voters of South County will take charge of a voter registration drive at the Westerly Library, 44 Broad St.
Additionally, the League of Women Voters is planning events throughout the year to celebrate our continental. The Newport League and the Pell Center on March 3 (Tuesday) will host a talk by Susan Ware, the celebrated feminist historian and author of Why They Marched. It will be at Bazarsky Hall, Salve Regina University, at 7 p.m. On Aug. 26, LWVRI will partner with the Preservation Society of Newport County for an event to honor Catt’s legacy at Marble House.
The South County League and the Friends of Westerly on March 11 will host “From Seneca Falls to the 19th Amendment: Songs of the American Woman Suffrage Movement,” a presentation of engaging and interesting songs of the movement as well as historical commentary. It will be at the Westerly Library on March 11 at 6 p.m.
You can join the Providence League for a series of conversations called “The (Unfinished) Legacy of the Women’s Suffrage Movement” at 6:30 p.m. on the last three Mondays in March (3/16, 3/23 and 3/30) at the Lippitt House Museum, 199 Hope St, East Side of Providence. Topics to be covered will be equity in voting, criminal justice reform and equal pay for equal work.
During this important centennial year for the League, in addition to registering Rhode Islanders to vote and leading forums and debates, our Leagues will be focusing on the following:
l People Powered Fair Maps is a 50-state campaign to promote fair redistricting. Our plan is to engage Rhode Islanders with panel discussions and information on understanding the redistricting process, and what you can do to ensure it is fair.
l Promote and support Rhode Island laws that increase transparency and oppose laws that seek to remove transparency.
l Celebrate the 100thanniversary of the 19thAmendment.
l Ensure the census is completed with a total count of all Rhode Islanders specifically helping out partners in traditionally low-reporting areas.
We call on Rhode Islanders to defend democracy and get involved. Visit us at LWVRI.ORG, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter@LWVRI.
Jane Koster is the president of the League of Women Voters of Rhode Island. Local League presidents are Nina Rossomando, South County; Elizabeth Head, Providence; and Susan Wells, Newport.