Making Democracy Work

About the League

Mission and Roles

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government. The League influences public policy through advocacy and education advocacy. It never supports or opposes any political party or candidate. Its legal structure is what is known as a 501(c)(4) corporation. The League also maintains an Education Fund that provides voter service and citizen education opportunities. The Education Fund is a nonpartisan, nonprofit public-policy educational organization. Its legal structure is what is known as a 501(c)(3) corporation.

Action and Advocacy

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. In its advocacy role, the League studies issues, develops a position on those issues and advocates for or against particular policies in the public interest.

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, the pros and cons of each situation are discussed continually. Before the study results are presented to the membership, the study committee prepares consensus questions for the membership to address.

Additional discussion, both pro and con, takes place as members (excluding those who were on 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 issue the position addresses. Without a position, action and advocacy cannot be taken.

Donations to the League of Women Voters' advocacy activities are not tax-deductible.

Voter Service and Citizen Education

The League of Women Voters engages in voter service and citizen education activities through its Education Fund. In this role, the Education Fund does the following:
  • Builds citizen participation in the democratic process
  • Studies key community issues at all governmentlevels in an unbiased manner
  • Enables people to seek positive solutions to public-policy issues through education and conflict management
  • Offers unbiased, nonpartisan information about elections, the voting process and issues

Donations to the League of Women Voters Education Fund are fully tax-deductible where allowed by law.

Vision, Beliefs and Intentions

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

  • Acting after study and member agreement in order to find solutions in the public interest on key community issues at all government levels
  • Building citizen participation in the democratic process
  • Using education and advocacy to engage communities in the promotion of positive solutions to public-policy issues

The League of Women Voters Education Fund is a nonpartisan, public-policy educational organization that:

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

The acitivities of the League and its Education Fund are based on the following beliefs:

  • Respect for individuals
  • Value of diversity
  • Empowerment of the grassroots, both within the League and in communities

This leads the League to do the following:

  • Act with trust, integrity and professionalism
  • Operate in an open and effective manner to meet the needs of those the League serves--including both members and the public
  • Take the initiative in seeking diversity in membership
  • Acknowledge the League's heritage as its seeks a path to the future

History of the League

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 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 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, rights of working women, food supply and demand, social hygiene, legal status of women, and American citizenship. The League's first major national legislative success was the passage of the Sheppard-Towner Act, which provided federal aid for maternal and child care programs.  In the 1930s, 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 nongovernmental organization; it still maintains official observer status today.

See also League History from the League of Women Voters of the United States.