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The birthday party glowed with many women and men in white or purple “Votes for Women” sashes. Fancy hats abounded. In February, the League of Women Voters (LWV) was 100 years young!

The celebration at IMG Academy on February 15th, which coincided with the 200th birthday of Susan B. Anthony, was attended by over 200 Manatee and Sarasota County supporters. The event was hosted by the LWV of Manatee County and moderated by president Alice Newlon. 

Kathryn Chesley played the part of Carrie Chapman Catt, the founder of the League. She reached back into the past, sharing with the audience her motivations, struggles, and triumphs. She was both enlightening and amusing.

Following her presentation, Patti Brigham, President of the LWV of Florida, moved the group to today, and the League’s goals and activities. She explained that while the organization is nonpartisan, it does take positions on government issues. The League studies them carefully and arrives at a recommendation to give the decision makers. Patti moved on to some of the current and future concerns, pointing out that the League not only advocates and educates, but also litigates. She encouraged the audience members to support and participate in League efforts.  

The event also included a number of informational displays, such as exhibits of suffrage efforts throughout the 100 years of the LWV. There were 10 historic posters, including one that depicted Sojourner Truth’s ‘Ain’t I a Woman’ speech; League positions on issues over the years and the percentage of women versus men voting in elections. 

A few surprising facts from the exhibits: in 1848, the date of the Seneca Falls Convention on women’s rights, Iroquois women owned all property (except the man’s horse and hunting gear), but women of the United States owned none, not even her own children.

Another surprising fact:  one of the first advocacy positions of the League was to keep US women from losing their citizenship if they married a foreigner.  This exhibit can be obtained for use by schools, libraries, and community organizations by emailing: info@lwvmanatee.org.  

More about the League of Women Voters: 

The League of Women Voters was formed in 1920, six months before women gained the right to vote. Carrie Chapman Catt was the leader of the largest suffrage organization and, seeing the imminent passing of the 19th Amendment, established the League as a nonpartisan, voting rights, good governance organization to help women, and then all citizens in voting.

The League works to improve government and influence public policies through advocacy and education. Its enduring vitality and resonance stem from its more than 800 state and local Leagues. Members do voter registration, hold candidate forums, issue Voter Guides to inform citizens on local races and ballot amendments, and sponsor educational programs on key issues.

An important key to its success has been its nonpartisanship, never endorsing or opposing particular political parties or candidates. Its membership includes citizens from all parties, or no party.  LWV of Manatee President Alice Newlon said: “I think this is important, because it helps the League’s messages on issues and legislation remain above partisan politics.  It also promotes inclusion for greater citizen involvement, and has allowed the League to develop a strong, trusted voice for its advocacy and education programs.”

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