Women in San Francisco along with other Californians earned the right to vote in
1911 and they started the San Francisco Center which promoted voters education and
women's suffrage in California, throughout the west and the national movement. In
1920, the San Francisco Center became part of the League of Women Voters.
The League of Women Voters was founded
by Carrie Chapman Catt 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 57-year struggle.
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.
When she first wrote
of how she envisioned the League in April 1919, Carrie Chapman
Catt wrote, "The politicians
used to ask why we wanted to vote. They seemed to think we want to
do something particular with it, something we were not telling about.
They did not understand that women wanted to help improve the general
welfare of the people."
For more than eighty years, the League has indeed
helped improve the general welfare of the people. Some of the League's
earliest causes included support for child labor laws, minimum wage,
compulsory education and equal opportunity for women. Some of these
issues affected the creation of laws that are still in force today.
A brief review of some other issues in which the
League took a leadership role reads like a historical summary of
our nation. The League has been involved in environmental issues,
the fight against poverty and discrimination, the civil rights movement,
reproductive freedom, health care reform and became a major advocate
for campaign finance reform.