Although it didn’t come in like a lion, hello March! For some it is a month of reflection, while others recall the story of brave Queen Esther and nearly everyone dons a bit of green on St. Patrick’s Day. We all welcome Spring with its longer days and promise of new growth.
March is also Women’s History month, and this year’s theme is Celebrating Women Who Tell Stories. So while it's impossible to select a best or favorite, salutations to novelists like Alice Walker, Karen Blixen, Agatha Christie, Amy Tan, Joan Didion, Sandra Cisneros, Toni Morrison, and Maya Angelou for their brilliant stories. Thank you too to journalists like Mary Ann Shadd Cary, Nellie Bly, Ida B. Wells, Cokie Roberts, Ethel Payne, Martha Raddatz, Gwen Ifill, and Yamiche Alcindor for claiming space in the world of news.
Although known for its work on voter rights, the League of Women Voters has many stories to tell as well. A few examples:
Following the passage of the 21st amendment, the League turned its attention to other issues impacting the lives of women. First was the alarming mortality rate for mothers and infants leading to the League’s first major legislative success, the passage of the Sheppard-Towner bill in 1921. The bill, the first federal grant-in-aid to states, created 3,000 child and maternal health centers across the country.
- Despite being considered an “improper” interest for women, the League began supporting the development of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in 1926. Although it did not take a stand on public versus private power, they believed the TVA could be used to study the respective benefits. In 1933 Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the bill, and the League received the last of the pens he used to sign the legislation.
- When fifty nations met in 1945 to discuss what would become the United Nations, the League was an active advocate, selling over 100,000 supportive pamphlets in a matter of weeks and training some 5,000 League members to “take the message to the people.” The League became the first, and remains, a United Nation’s non-governmental observer.
- In 1950, League member Dorothy Kenyon, a charismatic feminist, attorney, judge, and civil rights proponent, became the first person investigated by Joseph McCarthy for suspected anti-American activity. In the 1960s, the League worked for civil rights, and that decade also marks the beginning of the League’s environmental work. In 1970, the League began a major campaign to adopt the Equal Rights Amendment; men were granted League membership in 1974; and in 1976, the League was awarded an Emmy for the Presidential debate of 1976.
Yes, we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us.
A hat-tip to our Voter Service chair, Peggy Kell, for once again successfully organizing this year’s candidate forums. It takes considerable time to arrange and skill to host these events, so thank you!
Consistent with the League’s position in opposing school vouchers, we published a Letter to the Editor in the March 1 Wednesday Journal calling for an end to the Invest in Kids Act. Despite the friendly name, the Act diverts tax revenue from public schools and into private, including religious, ones. Please contact your legislator about the Act and thank you to Marilyn Pearson and Ann Courter for your help.
Don’t forget to spring ahead one hour on Sunday, March 12, though there is truth in this anonymous quote: “Daylight saving time: Only a fool would believe that you could cut a foot off the top of a blanket, sew it to the bottom, and have a longer blanket!”
Jane and Joan