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Dolores Huerta – Legendary civil rights leader who inspired farmworkers to believe ‘Si se puede’

Connie Wolfman

Tue Mar 07 2023 20:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

Dolores Huerta was the first Latina to be inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993. Her achievements in fighting for the rights of workers, immigrants, and womens span seven decades, and she is not finished yet! At 93 years of age, she continues her work through the Dolores Huerta Foundation (DHF), which she founded in 2003.

Huerta was raised by her mother, Alicia Chavez, in Stockton, California, following her parents’ divorce. Mrs. Chavez worked hard to become the successful owner of a restaurant and a 70-room hotel that catered to low-wage workers.

After graduating from college, Dolores briefly tried teaching; however, after observing many undernourished and barefoot students, she decided to take a different path. She found her calling as an organizer while serving in the leadership of the Stockton Community Service Organization (CSO). During that time, Dolores established the Agricultural Workers Association, and it was there that she met César Chávez. The two shared the common vision of organizing farm workers, so they resigned from the CSO and launched the National Farm Workers Association in 1962, which eventually became the United Farm Workers (UFW).

Proof of Dolores’s formidable lobbying and negotiating talents was first demonstrated in 1963 when she secured Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and disability insurance for farm workers in California. In 1965, Huerta took the plight of farm workers to consumers by directing the UFW’s Delano grape strike. An estimated 17 million people stopped buying grapes during that boycott, which resulted in the entire California table grape industry signing a three-year collective bargaining agreement with the UFW in 1970.

Huerta was also instrumental in the enactment of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975. This groundbreaking law granted farm workers in California the right to collectively organize and bargain for better wages and working conditions.

Huerta has been arrested twenty-two times for participating in nonviolent civil disobedience activities, and she once suffered a severe beating. In spite of hese hardships, Huerta’s commitment to civil rights has never wavered, and she has received countless awards for her dedication.
In 1998, Ladies' Home Journal recognized Huerta as one of the 100 Most Important Women of the 20th Century, along with Margaret Thatcher and Rosa Parks. In 2015, the Mexican government presented Huerta with its prestigious Ohtli Award to recognize her fight for fair employment practices for the Mexican community in the United States.

In 2012, Huerta was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. When President Obama placed the medallion around her neck, he told the audience that the memorable chant from his 2008 presidential campaign, “Yes We Can,” was borrowed from the farm workers’ famous motto, “Si se puede.”

Sylvia Reade Earle (born 1935)
Time Magazine’s First Hero for the Planet

Connie Wolfman

Fri Apr 01 2022 07:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

Oceanographer and explorer Sylvia Earle has logged more than 7,000 hours underwater. She was the first woman to hold the position of chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and in 1998 Time Magazine named her their first Hero for the Planet. Today Earle is considered one of the world’s leading authorities on marine ecosystems, specializing in the development of new technologies for effective exploration of the deep sea.

As a student at Florida State University, Earle became a certified scuba diver in order to study aquatic plant- life, and in 1966 she earned a PhD in botany from Duke University.
Earle began her career as director of the Cape Haze Marine Laboratory in Florida. In 1970, she was tapped to lead the first all-female team of aquanauts in the Tektite II experiment, an installation of structures 50 feet below the water’s surface in the US Virgin Islands, which was designed to test the viability of prolonged underwater living.

During an untethered dive to the ocean floor near Oahu in 1979, Earle set a depth record of 1,250 feet that still stands today, earning her the nickname “Her Deepness.” That year she also became curator of phycology at the California Academy of Sciences.

In 1982, Earle founded Deep Ocean Engineering with British engineer Graham Hawkes, who later became her third husband. Their engineering team designed and built the Deep Rover research submarine, which can operate at a depth of 3,300 feet.

Earle has been a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence since 1998, a designation that offers funding and support for exceptional individuals who protect the world through their work in science, exploration, and education. She received the million-dollar TED prize In 2009, which allowed her to launch Mission Blue, an organization that has created 122 marine-protected areas (dubbed “Hope Spots”) around the globe.

Rachel Louise Carson (1907–1964)
Marine Biologist & Nature Writer

Connie Wolfman

Sat Apr 02 2022 07:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

Although she is one of the most admired nature writers of the 20th century, Rachel Carson is best known for her groundbreaking campaign to prevent the use of harmful pesticides.

An avid reader and writer from early childhood, Carson was drawn to stories about nature. After earning a master’s degree in zoology from Johns Hopkins University in 1932, Carson’s further education was sidelined during the Great Depression. She accepted a part-time position at the US Bureau of Fisheries (BOF) that included writing copy for an educational radio series on aquatic life. Recognizing her dual talents, the bureau offered her permanent work as an aquatic biologist and reporter. Carson’s reputation grew with the 1941 publication of her first book, Under the Sea Wind. By 1949, she had become the chief of publications at the BOF, later rechristened the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Her second book provided the financial success she needed to make the transition to writing full- time. Published in 1951, The Sea Around Us remained on The New York Times best-seller list for 86 weeks and won the National Book Award for Nonfiction.

By 1957, Carson’s focus had shifted to conservation. She had been researching the harmful effects of pesticides for many years and began closely monitoring federal spraying programs designed to exterminate pests. She questioned the decisions that government and business were making for the health of the country in The Silent Spring, published in 1962 to controversial reviews. Chemical companies fiercely attacked her claim that synthetic pesticides were workling their way up the food chain to the detriment of mankind; however, many scientists defended her position and public opinion gradually moved in her direction.

Carson died just two years later, but lived long enough to see a fledgling environmental movement take root. Today the powerful narrative of The Silent Spring is often cited as a spur for the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and continuing efforts to ban pesticides.

In 1980, Rachel Carson was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Margaret Murie: (1902-2003)
The Grandmother of
American Conservation

Connie Wolfman

Mon Apr 04 2022 07:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

Growing up on the Alaskan tundra, Mardy Thomas fell in love with the stark beauty of the wilderness. In 1924, she was the first woman to graduate from what is now the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, and that same year she married celebrated biologist Olaus Murie. During their honeymoon, the newlyweds traveled 500 miles by dogsled through the heart of Alaska’s Arctic region, conducting research on caribou, studying birds, and launching what would ultimately become an historic 40-year work partnership.

In 1956, the couple initiated a campaign to preserve the land that is now the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, ultimately gaining the support of President Dwight Eisenhower, who authorized the protection of 8 million acres.

Murie continued her environmental crusade after her husband’s death in 1963, consulting with the National Park Service and the Sierra Club. She testified before Congress in support of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, which passed in 1980 and provided protection to an additional 104 million acres in Alaska.

Revered as one of the earliest architects of environmental preservation, Murie was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton in 1998.

Notable League Member: Betty Ford

Connie Wilson

Sat May 01 2021 07:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

As First Lady from 1974 to 1977, Betty Ford faithfully sent her membership dues to her hometown League in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She also continued her activism for women’s rights, even when her opinions clashed with those of her husband’s and the Republican party’s.

Betty was an ardent supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and once famously asked: “Why should my husband’s job or yours prevent us from being ourselves?” In 1975, she made a passionate speech for ratification of the ERA, saying it “will help knock down those restrictions that have locked women into old stereotypes of behavior and opportunity . . . Let us work to end the laws and remove the labels that limit the imagination and the options of men and women alike.”

Admired by members of both political parties, in 1975 Betty was featured on the cover of Time magazine as one of 12 “Women of the Year.” At the same time, critics of this outspoken feminist (led by right-wing Republican women) were organizing pickets against her at the White House gates, a first in the history of women who had served as a president’s wife.

Betty also brought her disarming candor to bear on women’s health issues. Only two months after her husband became president, she underwent treatment for breast cancer, including a mastectomy. Speaking publicly about her experience, Betty raised awareness about a subject that had previously been considered taboo, prompting a significant nationwide increase in the number of women seeking mammograms.

After leaving the White House, Betty once again shared a personal crisis for the public good when she revealed that she was battling an addiction to prescription drugs and alcohol. She quickly became a leading advocate for the education and treatment of this health problem and co-founded the Betty Ford Center in California in 1982. This facility is widely regarded as one of the outstanding treatment centers in the nation for those suffering from substance abuse.

In 1991, President George H. Bush presented Betty Ford with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of her lifetime commitment to public service. She was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by President Bill Clinton in 1999 and was also the recipient of the Smithsonian’s 2003 Woodrow Wilson Award.

Connie Wolfman is a member of the League's Communications Committee.

Notable League Member: Lady Bird Johnson

By Kayla Vix for LWVUS, March 2019
Updated by Connie Wolfman for LWVNC, April 2021

Thu Apr 01 2021 07:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

As we prepare to celebrate Earth Day later this month, the timing seemed perfect for a look at the remarkable life of former League member, Lady Bird Johnson.

According to historian Rita G. Koman, “Lady Bird Johnson’s legacy was to legitimize environmental issues as a national priority. The attitudes and policies she advanced have shaped the conservation and preservation policies of the environmental movement since then.” It will not comes as a surprise to environmental activists that this First Lady is finally receiving her due in a new, best-selling biography titled, "Lady Bird Johnson: Hiding in Plain Sight," by Julia Sweig.

Lady Bird Johnson was First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS) from 1963 to 1969, a role that she helped to reshape. She was the first to employ her own press secretary and chief of staff. Breaking from tradition, she embarked on solo campaigns for legislation, including the Civil Rights Act.

Her sponsorship of the Highway Beautification Act became a defining moment in FLOTUS history. Robert Dole (R-Kan.), then a US House representative, actually proposed an amendment to replace the term “Secretary of Commerce” with the name “Lady Bird” wherever it appeared in the bill. Although the amendment did not pass, when President Johnson signed the bill, he gave the pen to his wife as a memento.

Lady Bird often expressed concern that the term “beautification” was too superficial. Rather, the intended magnitude of the legislation meant “clean water, clean air, clean roadsides, safe waste disposal and preservation of valued old landmarks as well as great parks and wilderness areas.”

Lady Bird remained a League member while residing in the White House. Both she and President Johnson addressed the League’s national convention in Pittsburgh in 1964, where she declared that the League’s work had a major influence on “Lyndon's own determination to give women a better break in government.”

Lady Bird’s commitment to the environmental movement was a lifelong journey. In 1977, President Gerald Ford presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom award, concluding with the words, “Her leadership transformed the American landscape and preserved its natural beauty as a national treasure.”

On her 70th birthday, Lady Bird co-founded the National Wildflower Research Center with a donation of 60 acres of land near Austin. Today it is home to the most comprehensive native plant database in the nation.

NAWSA and the League of Women Voters

By Robyn Orsini

Mon Feb 01 2021 08:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

What does NAWSA (naw-sa) stand for? 

On February 18, 1890, the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association was formed from two suffrage organizations, National and American, both begun in1869. This merger helped build momentum for women to gain voting rights in state and national elections. Its membership grew as more and more states granted women’s suffrage in local and state elections, from about 7,000 women to over 2 million. NAWSA’s efforts, along with massive mobilization across the nation, paid off: in May and June of 1919, the US Congress passed a resolution in support of a constitutional amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote in all elections.

On February 14, 1920, at its 51st convention, NAWSA formally created a spinoff organization called the League of Women Voters. Its initial purpose was to concentrate statewide efforts to make sure the 19th Amendment was ratified. It took only six months for 36 states (two-thirds at the time) to ratify the amendment. The federal enfranchisement of women had been accomplished.

LWV quickly moved into two phases: educating women about voting and advocating for social change. Staunchly nonpartisan, the League provided information about candidates and ballot issues. It also fought for voting rights for all and against voter suppression. LWV lobbied to improve women’s lot, such as opening up higher education to them, providing birth control, gaining the right to get a divorce and having custody of their children, owning property, and having on-the-job protections. It also worked for children’s rights, such as making public education mandatory and tightening child labor laws. Some of these issues continue to this day, in its 101st year.

Robyn Orsini is a past president of the Napa League, and she is the Equality & Equity (EQ2) Advocate. If you have suggestions for this column, please send them to

Notable League Member: Eleanor Roosevelt

By Kayla Vix for LWVUS, March 2019
Updated By Connie Wolfman for LWVNapaCounty, March 2021

Mon Mar 01 2021 08:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

One of the most active high-profile members of the League of Women Voters (LWV), Eleanor Roosevelt served as the League’s vice president for legislative affairs in the 1920s, helping to establish its policy agenda.

Roosevelt touted the League as a leader in engaging women with politics, saying, “The League of Women Voters trains good citizens who have a sense of responsibility about what goes on in their locality, in their state, and in their nation."

Assuming the role of First Lady in 1933, Eleanor initiated dramatic changes. She was the first to hold her own press conferences. Underscoring her support for equal opportunity, she allowed only female reporters to attend because they were often excluded from presidential press briefings. Due to the president’s restricted mobility, she was often described as his “eyes, ears and legs,” traveling to communities across the country to learn firsthand about their needs and challenges.

She supported anti-lynching campaigns and fought for fair housing for people of color. In 1939, when the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to allow Marion Anderson, an acclaimed African American singer, to perform in their auditorium, Eleanor protested by resigning her membership.

Following FDR’s death, President Harry Truman appointed Eleanor as a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly, where she served from 1945 to 1953. While chair of the UN’s Human Rights Commission, she helped to write the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which she considered to be her greatest achievement.

Celebrate the League's 100th Anniversary

Looking Back, Moving Forward - Women Power the Vote!

We Celebrate Suffrage and the League!

LWV 100 Years

Celebrate with us as we continue to commemorate the 100th anniversary of passing the Nineteenth Amendment.  The 100th birthday of the League of Women Voters was February 14, 2020.​

Our special year-long celebration of the 19th Amendment began on August 24, 2019.  A diverse group of women who fought for the vote, sometimes well after the passage of the 19th Amendment will highlight with photos and biographies. Many of these women are lesser-known heroines!

In April 2019, the LWVUS board committed to developing a League-wide Day of Action for February 14, 2020, with the theme of ‘Women Power the Vote’. This Day of Action staying true to our brand, focused on redistricting, a priority nationwide

National Events

National Park Service

The National Park Service has a wonderful page on California women winning the vote -- check it out. It links to other National Park pages related to women's suffrage and history.

National Archives:  Rightfully Hers

The National Archives has an exhibit called Rightfully Hers that features THE 19th Amendment document. The League is also featured in this very high-profile exhibit with historical documents were on display to the public until January 2021. We are also proud to have Virginia Kase included on their honorary committee and are in conversation with the Archives about other opportunities for collaboration. There will be a traveling exhibit and LWVUS is working with the Archives to make some materials available for Leagues in the coming months.

Women's Vote Centennial Initiative

The Women's Vote Centennial Initiative (WVCI) is a collaborative of organizations and individuals committed to preserving and honoring women's suffrage history. The League of Women Voters is a WVCI Taskforce partner, meaning that our League is too. This organization has a lot of resources for suffrage celebration, including an interactive toolkit. WVCI is looking to feature events and activities in all 50 states.

Creating a more perfect democracy

How Women Got the Vote

A Quiz by Keith Williams was published in the New York Times on June 4, 2019 (the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment by the US Congress). Test your knowledge!

19th amendment

"The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.


Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."


-19th Amendment, United States Constitution


The 19th Amendment was passed by the US Congress on June 4, 1919 and sent for ratification to the states. It was ratified by Tennessee, the 36th and last state needed, on August 18, 1920 and officially adopted on August 26, 1920 (a date now celebrated annually as Women's Equality Day). The fight for women's suffrage had taken over 70 years since the Declaration of Sentiments, calling for equality between the sexes and a resolution for women's suffrage,  was signed by 68 women and 32 men at the Seneca Falls convention in 1848.


New territories and states, particularly in the West, started to grant women the right to vote in the late 1800's. Wyoming was the first state to enact full suffrage for women in 1869. Other states followed, including California, in 1911. By the late 1890's, however, the momentum had shifted to passing a national amendment while continuing the fight at the state and local level.


Three generations of dedicated suffragists waged the 72 year battle to pass the 19th Amendment. Many who had started the movement were no longer alive when success came. During this landmark 100th anniversary year, we will honor and celebrate the suffragists (women and men) who had the courage and determination to ensure that women were able to vote and to capture their power as citizens.

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