Notable League Member: Lady Bird Johnson

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

April 1, 2021

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

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By Robyn Orsini

February 1, 2021

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 lwvnapa@gmail.com.

Notable League Member: Eleanor Roosevelt

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

MARCH 1, 2021

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!

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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.

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!

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"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.