The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political organization encouraging informed and active participation in government. It influences public policy through education and advocacy. We never support or oppose any political party or candidate.
The League of Women Voters has two separate and distinct roles:
- Voters Service/Citizen Education: we present unbiased nonpartisan information about elections, the voting process, and issues.
- Action/Advocacy: we are also nonpartisan, but, after study, we use our positions to advocate for or against particular policies in the public interest.
To conduct our voter service and citizen education activities, we use funds from the League of Women Voters Education Fund, which is a 501(c)(3) corporation, a nonprofit educational organization. The League of Women Voters, a membership organization, conducts action and advocacy and is a nonprofit 501(c)(4) corporation.
Our Vision, Beliefs, and Intentions guide our activities.
The League of Women Voters is a peoples' organization that has fought since 1920 to improve our government and engage all Americans in the decisions that impact their lives. We operate at national, state and local levels through more than 800 state and local Leagues, in all 50 states as well in DC, the Virgin Islands and Hong Kong. We never endorse or oppose political parties or candidates, but we are political.
Formed from the movement that secured the right to vote for women, the centerpiece of the League’s efforts remain to expand participation and give a voice to all Americans. We do this at all three levels of government, engaging in both broad educational efforts as well as advocacy. Our issues are grounded in our respected history of making democracy work for all Americans.
The League is different from many organizations in that what it accomplishes comes directly from the involvement of its members. It is a grassroots organization providing every member with opportunities to learn and educate others about government, and take action on public policy. We walk our talk: we believe that we need everyone to participate in order for our community to be strong, safe and vibrant. Whether you contribute your time, your money, or both you can feel confident that your investment in democracy goes further in the League.
Groups of League members meet to discuss topics in a respectful setting. They learn effective techniques for public discussion, how to advocate on specific policies, and what the issues beneath the rhetoric are. Our study and consensus process ensures that we are fully informed on issues before we take a stand. We also host public forums and debates which are well known for being fair, transparent and civil. This approach has earned the League a global reputation for integrity and thoroughness.
Your participation in League will expose you to a breadth of experiences and issues that will not only inform you but create greater possibilities for civic engagement than you might imagine. You can spend as much or as little time as you wish. Whether you aspire to leadership or are keen to follow the lead of experienced members, the League will excite, use, and nurture your civic curiosity, ideals, or desire for action. We offer our members webinars, conference calls, workshops, other events and mentorship opportunities throughout the year, at the local, regional, state and national levels.
- Attend an event on our calendar
- Contact us to get involved
In her address to the National American Woman Suffrage Association's (NAWSA) 50th convention in St. Louis, Missouri, President Carrie Chapman Catt proposed the creation of a "league of women voters to finish the fight and aid in the reconstruction of the nation." Women Voters was formed within the NAWSA, composed of the organizations in the states where suffrage had already been attained. The next year, on February 14, 1920 - six months before the 19th amendment to the Constitution was ratified - the League was formally organized in Chicago as the national League of Women Voters. Catt described the purpose of the new organization:
The League of Women Voters is not to dissolve any present organization but to unite all existing organizations of women who believe in its principles. It is not to lure women from partisanship but to combine them in an effort for legislation which will protect coming movements, which we cannot even foretell, from suffering the untoward conditions which have hindered for so long the coming of equal suffrage. Are the women of the United States big enough to see their opportunity?
Maud Wood Park became the first national president of the League and thus the first League leader to rise to the challenge. She had steered the women's suffrage amendment through Congress in the last two years before ratification and liked nothing better than legislative work. From the very beginning, however, it was apparent that the legislative goals of the League were not exclusively focused on women's issues and that citizen education aimed at all of the electorate was in order.
Since its inception, the League has helped millions of women and men become informed participants in government. In fact, the first league convention voted 69 separate items as statements of principle and recommendations for legislation. Among them were protection for women and children, right of working women, food supply and demand, social hygiene, the legal status of women, and American citizenship.The League's first major national legislative success was the passage of the Sheppard-Towner Act providing federal aid for maternal and child care programs. In the 1930's, League members worked successfully for enactment of the Social Security and Food and Drug Acts. Due at least in part to League efforts, legislation passed in 1938 and 1940 removed hundreds of federal jobs from the spoils system and placed them under Civil Service.
During the postwar period, the League helped lead the effort to establish the United Nations and to ensure U.S. Participation. The League was one of the first organizations in the country officially recognized by the United Nations as a non-governmental organization; it still maintains official observer status today.
Watch a slideshow of League Accomplishments Through the Decades.
- President: Claudia Berry
- Past President: Debra Williamson
- Vice President: Paula Lewison
- Vice President & Program Chair: Lyne Burkey
- Secretary: Kathy Thornhill
- Treasurer: Rose Southard
- Directors - Natural Resources: Don Triezenberg & Debra Williamson
- Director - Social Policy: Marilyn Schmidt
- Director - Voter Service: Tina Pawlak
- Directors - Membership: Lena Del Real & Rose Southard
- Director - Public Relations: Penny Shuff
- Bulletin Editor: Deborah Ellis
- Member Communications: Bonnie Gronberg
- Website/Facebook: Barb Ferguson
- Nominating Committee Chair: Marcia Bishop
- Fund Drive: open
- 411.org: Janet Magennis & Cathy Brockington
The League of Women Voters of the Holland Area (LWVHA) has a long and active history – in fact, we are celebrating our 50th anniversary this year!
Planning and organizing began in 1968 by a small group of dedicated and determined women, including JoAnn Brooks, Lyn Counihan, Eleanor de Kruif, Rosanna Black and Rachel VanderWerf. One of the requirements for formation of a local LWV chapter was to begin with 45 members. Since the membership was not that large in the beginning, the indefatigable women joined the already established Grand Haven Tri-Cities League as a regionally cooperative unit. However, interest and membership grew and October 16, 1970 the League of Women Voters of the Holland Area became a full-fledged league.
The Holland League encouraged male members after the national League of Women Voters (LWVUS) voted to allow men to join in 1974. Today, our membership includes several men who are active and contributing members.
Over its history, the LWVHA has taken positions on very prescient local topics after study, discussion and consensus. The Holland League supported a system of social services in Ottawa County to provide financial assistance for citizens; eventually a local vocational center was created. The LWVHA also encouraged the formation of a Master Plan of zoning and planning for Holland, Zeeland and surrounding townships, which included consideration of taxes, utilities, traffic, schools, recreation and preservation of historical sites and natural beauty spots. This encouragement of regional cooperation was the precursor of the Macatawa Area Coordinating Council (MACC) and other regional planning efforts.
When asked why she joined the league, JoAnn Brooks, a founding LWVHA member, stated, “The times and the timing were just right! It was the late 60’s; women’s issues were dominant and when they asked friends and neighbors to come to a series of lunches to learn about the League of Women Voters, every one of them joined.”
The LWVHA continues to generate interest and energy that will keep it vital for years. Voter registration and candidate forum efforts remain strong. We are working to increase diversity among our members and to reach out collaboratively to partner with like-minded organizations in areas such as natural resources. Here’s to the next 100 years!
Based on league history written by Nicki Arendshorst, Bonnie Gronberg and Marilyn Schmidt in 2019.
LWV-HA Past Presidents
- Rachel Vander Werf 1969-70
- Lynn Counihan 1970-71
- Helena Winter 1971-72
- Eleanor DeKruif 1972-74
- Lois Workman 1974-76
- Eleanor DeKruif 1976-77
- Marilyn Cunningham 1977-79
- Mary Heideman 1979-81
- Candy Glaser 1981-83
- Judy Cary 1983-85
- Eleanor DeKruif 1985-87
- Marilyn Schmidt 1987-89
- Debra Kraai 1989-91
- Karen Gullett 1991-92
- Bonnie Gronberg 1992-93
- Amanda Norton-Price 1993-95
- Janet Magennis 1995-97
- Monica Beh-Arendshorst 1997-98
- Shirley Porter 1998-2000
- Arlene Sherman 2000-2002
- Marilyn Schmidt 2002-2005
- Ellen Leik 2005-2012
- Suzanne Dixon & Jean McFadden 2012-13
- Cathy Brockington & Suzanne Dixon 2013 - 2014
- Cathy Brockington 2014-2015
- Jan Dalman 2015-2016
- Deborah Ellis 2016-2017
- Debra Williamson 2017-2018
State and National League Organizations
Our members are also members of: