The story of the League of Women Voters is a long, rich one that is intricately woven into the fabric of American history. Our nation’s history is full of people who dreamed big and acted on their beliefs. Americans speak out, agitate for change, organize and stand up for what they believe in. In their souls, Americans are activists. And at the center of activism in the U.S. is the League of Women Voters.
Like our country, the League has changed with the times and met new challenges head on. At its’ core, the League of Women voters is about citizenship and the responsibilities that come with democracy. It’s not enough just to have rights. Being a citizen requires participation and the League continues to lead the way in voting rights, ethical government and environmental issues. Here in Maine, LWVME has been instrumental in passing clean elections, registering voters, safeguarding voting rights and putting Ranked Choice Voting on the ballot in 2016. We are at legislative hearings every session. We collect signatures, study the issues and lead on issues that make Maine better and stronger.
We never rest because, as one League member said long ago, “Democracy is not a spectator sport.”
Since it was founded on February 14, 1920, the League of Women Voters has been a nonpartisan, activist, grassroots organization whose leaders believed that citizens should play a critical role in advocacy. Times have changed, political administrations have come and gone, and League members cycled through the ranks, but we continue to work for the core values have made the League a trusted voice in American democracy. We still register voters, testify on voting rights issues, monitor government function and debate issues important to society.
We are women and men who believe that citizenship brings responsibilities as well as privileges. And in Maine, we can be found in towns around the state, in all political parties (and unenrolled, too), in families of all types and beliefs, and in jobs of all kinds. We are working people, retired people. We are from Maine and from away. We are the League of Women voters – and, on our birthday, we invite you to join us.
What does the League of Women Voters mean to you?
We asked past and present LWVME members to talk about what the League means to them and to all of us. The responses are deeply personal because citizenship is a very personal thing. We open this question to you: tell us what the League means to you and to join us in celebrating 96 years of the League of Women Voters.
“It’s the best conversation in town. The League’s nonpartisanship is a discipline that keeps the conversation civil. It’s about the issues, not the ideology. I’ve had a chance to meet, talk to, and learn from so many well-informed people — not all of whom think exactly the same way I do. I’ve learned so much. My best colleagues are in the League. In the end, conversation leads to action. What we learn, we put into practice. We’re making democracy work better.” – Ann Luther
“I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of intelligent, dedicated people I’ve met who are members of the League of Women Voters. League members are making a difference on local, state, national and even international issues. People in the League can define a problem, seek answers, create an action plan and get things done. Being a League Member is time well spent—and the people are great, too.” – Barbara McDade
“When I first joined the League (a long time ago) it became my career path providing intellectual stimulation, organizational development training, a network of friends, and a passionate commitment to social justice and civic engagement. Over the years since the League has provided a steady supply of interesting ideas to address and a welcoming place to land when I moved from one state to another. What I love most is the curious, straight-talking, committed, and interesting people I have met along the way. And an affiliation with an organization I trust, admire and seek to serve.” – Anne Schink
“I deeply believe that participating in the political process of selecting government leaders and voicing our opinions about public policies makes for stronger communities. It also enables us to feel better about ourselves. I was the local president in Bangor, the state president and served on the national board for two terms – one term as secretary/treasurer. My interest was in the voter service programs, and I registered lots of voters, produced forums and candidate nights. I produced the first statewide debates for the U.S. Senatorial and Maine Gubernatorial races. MPBN broadcasted them live from the Bangor Civic Center with about 500 people in attendance. The LWV offered me the platform to develop my leadership skills. I wouldn’t be a professional fundraiser today if it weren’t for my LWV leadership experience.” – Penny Harris