The brainchild of Carrie Chapman Catt, the League of Women Voters (LWV) was conceived more than a year before ratification of the 19th amendment in August 1920. The national organization officially organized on February 14, 1920. In April, 1920, the Woman’s Suffrage Party of Greater Cleveland prepared to transform into Cleveland’s League of Women Voters. On May 29, 1920, the National and State Leagues officially inducted the Cleveland LWV at the Hotel Hollenden with public ceremonies the previous evening.
From its beginning, the LWV worked to educate all voters through nonpartisan voter guides and candidate debates. Clevelander Belle Sherwin introduced voter guides in 1921, which became nationally adopted. Over the decades, these guides have appeared in multiple languages in newspapers, their member publication, and as standalone publications. The LWV provides details about candidates’ positions on issues, interviews, and suggestions on where to find out more. Today, the LWV operates a nationwide online voting guide, www.vote441.org.
The suffragists who created the League also had deep roots in reform movements, and the LWV has always worked on enacting “good government” legislation and social policy reforms through coordinated advocacy campaigns and lobbying. The LWV chooses its issues, such as public housing, welfare reform, child labor law, public transit, gun violence, and renewable energy, by member consensus after intensive study. One important example of this work is their 1963 formation of the Lake Erie Basin Committee to preserve and restore the health of Lake Erie and its watershed. This committee was the first Great Lakes watershed organization, inspiring numerous others to form. It tackles issues such as fracking, nuclear waste, and clean drinking water. The League’s advocacy work remains true to its grassroots heritage and LWV continues the fight to ensure that “ALL votes are counted and ALL voices are heard.”