EPEL promoted women’s suffrage through lectures, publishing pamphlets, and collecting dues to support the Illinois Equal Suffrage Association (IESA). The league also strived to enroll individual members from Evanston to support the suffrage cause.
EPEL was founded in 1903 or 1904 with Mrs. Avis Grant as president and both Elizabeth Harbert and Catherine McCulloch as founding members. EPEL was the Evanston affiliate of the IESA, and functioned as a community-level organ for organizing support for suffrage through passing dues along to IESA and distributing information about the cause of women’s suffrage through pamphlets and lectures. Possibly involved in the appearance of McCulloch, Mrs. Ella Stewart (president of Illinois State Suffrage Association), and Mrs. George Trout (president of the Chicago Equal Suffrage Association) at the Evanston YMCA in 1910, as part of a statewide tour of suffragist leaders. After the passage of the 19th Amendment, it appears the EPEL either became the Evanston League of Women Voters or was supplanted by it.
In the long years between legislative victories in the fight for women’s suffrage, EPEL’s activities kept the issue of equal suffrage alive in the community. It raised funds for IESA to enable it to continue its activities in pursuit of women’s suffrage. Additionally, its local efforts to enroll members drew many women into contact with the political process for the first time, therefore preparing these women to fully participate when they finally achieved the right to vote. To the extent that EPEL laid the organizational groundwork for the Evanston League of Women’s Voters, it helped enable newly enfranchised women to become fully informed regarding their role in the elective process.