League of Women Voters of Evanston

Activities

Helped register women to vote Published “This is Evanston” to educate the community on the structure of the local government, detailed aspects of civil society, and exactly how to vote Held conversation groups and seminars on foreign policy and the political system Supported public housing and housing for the elderly Promoted a council-manager style government for Evanston, as well as home rule Conducted many seminars and studies on fighting poverty in Evanston Worked to create a fully integrated school system Strongly supported the Equal Rights Amendment Petitioned for campaign finance reform Registered homeless people to vote Pushed to make polling places more accessible for disabled voters Worked to reduce Evanston’s carbon footprint

History

The Evanston branch of the League of Women Voters was founded in 1922. It took over the work of the local women’s suffrage organization, the Evanston Political Equality League, once national women’s suffrage was passed. At first, its primary focus was to ensure that women were informed voters and were prepared to serve on juries. Later, it worked to encourage woman’s participation in local government at all levels, especially serving in elected office. The League also took seriously its role in creating an educated electorate, researching local issues thoroughly and holding voter’s forums, all while maintaining a nonpartisan stance. In addition, every ten years, following the national census, League members compiled “This is Evanston,” a comprehensive survey of the community including the city’s history, current demographics and political framework. The League continues this work today.

Importance

The League of Women Voters of Evanston was founded by members of the Woman’s Club of Evanston. Primarily established by Eleanor Perkins, Bertha Atwater, and Mary Middleton, the organization was formed, and Dora Dupont Williams became the first president. The first meeting was held in the Woman’s Club of Evanston, at 1702 Chicago Avenue. At this meeting 229 women were present, most of whom were also members of the Woman’s Club. Since the League’s formation, it has continuously worked to enfranchise women and increase political representation, yet it has also addressed countless political and social issues in a nonpartisan fashion. In the 1920s, the League supported an 8 hour workday and lobbied to get women on Illinois juries. In the 30s, it conducted seminars on disarmament prior to the Geneva Disarmament Conference in 1932. The League also supported bills for child and maternity hygiene, which were particularly important during the Depression period. In the 1940s, the League supported the war effort and promoted both public housing and housing for the elderly. In 1951, it backed efforts for Evanston to adopt a council-manager government, a reform that’s still in place today. LWV-E supported a “truly integrated school system” in the 1960s, and it also hosted a series of talks and seminars about poverty. In the 70s it vociferously supported the Equal Rights Amendment, and in 1974, the League admitted its first man to full membership, City Clerk Maurice Brown. In the 1980s, the League promoted home rule in order to increase local government autonomy and give Evanstonians better representation. In this time, the League also supported new zoning ordinances and an expanded public library. In the 90s, the League registered homeless people to vote, and helped make more polling places accessible to disabled voters. Going into the 2000s, the League has been greatly concerned with environmental issues, including efforts to reduce Evanston’s carbon footprint and to make homes energy efficient. Today, the League is housed in the Evanston Civic Center on 2100 Ridge Avenue. The League of Women Voters of Evanston encourages people not just to vote, but to vote wisely. The League’s countless influential studies, candidate debates, and informational seminars have worked toward benefiting everyone in Evanston, regardless of gender, age, race, background, or political leanings.

Founded: 1922

Founders: Eleanor Perkins, Bertha Atwater, Betty Middleton

Notes: Website: http://www.lwvil.org/; the League's extensive records are housed in the EHC Archives as Collection 432. A finding aid for the collection is available at www.evanstonhistorycenter.org.