League of Women Voters

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The League of WomenVoters is a non-partisan political organization that influences public policy through education and advocacy. It supports positions, but not individual candidates or political parties. The national league was established in 1920, primarily to help the 20 million newly enfranchised women exercise their constitutional rights.

League members study issues of local, state and national significance. Once members agree on a position, the League may act by providing information to the public, obtaining public support for the position, lobbying, initiating legislation or participating in court action.

The League promotes political responsibility through its voters' service and citizen information activities. Members register voters, organize candidate forums, publish voting guides and disseminate general information on the legislative process and the functioning of government on the local, state and federal levels.

On March 21, 1939, Joy Kennedy organized a meeting to establish the League of Women Voters of Amherst. The group included five Amherst residents who belonged to the Northampton League, and 20 members of an Amherst reading club. Since 1939, the Amherst League has studied and taken action on a wide range of national, state, and local issues. It also provided voter information, registered voters, and undertook special projects. All of these activities are reflected in the records.

Growth and change in Amherst since 1939 is reflected in some of the activities of the League. In 1939, the town's off-campus population was 6,400. The 2000 census lists the town of Amherst as having 34,874 residents. The need for new housing, schools, water and sewer, recreation facilities, and professional town management formed the basis of the League's program over the years.

In 1940, when the superintendent of Amherst Schools fired five married women teachers, the League formally protested, opposing a blanket indictment of married teachers, saying a teacher's effectiveness should be decided on individual records. The policy changed.

In 1944, the League adopted a position in favor of a new elementary school, the beginning of a series of campaigns for new and renovated school buildings that was to last to the turn of the new century. Other school issues studied included curriculum, overcrowding, kindergarten (a goal not achieved until 1968), and regionalizing the secondary schools.

In 1950 Town Meeting voted to submit a proposal for a Town Manager form of government to the state legislature. It was approved by the Legislature but rejected when submitted to the town voters. In 1953 the League collected enough signatures on a petition to place the plan on the ballot again and in 1954 it was adopted by a 13-vote margin. The League has reviewed its position in favor of this form of government several times with almost continuous studies of town meeting, and has maintained its position.

Lucy Wilson Benson, Amherst League President 1957-1961, was President of the Massachusetts League 1961-1965 and of the League of Women Voters of the United States 1968-1974. In 1977, she became Under Secretary of State in the federal government. Two of the many achievements of her tenure in Amherst were the adoption by the legislature of fiscal autonomy for the University of Massachusetts and measures to strengthen the Massachusetts executive branch of the government.

After a 1966 study of the town's libraries, the consensus was to affirm the public nature of the Jones Library. The town subsequently increased and continued its tax support of the libraries.

During the 1970s, the League, which had observed the Select Board and School Committees for many years, began to observe other major boards regularly. The February 1975 newsletter reported that the Observers Corps was expanding its role with 18 members observing 10 town committees. The "Observers Corps Notes" became a regular, popular feature in the League newsletter.

Voters Service by the League has included registering voters, publishing election guides and conducting candidates' forums, holding public meetings on community, state and local issues, and publishing handbooks.

Booklets published by the Amherst League of Women Voters for the information of the citizens of the town include Town Meeting Handbook, You and Your Amherst Government, and They Represent You (a list of Amherst Town Meeting members and town officials with their addresses and telephone numbers). They are revised and up-dated periodically.

League members have served on town boards and committees and as town meeting members, contributing considerable information about issues. In Essays on Amherst History, (1978, p.351) Winthrop Dakin, former longtime town moderator, says "Participation of women in official town positions has increased steadily...By far the most consistently useful and politically effective citizen group in the recent decade has been the local branch of the League of Women Voters."

During the 1980s and 1990s the Amherst League continued studies and action concerning town government, local schools and affordable housing as well as participating in state action on education reform, child care, universal health care, casino gambling, county government, reproductive choice, and domestic violence. League members twice worked with other organizations to pass state-wide ballot questions to implement a graduated state income tax in place of the flat income tax. (Neither ballot question passed.) A major, successful effort was made in 1995 to retain the Amherst Town Meeting/Selectboard/Town Manager form of government.

Many members of the Amherst League of Women Voters have not only contributed much to the League, but have served the Town of Amherst as well. Among these was Diana Romer, President of the Amherst League 1983-1985 and 1987-1989. She served two terms on the Selectboard, and was on many town committees including the Finance Committee and Solid Waste Committee, Animal Facilities Committee and many others. She was elected to the board of the Massachusetts League of Women Voters in 1984.

From the guide to the League of Women Voters of Amherst, Massachusetts Records MS 296., 1939-2002, (Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn J. B. Matthews Papers, 1862-1986 and undated David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
referencedIn Papers, 1895-1973 Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
referencedIn Papers, 1918-1993 Harvard Law School Library, Harvard University.
referencedIn Papers, 1851-1958 Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
referencedIn Prescott S. Bush Papers., undated, 1952-1962. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.
referencedIn Records of the Douglas County League of Women Voters, 1971-1999, 1978-1995 Douglas County Libraries / 100 S. Wilcox St. / Castle Rock, CO 80104 / Phone: 303-688-7730
creatorOf League of Women Voters of Amherst, Massachusetts Records MS 296., 1939-2002 Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries
referencedIn Media Perceptions of Contemporary Problems, 1975-1976 Indiana University, Bloomington. Center for the Study of History and Memory
referencedIn Papers, 1905-1946 Harvard Law School Library, Harvard University.
referencedIn Papers, 1941-2001 Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
referencedIn Remembering Indiana in the Twentieth Century, 1995-1996 Indiana University, Bloomington. Center for the Study of History and Memory
referencedIn League of Women Voters of Durham (N.C.) Papers, 1947-1991 David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
referencedIn Papers of Caroline K. (Caroline Klein) Simon, (inclusive), (bulk), 1917-1993, 1950-1980 Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
referencedIn Mary Octavine (Thompson) Cowper Papers, 1895-1969 David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
referencedIn Women's History, 1977-1980 Indiana University, Bloomington. Center for the Study of History and Memory
referencedIn Thomas J. Dodd Papers, undated, 1919-1971. Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries
referencedIn Walter Gropius papers, 1925-1969 (inclusive), 1937-1969 (bulk). Houghton Library.
referencedIn Additional records, 1938-1973 Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
referencedIn Papers, 1869-1945 Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
referencedIn Jefferson Center records., 1982-2003. Minnesota Historical Society.
referencedIn Connecticut State Labor Council, AFL-CIO Records, undated, 1909-1991. Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries
referencedIn Mansfield (Connecticut) League of Women Voters Records, undated, 1942-2011 Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries
referencedIn Papers, 1923-1972 Harvard Law School Library, Harvard University.
referencedIn George Adams Shuford Papers, 1952-1959 David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
referencedIn Amber Arthun Warburton Papers, 1917-1976 David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
referencedIn Papers, (inclusive), (bulk), 1910-1959, 1921-1925 Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
referencedIn League of Women Voters of Dallas Collection MA93-15., 1935-1994 Texas/Dallas History & Archives , Dallas Public Library
referencedIn Papers, 1917-1957 Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
referencedIn Papers, 1928-1941 Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
referencedIn Audrey Beck Papers., undated, 1930-1983. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.
referencedIn Herman Wolf Papers, undated, 1926-1981. Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries
referencedIn Stephen C. Harward Papers, bulk, 1949-1975 and undated, 1963-1975 David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
referencedIn Dorothy C. Goodwin Papers., undated, 1925-1993. [Bulk dates 1974-1992.] Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.
referencedIn Winifred Gail Soules Bradley Papers, 1952-1982 David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
referencedIn University of Connecticut, Vice President for Academic Affairs Office Records [Kenneth G. Wilson, 1974-1981], undated, 1939-1984 Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries
referencedIn 1 file box, 2 scrapbooks, 1921-1925 Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
referencedIn John Johnston Parker Papers (#3464), 1920-1956 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library. Southern Historical Collection
referencedIn Jane Y. McCallum Papers AR. E. 004., 1815-1967., 1914-1953. Austin History Center, Austin Public Library , 810 Guadalupe, Austin, Texas, 78701.
referencedIn Additional papers, (inclusive), (bulk), 1857-1976, 1912-1971 Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
referencedIn Minnie Fisher Cunningham Papers Mss 0074., 1914-1944, 1914-1920 Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library,
referencedIn University of Connecticut, President's Office Records [Homer D. Babbidge, 1962-1972], undated, 1962-1972. Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries
referencedIn Connecticut Citizens Action Group Records., undated, 1964-2002 Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries
referencedIn Robert N. Giaimo Papers., undated, 1956-1981. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Center.
referencedIn Papers, 1972- University of Kansas Kenneth Spencer Research Library Kansas Collection.
referencedIn Kathryn H. Stone Papers, ca. 1881-1988 University of Virginia. Library. Special Collections Dept.
referencedIn Dudley Harmon Papers MS 191., 1920-1967 Sophia Smith Collection
referencedIn Papers, 1928-1996 Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
referencedIn Church Women United in Dallas MA06-2., 1939 to 2005 (Bulk 1994 to 2005) Texas/Dallas History & Archives , Dallas Public Library
referencedIn Papers, 1912-1966 University of Kansas Kenneth Spencer Research Library Kansas Collection.
referencedIn Barbara B. Kennelly Papers., undated, 1977-1998. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.
referencedIn Julia Stuart Papers, 1911-1990 Eastern Washington State Historical Society/Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture Joel E. Ferris Research Library and Archives
referencedIn Research Triangle Foundation Records, 1955-1999 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library. Southern Historical Collection
referencedIn Robert and Jessie Bloom Papers, 1897-1980. The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives
referencedIn Committee for Environmental Information, 1972-1973 Indiana University, Bloomington. Center for the Study of History and Memory
referencedIn Papers, 1887-1935 Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
referencedIn Elmo Roper Papers., 1909-1972 Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.
referencedIn Josephine Schain Papers MS 139., 1907 - 1960 Sophia Smith Collection
referencedIn Papers, 1840-1961. Harvard Law School Library, Harvard University.
referencedIn Papers of Betty Friedan, 1933-1985 Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith AFL-CIO Connecticut State Labor Council. corporateBody
associatedWith Beck, Audrey Phillips, 1931-1983 person
associatedWith Benson, Lucy Wilson person
associatedWith Betty Friedan person
correspondedWith Bloom, Robert L., 1878-1974 person
associatedWith Bradley, Winifred Gail Soules person
associatedWith Bush, Prescott Sheldon. person
associatedWith Caroline K. (Caroline Klein) Simon person
associatedWith Catharine Gouger (Waugh) McCullouch, 1862-1945 person
associatedWith Church Women United in Dallas person
correspondedWith CLEMENTINA R. HARTSHORNE, 1871-1970 person
correspondedWith Connecticut Citizens Action Group. corporateBody
associatedWith Cowper, Mary Octavine (Thompson), 1881-1968 person
correspondedWith Cunningham, Minnie Fisher person
associatedWith Dodd, Thomas J. (Thomas Joseph), 1907-1971 person
associatedWith Dorothy Kirchwey Brown person
associatedWith Douglas County League of Women Voters (Colorado) corporateBody
associatedWith ELIZABETH (LOWELL) PUTNAM, 1862-1935 person
associatedWith Florence Louise Harrison, 1883-1973 person
associatedWith Friends of Framingham, Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Garvey, Jane F. person
associatedWith GERDA LERNER, 1920- person
correspondedWith Giaimo, Robert N. person
associatedWith Glover, Michael George, 1947- person
associatedWith Goodwin, Dorothy C. person
correspondedWith Gropius, Walter, 1883-1969 person
associatedWith Hand, Learned, 1872-1961 person
associatedWith Harmon, Dudley, 1912-1966 person
associatedWith Harriet Wright (Burton) Laidlaw, 1873-1949 person
associatedWith Harward, S. C. (Stephen C.) person
associatedWith Indiana University Center for the Study of History and Memory corporateBody
associatedWith Jefferson Center (Minneapolis, Minn.). corporateBody
associatedWith Kathryn H. Stone person
associatedWith Kennedy, Sinclair, 1985-1947 person
associatedWith Kennelly, Barabara B. person
associatedWith League of Women Voters, Dallas Chapter person
associatedWith League of Women Voters of Amherst (Amherst, Mass.) corporateBody
associatedWith League of Women Voters of Durham (LWVD) corporateBody
associatedWith Mansfield (CT) League of Women Voters. corporateBody
associatedWith Mariette Harkness (Mrs. Walter M.) Pratt person
associatedWith MARTHA (RAGSDALE) RAGLAND, 1906-1996 person
associatedWith Matthews, J. B. (Joseph Brown), 1894-1966 person
associatedWith McCallum, Jane Y. corporateBody
associatedWith Parker, John Johnston, 1885-1958 person
associatedWith Paul A. Freund person
correspondedWith Research Trianlge Foundation. corporateBody
associatedWith Roper, Elmo, 1900-1971 person
associatedWith Ruth Jarvis MacKay-Scott person
associatedWith Schain, Josephine, 1886-1972 person
associatedWith Shuford, George Adams person
associatedWith Stockton, Margaret, 1894-1966 person
associatedWith Sutherland, Arthur E., 1902-1973 person
associatedWith University of Connecticut. President's Office. corporateBody
associatedWith University of Connecticut. Vice President for Academic Affairs Office. corporateBody
associatedWith Warburton, Amber Arthun, 1898-1976 person
associatedWith Wolf, Herman. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Amherst (Mass.)
Subject
Housing--Massachusetts--Amherst--History--Sources
Education--Massachusetts--Amherst--History--Sources
Occupation
Function

Corporate Body

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