Inspiring Civic Involvement: The League of Women Voters

Intelligent. Motivated. Committed. Fun. These adjectives could all be used to describe the North Shore women who are involved with the League of Women Voters.

In fact, Carrie Chapman Catt may have been the original MIB woman. On February 14, 1920, Catt founded the League of Women Voters in Chicago. Six months later, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, finally granting women the right to vote after a 72-year struggle.

The League’s initial mission was to educate 20 million women in their new role as voters. As an activist, grassroots organization, the League encouraged women to participate in shaping public policy. Education and activism continue today, demanding accountability and transparency from government, and the development of social policies to protect our environment and health.

Therese Steinken, president of the Wilmette League, joined “because the League has a stellar, long-standing reputation for its work in educating people on government and policy issues,” she says.

You may know the League through the political candidate forums and debates it sponsors. The League does not support or endorse any candidate or political party, rather, its goal is to provide voters with non-partisan information about candidates.

In addition to sponsoring forums and debates, the League brings its education efforts into schools. The Wilmette League works with Wilmette Junior High School, St. Joseph and other area 8th grade student government representatives. These 8th graders are assigned to various Village, School and Park District boards, giving students a glimpse into local government. In other area schools, the League holds mock elections, complete with actual touch-screen voting machines.

The League’s voter outreach efforts include holding voter registration drives in high schools, libraries and community centers.

And did you know that the Glenview League’s interest in our parks and natural resources rescued Wagner Farm from developers? Glenview League President Barbara Marsh feels gratified every time she passes the cows on the Farm.

“I am dedicated because we’re a unique organization and have a lot of credibility at every level—national, state and local. We really study issues before we take a position,” she says.  She also jokes, “If you don’t vote, you don’t get to complain.”

In Highland Park, the League was involved with the Master Plan that resulted in the redevelopment of the city’s downtown. The Master Plan addressed affordable housing and environmental preservation.

Margie Weiss, co-president of the Highland Park League and a former City Council member, notes that “because the League is known for its thoroughness, it is well respected and effective in making things happen.”

Therese, Barbara and Margie are extraordinary women, but are typical of the passion and energy shared by all League members. As Margie says, “Our conversations are never dull!”

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