1920: formation of the league & Ratification of 19th amendment
The League was founded in Chicago in 1920, just six months before the 19th amendment was ratified and women won the vote. Formed by the suffragists of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, the League began as a "mighty political experiment" designed to help women carry out their new responsibilities as voters.
road to ratification
1944-1945: UN established & lwv named ngo observer
In 1944 and 1945, the League carried out a public support campaign, at the request of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, to establish the United Nations and ensure U.S. participation. The League later became one of the first organizations officially recognized by the UN as a non-governmental organization (NGO), and we still maintain official observer status today.
1957: education fund established
As the League became more active in issue advocacy, the need arose for a separate organizational arm for activities like voter registration and information. The League of Women Voters Education Fund was established to encourage the active and informed participation of citizens in government and to increase understanding of major public policy issues.
1972: Campaign to ratify the era
Shortly after congressional passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), the League conducted a nationwide pressure campaign in support of the amendment. That national campaign ended in 1982, but we continue to push for ERA ratification today.
1976-1988: sponsorship of presidential debates
In 1976, The League sponsored the first televised presidential debates since 1960, for which we received an Emmy award for Outstanding Achievement in Broadcast Journalism. The League also held televised general election presidential debates in 1980 and 1984 and presidential primary forums in 1980, 1984, and 1988. However, as candidates demanded increasingly partisan conditions during the debates, we were forced to withdraw our sponsorship from the 1988 general election debates. However, chapters around the country continue to host candidate forums and debates for local and state offices, as we do in New Canaan every year in October.
1993: national voter registration act becomes law
The League’s grassroots campaign for national legislation to reform voter registration resulted in passage of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), also known as the “motor-voter” bill. The goal: increase accessibility to the electoral process. The motor-voter bill enabled citizens to register at motor vehicle agencies automatically, as well as by mail and at agencies that service the public.
2002: help america vote act passed
When the 2000 election exposed the many problems facing the election system, the League began to work on election reform. Working closely with a civil rights coalition, LWV helped draft and pass the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), which established provisional balloting, requirements for updating voting systems, and the Election Assistance Commission.
2006: lWv launches vote411.org
The League provided a dedicated website for voter information as early as the 1990s. In 2006, the League launched the next generation of online voter education with VOTE411.org, a “one-stop-shop” for election-related information. Today, VOTE411 provides both general and state-specific nonpartisan resources to the voting public, including a nationwide polling place locator, a ballot look-up tool, candidate positions on issues, and more. Here in New Canaan, we also publish our own Voters Guide every year before Election Day, so that people can learn about our local candidates.
2019: LWV Launches People Powered Fair Maps Campaign
In June 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that partisan gerrymandering cannot be solved by the federal courts. In response, the League initiated People Powered Fair Maps, a coordinated effort across all 50 states and D.C. to create fair and transparent, people-powered redistricting processes to eliminate partisan and racial gerrymandering nationwide.
2020: lmv celebrates 100 years
February 14th, 2020, marks 100 years that the League of Women Voters has empowered voters and defended democracy. Over the last century, we’ve fought for election protection, democratic reforms, and equal access to the ballot—all while maintaining our commitment to nonpartisanship and fostering an informed electorate. As we look into our next hundred years, we aim to build power for the next generation of women leaders and voting rights activists. That’s why we’re celebrating our 100-year milestone with a nationwide coordinated Day of Action called Women Power the Vote.
The New Canaan Chapter of the League was formed in 1939, bringing the League's mission of engaging voters through education and advocacy to our community. In the decades since our founding, we have advocated for a myriad of local issues, including periodic charter review, the building and renovation of New Canaan High School, accessory housing regulations for the elderly and improved recreational facilities. We have also conducted town-wide surveys on town recreation facilities, open space conservation, and school start times, alongside our efforts to increase voter turnout and education.