The League of Women Voters (LWV) will celebrate its 100th anniversary on Feb. 14 with a gala event at Capitol Plaza. The LWV was founded six months before the 19th Amendment was ratified, granting women the right to vote.
“The LWV was instrumental in getting the 19th Amendment ratified by the states,” said Sue Racanelli, President of the group’s Vermont chapter. “It was our founder, Carrie Chapman Catt, and Alice Paul [leader of the National Woman’s Party] who really led the charge.”
Congress voted in favor of the 19th Amendment in June 1919, but the Amendment then needed to be ratified by 36 states to become law. By August of 1920, 36 states had voted to show their support. Vermont was not among them.
“Vermont passed on its chance to become the 36th state needed to ratify the 19th amendment,” Racanelli said. “They waited until February of 1921.”
Vermont suffragists formed an LWV chapter “to help educate women about their new rights,” Racanelli said.
In the decades since, the LWV has continued to tackle issues affecting women, including child welfare, education, women in gainful occupation, and independent citizenship for married women. In 1921, the group had its first legislative victory, securing $1,000,000 in federal funding to reduce infant mortality rates.
In the seventies and early eighties, the LWV began focusing its efforts on ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The amendment ultimately failed, but Virginia’s recent ratification of the ERA sparked the group’s efforts to remove the congressional deadline.
“We’re working to have congress remove the deadline of 1982,” Racanelli said. “The ERA will guarantee equal rights regardless of sex.”
The gala’s keynote speaker will be author and activist Susan Clark, and singer Linda Radtke will perform suffrage songs at the event. A buffet-style dinner will be served. Tickets for the event are available for $50 each or $375 for a table of eight. For more information, visit facebook.com/LWVofVT