by JOHANNA EDGE
for Montclair Local
The author is a member of the board of directors of the League of Women Voters of the Montclair Area.
The League of Women Voters of the Montclair Area is celebrating not only its founding 100 years ago but also 100 years of universal suffrage for American women. Formally created on Feb. 14, 1920 as an outgrowth of the suffragist movement, the organization named the National League of Women Voters would later become the League of Women Voters of the United States. Our local League — like the LWVUS and LWVNJ — was also founded in 1920.
Throughout its history, the League has been a dynamic organization, proudly and vigorously championing voting rights and democratic principles. There are currently 700+ state and local Leagues who collectively have over 500,000 members and supporters. Currently, our local League has members from Bloomfield, the Caldwells, Essex Fells, Glen Ridge, Little Falls, Montclair, Verona, and West Orange, plus a smattering of members who live in other nearby towns. Full, voting membership is open to citizens of voting age, both men and women; membership in a local League automatically makes one a member of both the US and NJ Leagues. Non-citizens are welcome to join and we also offer student memberships. As we like to say, we have women in our name and men in our ranks.
The stated objectives of the national League, as codified in 1923, include that we are “to foster education in citizenship and to support needed legislation; to encourage interest in government and in the Nation’s problems … [And] to render such other services in the interest of education in citizenship” (In “League,” pp. 1-2).
What makes the foundation of our organization? In addition to policy positions adopted through the consensus or concurrence of its grassroots members on topics ranging from environmental protection to pay equity to international relations and to equal rights for women, the LWVUS has stated principles. In brief, these concepts of government include: “The LWV believes in representative government and in the individual liberties established in the Constitution … The LWV believes that democratic government depends upon informed and active participation in government … The LWV believes that every citizen should be protected in the right to vote… The LWV believes that responsible government should be responsible to the will of the people” (“Impact on Issues 2018-2020,” p. 6).
The League of Women Voters of the Montclair Area focuses on Making Democracy Work. We register voters. We hold public forums to educate our communities about current affairs. We advocate on local government issues. We visit places like the New-York Historical Society, the Grover Cleveland Birthplace, and the Eleanor Roosevelt House. We have movie nights, discussion teas, and holiday parties. We attend conferences at the United Nations. We conduct candidates nights. We write letters to our representatives. We participate in national and state League studies of issues. We led a LWVNJ and then LWVUS study on Human Trafficking which resulted in a LWVUS and LWVNJ position against human trafficking, which included support of survivors.
Ours is a grassroots organization. This means that change and ideas rise up out of local Leagues, rather than being imposed from the top. Members can be as active as they want to be. But even if not participating in an active or leadership role, our members support our goals by their continued membership in the League.
As we celebrate our 100th Anniversary, we look forward to continuing our community service and to Making Democracy Work for another 100 years. To find out more about the LWVMA, visit us at our website: lwvmontclairarea.org.