Written by Kathryn O’Donnell, GHS class of 2021, founder of the League of Women Voters Club.
The League of Women’s Voters of Greenwich, a nonpartisan organization that promotes awareness and active participation in local and national government, is as relevant as it was a century ago.
The 19th Amendment to the US Constitution resulted in women’s right to vote in 1920, and the national League of Women Voters was an outgrowth of the women’s suffrage movement.
Here in Greenwich, a chapter was founded in Riverside in 1921, one year after women gained the right to vote. Interest spread quickly.
Over the decades the League has informed, engaged and educated voters about local, state and national issues.
In 1933 the League organized a community meeting to discuss the proposed representative form of government, that became the Representative Town Meeting (RTM). Greenwich was the first town in Connecticut to create this form of government.
In 1945 the League passed a resolution that appointments to the Board of Education should be non-partisan.
In 1952, the League published the first “Facts for Voters” guide, which was distributed by the Welcome Wagon to newcomers.
In 1962, the League supported the construction of a single new high school over the alternate proposal of multiple high schools.
In 2000, the League of Women Voters and League of Women Voters CT former president Kay Maxwell became the president of the National League of Women Voters.
In 2017, the League in Greenwich, in association with Harvard University’s Professor David Moss, initiated the Harvard Case Study Project to train teachers in an innovative approach of teaching US History, democracy and civics. Greenwich High School teachers were the first to be trained in the program that was subsequently rolled out nationwide.
Today, the League continues to educate Greenwich residents about the importance of voting and shares information about how to vote. While bringing attention to the female vote, there are no gender or age limitations to the organization.
The president of the LWV Greenwich, Sandy Waters, talked about the organization and its recent activity in the community. She said that the League’s mission has remained consistent: to support participation in the democratic process and encourage civic engagement.
What have they been up to recently? Waters said the LWV Greenwich’s annual board meeting is always a highlight.
The League is run by an advisory board that makes decisions for the member base. This year, at the annual board meeting, Waters said a key decision involved changing the League’s IRS status.
The result of this decision was the official listing of LWV Greenwich as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.
Waters said this was an important and complex decision that involved the Secretary of State and federal government. That said, she noted the change in status would not alter the League’s mission.
In Greenwich the League of Women Voters hosts local debates and events.
These extend not only to members but to all people who share a passion for their cause. Waters also said outreach to a younger constituency was important.
One of the ways the League encourages young adults to participate in the democratic process is through the moderation of “We the People” debates, a course at Greenwich High School.
This helps students extend their education in civics to a more formal political setting.
Additionally, they hold annual essay contests. A different prompt each year, the board selects a winner from each grade around Greenwich to receive the award.
A third way they engage younger members of the community is through school clubs. With a club at Greenwich Academy, Greenwich Country Day School, Sacred Heart Greenwich, and one recently founded at Greenwich High School, the organization is making strides in student life.
Not only does the organization encourage voting, but it teaches residents how to vote. Waters said, “Everyone knows how to vote for president… I can assure you most people in Greenwich have no clue how to vote locally. And that’s where the decisions are made – locally.”
This is why the League takes interest in spreading awareness on how to vote. Waters also said, “You should vote for the party that is going to do what you want.”
The League of Women Voters Greenwich provides election information, the positions of candidates, and programming.
What’s next for LWV Greenwich?
On July 14, 2021, members and their guests will attend the legislative picnic with State Senator Alex Kasser and Greenwich’s State Representatives Harry Arora, Steve Meskers and Kimberly Fiorello.
The LWV will host and moderate candidate debates on on October 12 and Oct 27.
On Oct 29 the League will co-sponsor the We the People Candidate Debate at Greenwich High School. It is open only to GHS students.