TABLE OF CONTENTS
RG 106, League of Women Voters of Connecticut
Inventory of Records
Finding aid prepared by Connecticut State Library staff.
Copyright © 2011 by the Connecticut State Library
The National League of Women Voters is an outgrowth of the suffragist movement. Carrie Chapman Catt in 1919 recommended the National American Women Suffragist Association transform into the National League of Women Voters.1 The organization was founded in 1920 only six months before the 19th amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, giving women the right to vote. The league began as a "mighty political experiment" designed to help 20 million women carry out their new responsibilities as voters. It encouraged them to use their new power to participate in shaping public policy. The national organization soon stimulated the formation of state leagues that in turn developed local ones.
Founding of the Connecticut League of Women Voters and First Year, 1921
The Connecticut League of Women Voters (CLWV) was founded at New Haven, Connecticut on January 18, 1921.2 The league was formed as the initiative of the Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association (CWSA) came to an end with ratification of the 19th amendment. The reason for organizing the league was "to form a non-partisan organization which would 'develop a high quality of intelligence and self-directing activity in the woman voter and a program of legislation.' "3 At the founding meeting members adopted a constitution and by-laws; elected officers; and adopted a budget of $15,000 dollars.4 Ms. Mabel C. Washburn of Hartford was elected the first president of the CLWV.5 Chairman Maud Wood Park of the National League of Women Voters welcomed the new Connecticut members and urged them to pressure there congressmen for passage of the Shepard-Towner Bill to provide maternal and infant care education.6 In the first year local and county leagues were established; the newly elected state league board held meetings and determined that being independent from other organizations would benefit the league; and began plans for a Citizenship School at Yale University.
The league in its first year established a state program by forming seven standing committees. The following is a list of the first standing committees: Committee on American Citizenship; Committee on Legal Status of Women; Committee on Election Laws and Methods; Committee on Food Supply and Demand; Committee on Social Hygiene; Committee on Child Welfare; and the Committee on Women in Industry.7 Each state standing committee had a chairman which enlisted members to study issues related to the committee's subject area and prepare materials for publication and distribution. The committees also studied proposed legislation by the Connecticut General Assembly in there subject area and reported recommendations for action to the Executive Board of the CLWV. The board used the reports for action from committees to decide whether to support or oppose a particular piece of legislation.8 The positions of the league on potential or particular legislation before the General Assembly was provided to members through publications, local league meetings, annual conventions, and correspondence.
Legislative Bulletin and the National and State Programs of Work, 1921-1940
The Connecticut League of Women Voters (CLWV) on February 14, 1921 published its first Legislative Bulletin as a way to assist members in understanding the legislative issues being worked on by the CLWV in the General Assembly. The first Legislative Bulletin focused on bills in the General Assembly pertaining to civil service and social hygiene. The Legislative Bulletin, later renamed the Woman Voter's Bulletin and Connecticut Voter, provided information on legislative issues being worked on by the CLWV in the General Assembly; the state program presented by the standing committees at the annual conventions and voted on by delegates; announcements by the state, county and local leagues; fiscal reports; election education and information; candidate statements; political party platforms; occasional photographs; and relevant news items related to the program or objectives of the league. The proposed, passed, and revised national and state programs along with state convention highlights were consistently published in the leagues newsletters.
The Connecticut League of Women Voters state conventions determined what parts of the National League of Women Voters program of work would be included in the biennial state program of work. The topics studied and acted on by the CLWV throughout the 1920s and 1930s focused on the following: jury service for women, child welfare, social hygiene, widow aid, efficient government, reorganization of state government, civil service, education, labor, international affairs, international cooperation to prevent war, pollution, Native Americans, taxation, living costs, unemployment compensation, social security, food and drug safety, immigration, law enforcement, legal status of women, and women in industry. The study and action topics of jury service for women and a state constitutional convention would occupy a large part of the Connecticut League of Women Voters continuing responsibilities under state programs from 1921-1965.
Jury Service for Women, 1921-1937
The issue of jury service for women was advanced as a program in the third Legislative Bulletin on February 25, 1921. The Executive Board of the CLWV endorsed Senate Bill number 154 which advocated that, "All qualified women electors shall be eligible for and subject to jury duty, under the same conditions as male electors, and wherever the words "man" or "men," "male" or "males" shall be used in any public act or statute, with reference to jurors or jury duty, they shall be held to include women."9 The state program on jury service for women continued for the next sixteen years. From 1923 to 1937 the CLWV drafted its own jury service for women bill; studied the issue both inside and outside of Connecticut; and advocated for passage of the bill through writing, meeting, talking, and thanking state legislators. House Bill number 39 "An Act Concerning Jury Service for Women" was passed by the General Assembly on March 17, 1937 and the Senate on April 14, 1937. The language of House Bill number 39 was similar to Senate Bill number 154; however, the passed bill included a second section which provided additional exemptions for women called to serve on a jury. The additional exemptions prohibited the following women from being called for jury duty: active nurses, care of one or more children under the age of sixteen, and the nursing of sick members of a family.10 Governor Wilbur L. Cross signed the bill at a ceremony on April 28, 1937 giving women the right to serve on juries in Connecticut.11
Push for a Connecticut Constitutional Convention, 1935-1965
In 1935 the Connecticut League of Women Voters began to study reorganization of state government. The CLWV following the report of the "Commission Concerning the Reorganization of the Executive Branch" supported and published articles on ways to implement reorganization of state government. One aspect of state government reorganization was to call a constitutional convention to reform and revise Connecticut's constitution.
The first mention of constitutional reform by the CLWV was in May 1946 when Wesleyan Professor E. E. Schattschneider spoke on the history of Connecticut's constitution at the league's annual convention.12 Revision of the state constitution would appear on the league's program from 1950 to 1965. The CLWV introduced its own bills for a constitutional convention to the General Assembly in March 1951. The league advocated for a state constitutional convention "because its effort toward reform through statutory changes achieved only limited success."13 A new state constitution according to the League would provide, "a modern easily understood document in which people have direct voice in their government. To provide constitutional guarantees of home rule, direct primaries, a fair system of representation, and a better fiscal structure. To ban dual office holding. To eliminate county government. To revise the court system."14 The league considered revision of the state constitution as part of its continuing responsibilities to study and act on throughout the 1950s and early 1960s.
Governor John Dempsey on January 5, 1965 signed a bill authorizing a constitutional convention to reform the state constitution.15 The constitutional convention convened in July and finished its work by the deadline of November 1, 1965. The league spent all of November informing and urging voters to vote "yes" on the new revised constitution.16 On December 14, 1965 a referendum on the revised state constitution was passed by the voters of Connecticut.17
1 Robert P. J. Cooney, Jr., Winning the Triumph of the American Woman Suffrage Movement (Santa Cruz, CA: American Graphic Press, 2005), 440.
2 The League of Women Voters of Connecticut was the 48th state league to join the National League of Women Voters eleven months after its founding in February, 1920.
3 Adeline Morgan Hirsche, We've Come A Long Way: A History of the League of Women Voters of Connecticut - 1921-1953 (Hartford: League of Women Voters of Connecticut, 1953), 5.
4 Hirsche, 5-6.
5 Hirsche, 6.
6 Hirsche, 6.
7 Hirsche, 9-11.
8 Hirsche, 14.
9 "Jury Service for Women," Legislative Bulletin no. 3 (February 25, 1921): 1.
10 An Act Concerning Jury Service for Women (March 31, 1937), Connecticut Printed Bills, File No. 251, House Bill No. 39 (Hartford: State of Connecticut, 1937).
11 For further information about the program for jury service for women see the following: Woman Voter's Bulletin: April 23 and May 7, 1937; and Adeline Morgan Hirsche, We've Come A Long Way: A History of the League of Women Voters of Connecticut - 1921-1953 (Hartford: League of Women Voters of Connecticut, 1953), 17-22.
12 Mrs. Alexander Marcus, ed., "Representation of Towns Crux of Constitutional Problem," Connecticut Voter 7, no. 11 (June 1946), 2.
13 "The Connecticut League and State Constitutional Revision," November 27, 1953, box 2, folder 1, League of Women Voters of Connecticut Records, RG106, Connecticut State Library.
14 "Are You Being Asked? About the Constitution," Connecticut Voter 11, no. 5 (February 1951), 1.
15 "Position Paper: Constitutional Convention," Connecticut Voter (February 1965), 2.
16 "The Proposed Constitution," Connecticut Voter (November 1965), 1-4.
17Connecticut Voter (February 1966), 1.
The records were arranged into five series which document the organization and activities of the League of Women Voters of Connecticut. The series include Minutes, Administrative Records, Correspondence, Press Files, Scrapbooks, and Notebooks.
Series 1. Minutes, 1935-1937, consist of financial reports, board minutes, committee minutes, correspondence, press releases, questionnaires, reports, programs, publications, publication price lists, candidate questionnaires, planning documents, publicity materials, and invitations.
Series 2. Administrative Records, 1928-1957, contains a folder with listings of annual concerted activities to assist local leagues. The series also contains a folder with league publications on the need for a Connecticut constitutional convention to revise the constitution.
Series 3. Correspondence, 1947-1955, includes correspondence from White House staff, United States Senators, United States Representatives, United States Senate and House Committee chairman and members, Secretary of State, United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Director of the Foreign Operations Administration, and Governors. The bulk of the correspondence is in response to correspondence received from Connecticut League of Women Voters President Martha Briscoe. The correspondence covers the following topics: United Nations, United Nations technical assistance program, reciprocal trade agreement, Hoover Commission, international trade, national security programs, mutual security program, foreign trade, foreign aid, residual fuel oil importation, Congressional budgetary procedures, and the Bricker Amendment. The series also includes a folder with a handwritten list of correspondence by last name.
Series 4. Press Files, 1931-1932, contain clippings about topics of interest to the Connecticut League of Women Voters.
Series 5. Scrapbooks, 1925-1944, consist of eight scrapbooks which the bulk contain clippings about the league, topics of interest, events, annual conventions, and related news items of interest. The clippings in the scrapbooks are in a fragile condition with some being restricted. The ten folders in the series consist of original clippings and use copies of restricted clippings.
Series 6. Notebooks, 1918, contains a notebook with handwritten entries by (Mrs. R.) Gladys Bragdon of prominent Connecticut men's views on suffrage and if they supported the 19th Ammendment to the United States Constitution. Bragdon in the notebook entries notes the men's name, job title or position in government, party affiliation, if they signed a petition, interests, changed views, and if they support the 19th Amendment.
Restricted, consists of original clippings removed from the press files and scrapbooks and restricted due to there fragile condition. Use copies can be found in Series 4. Press Files and Series 5. Scrapbooks.
Series 1. Minutes, 1935-1937
Series 2. Administrative Records, 1928-1957
Series 3. Correspondence, 1947-1955
Series 4. Press Files, 1931-1932
Series 5. Scrapbooks, 1925-1944
Series 6. Notebooks, 1918
Restrictions on Access
Original clippings in Series 4. Press Files and Series 5. Scrapbooks that have been removed and where noted in the container list are restricted due to there fragile condition. Use copies of the removed original clippings are located in Series 4. Press Files and Series 5. Scrapbooks folders where noted in the container list.
Restrictions on Use
See the Reproduction and Publications of State Library Collections policy.
RG 101, Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association Records, Connecticut State Library.
Mansfield (CT) League of Women Voters Records, Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.
Connecticut Woman Suffrage Movement Collection, Western Connecticut State University Archives and Special Collections.
League of Women Voters of Connecticut
League of Women Voters of Connecticut -- Records and correspondence
Women in politics -- Connecticut
Accession 2011-113 was donated by the League of Women Voters of Connecticut to the State Library in 2011.
Allen Ramsey processed and added accession 2011-113 to the records in February and March, 2011.
Coolidge, Olivia. Women's Rights The Suffrage Movement in America, 1848-1920. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1966. [CSL call number JK1896.C6]
Cooney, Robert P.J., Jr. Winning the Vote: The Triumph of the American Woman Suffrage Movement. Santa Cruz, CA: American Graphic Press, 2005. [CSL call number JK1896.C65 2005]
Hirsche, Adelaide Morgan. We've Come A Long Way: A History of the League of Women Voters of Connecticut - 1921-1953. Hartford: League of Women Voters of Connecticut, 1953. [CSL call number JK1883.H57 1953]
League of Women Voters of the United States. XL: 40 Years of a Great Idea. Washington, D.C.: League of Women Voters of the United States, 1960. [CSL call number JK1881.N387 1960]
Nichols, Carole. Votes and More for Women: Suffrage and After in Connecticut. New York: Haworth Press, 1983. [CSL call number JK1911.C8 N52 1983]
Connecticut Voter, 1939-. [CSL call number JK3391.A1 C6]
Legislative Bulletin, 1921. [CSL call number JK3391.A1 C6]
Marcus, Mrs. Alexander, ed. "Representation of Towns Crux of Constitutional Problem." Connecticut Voter, June 19, 1946: 2.
The Woman Voter's Bulletin, 1921-1939. [CSL call number JK3391.A1 C6]
Polci, Mary Waters. The Role and Development of the League of Women Voters in Connecticut: An Organizational Response to the Changing Status of Women. Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms International, 1981. [StLib History Reference Micro call number 324.3 P757ro]
Hartford Courant, 1920-1965.
New Haven Journal-Courier, 1921.
New Haven Times-Leader, 1921.
New York Times, 1919-1965.
League of Women Voters of Connecticut, Inc. Presidents - Connecticut League of Women Voters