Making Democracy Work

History of the League

The League of Women Voters started after women got the right to vote.

The League of Women Voters was founded by Carrie Chapman Catt in 1920 during the convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. The convention was held just six months before the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, giving women the right to vote after a 72-year struggle.

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.

From the beginning, the League has been an activist, grassroots organization whose leaders believed citizens should play a critical role in advocacy. It was then, and is now, a nonpartisan organization. League founders believed that maintaining a nonpartisan stance would protect the fledgling organization from becoming mired in the party politics of the day. However, League members were encouraged to be political themselves, by educating citizens about, and lobbying for, government and social reform legislation.

This holds true today. The League is proud to be nonpartisan, neither supporting nor opposing candidates or political parties at any level of government, but always working on vital issues of concern to members and the public. The League has a long, rich history that continues with each passing year.

The League of Women Voters of Moscow was founded in December 1952 and is the largest League in Idaho with a membership of more than 130.

During the past 65 years, the Moscow League has been involved in many local issues through research. For some of those issues, the League conducted studies, reached a consensus and informed the public.

In the early years some of the issues the League took on included: slot machine revenue used for Gritman Hospital; closed school board meetings; delivering candidate fliers via the milkmen and Boy Scouts; discussion of landfill problems; logs and trees floating in Paradise Creek; and landlords cheating college students on housing.

In later years, the League was involved with:

Activities for youth (1996): For quite a while, there was little to do for our youth. The Moscow Parks and Recreation building which was originally built for youth activities, was being used for park and rec offices. After the League's study, the city started using the building for after school, school vacation and summer vacation activities for our youth. In addition, land north of Moscow, which had been donated to the city specifically for children, was finally made into an environmental park. You know this now as Virgil Phillips Farm.

School-age child care (1995): The League felt there was not enough information for parents in accessing facilities offering child care in the area. They also studied the lack of transportation used to get the children to a facility and the possibility of using space in the schools for children in kindergarten through third grade. In addition, they encouraged businesses to support the families who required school-age child care.

Alternative schools (1990): In the 1980s the League undertook a study to ascertain the needs of an alternative high school. Members were concerned that students were dropping out of school, felt they did not fit in a traditional high school setting or were not doing well in that environment. Many of them were considered at-risk students. The League and other citizens urged the school board to take action. During the school year of 1992-93, the first classes for the alternative school were held in the basement of the current high school, later moving to the high school annex and then to its current building on South Highway 95. It is now called Paradise Creek Regional High School.

The ancient cedar grove on Moscow Mountain (1993): Ancient cedar trees nearly 1,000 years old grow on 30 acres of state-owned land on Moscow Mountain. Years ago there was public involvement in saving these trees from logging and other development. After studying the issue, the League agreed the land should be maintained with best management objectives, including 20-30 acres used as a buffer.

Poverty in Latah County (2012): A two-year study before a final report. The extent of poverty became apparent when various service providers approached local government to express concern over increasing demands on their services without increases in support. The city of Moscow convened a series of well-attended forums among stakeholders, and recognized their enthusiasm over the prospect of cooperation. Members of the League of Women Voters of Moscow realized the need for basic gathering of information on the current state of poverty in Latah County and in the spring of 2011 voted to study the issue. We feel we had a hand in both the Community Health Service of Spokane (CHAS) and Family Promise opening in Moscow.

In addition to studies, the Moscow League's program also includes voter registration, candidate forums during election season, publication of the Voter Guide, and other activities the League feels is useful to it and the public.

One of the more popular programs is the Speaker Series held during the school year. Speakers include experts ranging from constitutional issues and the use of drones to dam breaching and the history of chocolate. These programs are well attended and often standing room only.

The Moscow League also holds a Mock Election for high school students in Latah County. In Moscow, students are given the opportunity to participate in a simulation of a real election including poll workers, "official ballots," voting booths and lines. Other schools conduct the election in a less formal manner. All the votes are tabulated and the results are put on the League's social media pages.

The political climate this past year has resulted in a renewed interest in the League and its activities. New members are adding an energy that will allow the Moscow League to address some of the issues we face in Moscow, Idaho and the nation. The League has a reputation of studied activism and bipartisanship, and offers an opportunity for members to become engaged in a logical and consequential manner.