What is our mission? How are we structured? What is our history?
In her address to the National American Woman Suffrage Association’s (NAWSA) 50th convention in St. Louis, Missouri, President Carrie Chapman Catt proposed the creation of a “league of women voters to finish the fight and aid in the reconstruction of the nation.” Since its inception, the League has helped millions of women and men become informed participants in government.
The League of Women Voters is a three-part organization encompassing national, state, and local Leagues. LWVUS sets the guiding principles of the LWV and sets national policy and positions. State Leagues act to foster statewide consensus on policy related to state issues and acts as an aid to local Leagues. Local Leagues work on local issues in accordance with national and state policy and provide voter education and voter registration.
The purpose of the League of Women’s Voters of Greater Rockford (LWVGR) shall be to promote political responsibility through informed and active participation of citizens in government and to act on selected government issues.
LWVGR may take action on local government measures and policies in the public interest in conformity with the Principles of the League of Women Voters United States (LWVUS). It shall not support or oppose any political party or candidate.
The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political organization encouraging informed and active participation in government. It influences public policy through education and advocacy. We never support or oppose any political party or candidate.
The League of Women Voters has two separate and distinct roles.
- Voters Service/Citizen Education: we present unbiased nonpartisan information about elections, the voting process, and issues.
- Action/Advocacy: we are also nonpartisan, but, after study, we use our positions to advocate for or against particular policies in the public interest.
To conduct our voter service and citizen education activities, we use funds from the League of Women Voters Education Fund, which is a 501(c)(3) corporation, a nonprofit educational organization. The League of Women Voters, a membership organization, conducts action and advocacy and is a nonprofit 501(c)(4) corporation.
Our Vision, Beliefs, and Intentions guide our activities.
The LWVGR affirms its commitment to reflect the diversity of our region in its membership and activities. The LWVGR recognizes that diverse perspectives are necessary for responsible and effective decision making in democratic organizations.
The League seeks to remove barriers to participation in any League activity on the basis of age, race, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, national origin and socio-economic position.
The League seeks to promote diversity and pluralism through its programs, committees and partnerships with other organizations.
Political Action Policy
LWVGR is a non-partisan political organization. It may take action on governmental measures and policies in the public interest, but it may not support or oppose any political party or candidate. Members, however, are strongly encouraged on an individual basis to engage in political activity.
Members of the Education Committee study, then act on state and local education issues. The committee also follows national issues as they relate to and have an impact on state and local education issues. The committee continues to follow the impact of the state budget on schools and the development of the new charter schools in Rockford. The committee continues to follow developments as it affects students in Illinois and the Greater Rockford Area. The committee is also represented on the Early Learning Council of Greater Rockford. The committee presents at least one League/public educational event each year. While some members have a professional education background, a strong interest in schools is all that is required.
The committee is working hard to raise awareness of importance of recycling, conserving energy and the preserving our natural resources including land, water and air.
The Health Care Committee studies various health care delivery systems, keeps up with legislation, and advocates for affordable health care.
The Local Government Committee is designed to inform and education the community on important issues that affect our community. Specifically, the Local Government Committee participates in candidate forums to help inform and educate the community on the candidates seeking elected offices. At various times the Local Government Committee has been asked to prepare studies on important issues in our area such as the Election Office Consolidation Study and the Byron Nuclear Plant Study
Every spring committee members go to the local high schools and register students so that they can vote in the next election. In the fall Voter Services members and other deputy registrars man tables at malls and stores registering citizens. They also are available at naturalization ceremonies to register new citizens.
Voter Service also recruits more Election Judges in Winnebago and Boone Counties. Throughout the year members actively participate in events to inform citizens about candidates and other vital issues to the community.
To prepare women for their rights and responsibities as members of the voting public, leaders of the Women’s Suffrage Movement established the League of Women Voters of the United States on February 14, 1920. Julia Lathrop, a national League founder, helped establish the League of Women Voters of Illinois (LWVIL) that fall. One year later, Lathrop helped found the League of Women Voters of Winnebago County (LWVWC). On April 3, 1922, the Board of LWVIL recognized the local League.
LWVWC’s activities by decade include the following:
In the 1920’s, LWVWC challenged a local vote tally, obtained affidavids to support their contention, and won support for the training of election judges.
In the 1930’s, when women were finally able to serve on juries, Dr. Mildred Berry arranged a jury school for members of LWVWC.
In the 1940’s, considerable efforts were made to establish a county health department, which would become a reality decades later.
In the 1950’s, LWVWC delegates to national convention stood up to the McCarthy intimidation by adopting the Freedom Agenda and bringing Bill of Rights education to their communities.
In the 1960’s, the Local Government Committee of LWVWC organized a luncheon featuring a John Howard Association speaker to raise awareness regarding the need of a new jail. Not long after this pivotal event, a citizen’s committee for a new jail was established (although the jail would not become a reality until 1976.)
Through citizen education efforts, the League successfully called for an Illinois Constitutional Convention in 1968, hoping to address the dire need for a new state constitution.
In the 1970’s, the Protect Our Water and Environmental Resources (POWER) was established to address the issue of groundwater protection.
In the 1980’s, a League-sponsored study of environmental issues led to a voice in the Byron, Illinois nuclear plant licensing, thereby improving plant safety.
In the 1990’s, the LWVWC launched the Youth Groundwater Festival (YGF) as well as a State of the Community event, during which elected officials and citizens discussed relevant issues.
Through seven prosperous decades, LWVWC has addressed Voter Service, Education, Economic Welfare, Public Health, Government Structure, and International Relations.
The League of Women Voters of Rockford
The Rockford League of Women Voters was founded April 22, 1922, two years after the state organization had been established. Among the Rockford Leagues’s charter members were: Julia Lathrop, noted for her work on the Children’s Bureau and the League of Nation’s Commission; Mabel Ashton Johnson, the founder of the Visiting Nurses Association; and Kate O’Connor, a founder of the State League of Women Voters and coordinator of Illinois’ welfare program for women and children. The Rockford League’s first President was Mrs. William C. Free.
Through a concentration on such topics as International Relations, Economic Welfare, Government Structure, Public Health, and Voter Services, the Rockford League pursues its purpose “…to promote political responsibility through informed and active participation of citizens in government.” (By-laws, amended April 26, 1980). These efforts have involved the Rockford League in redevelopment projects, the push for a state constitutional convention, and a serious review of local government structure. In all their activities, the Rockford League of Women Voters remains politically nonpartisan.