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.
How to attend remote League committee meetings: Email the committee chair and ask how the committee is meeting during the Covid-19 pandemic. Many meet on a regular basis using Zoom. Accounts are free for basic services.
Issues and Action committees
The Issues and Action committees are the basis of the League of Women Voters mission strategy. These committees follow and act upon legislation and issues affecting League positions. These positions can be found at the state League website, by accessing the guide, Where We Stand. New members or interested observers are welcome to attend the committee meetings.
Each LWVGR committee presents at least one League/public educational event each year. These general interest meetings held once a month and are open to the public.
The Communications Committee informs members and the public of League events and issues important on the local, state and national levels using marketing, media, and technology. Website, social media, email, e-commerce, and printed collateral are created and distributed under the approval of the LWVGR Board of Directors. For branding and logo usage, inclusion in the media and/or public event list servers, or to volunteer, please contact the Chair, Joan Sage.
The Diversity Committee is a research group formed to recommend strategy and tactics needed to have the local League representative of our community by culture, race, age, politics, and economic status. The national League is focused upon recruitment of younger members, but LWVGR wishes to be a complete reflection of the Winnebago and Boone County demographics and mind-set. Chair: Karen Lytwyn.
The committee is in the recruitment process. Both League and non-League members are welcome.
The Education Committee follows developments in federal and state legislation as it affects students in Illinois and the Greater Rockford Area. The committee continues to research the impact of the state budget on schools, school voucher programs and the development of the new charter schools in Rockford. The committee is also represented on the Early Learning Council of Greater Rockford. While some members have a professional education background, a strong interest in schools is all that is required. Meetings are the second Tuesday of the month, at 4:15 p.m., TBA.
Environmental Issues Committee
The Environmental Issues Committee raises awareness of importance of recycling, conserving energy and the natural resources preservation, including land, water, mineral, food and air. Chair: Lenae Weichel Meetings are the fourth Tuesday of the month, at 1:00 p.m., at Town Center Wesley Willows 4142 Johns Farm Rd, Rockford (map), Illinois 61101.
Gun Violence Prevention Committee
The Gun Violence Prevention Committee is being formed to help reduce the gun violence in our community. Our State and National Leagues have made Gun Violence Prevention a top priority. We will focus on making sure all community members know about the Red Flag law, what it means and how to invoke it. We will also lobby at State, National and local levels to have a comprehensive background check before one can get a gun license as well as making sure every citizen who wants to own a gun has a license and passed a background check. We will educate the community about the Second Amendment and its limitations. We will lobby for an end to possession of assault weapons. We do not want to limit the right of law-abiding citizens to own weapons, we just want common sense approaches to prevent gun violence. Chair: Jo Minor This committee is in the planning stage and is recruiting members. Meeting are TBA.
Health Care Committee
The Health Care Committee studies various health care delivery systems, keeps up with legislation, and advocates for affordable health care. Chair: Wanda Hoover. Meetings are the third Tuesday of the month, at 5:00 p.m., at Meg’s on Alpine Road, 1141 Alpine Road, Rockford, Illinois 61108.
The Immigration Committee researches legislation and enforcement concerning immigrant and refugee rights. Co-chairs: Sara Dady & Teresa Hill. Meetings are the first Thursday of the month, at 5:30 p.m., at Meg’s on Alpine Road, 1141 Alpine Road, Rockford, IL 61108.
The librarian keeps current and historical records for the League and archives them at the Northern Illinois University Regional History Department at Founders’ Library at its DeKalb, Illinois campus. Those with photos, printed materials, films or video of past League activities, please contact Diane Cushing.
Local Government Committee
The Local Government Committee is designed to inform and educate the public on important issues that affect our community. Specifically, the Local Government Committee participates in candidate forums to help inform and educate voters on the candidates seeking elected offices. The Local Government Committee occasionally prepares studies on important issues in our area such as the Election Office Consolidation Study. The Observation Corps supplies non-partisan League members to attend public governance meetings and report on their progress. Chair: Terri Schierer. Meetings are the second Wednesday of the month, at 12:00 p.m., at Katie’s Cup, 502 7th Street, Rockford, Illinois 61104.
The Membership Committee recruits and welcomes new members, answers questions concerning committee placement, and conducts interest surveys. Chair: Mary Kowing Meetings are the third Tuesday of the month, at 11:30 a.m., at Thai Hut, 1441 Sandy Hollow Road, Rockford, Illinois 61109 (west of 11th Street at Southgate Plaza).
The Community Foundation of Northern Illinois (CFNIL) administers the LWVGR scholarship. League of Women Voters of Greater Rockford (LWVGR) members volunteer to serve on our and other CFNIL search committees. Contributions to the LWVGR Scholarship may be sent to the CFNIL. Chair: Janie Wilson-Cook
Voter Services Committee
The Voter Services Committee is concerned with voter registration, plus legislation on voter rights, voter suppression and district gerrymandering. Every spring committee members go to the local high schools and colleges to register students so that they can vote in the next election. In the fall Voter Services members and other deputy registrars man tables at public venues to register citizens. They also are available at naturalization ceremonies to register new citizens. Voter Services also recruits election judges. Throughout the year members actively participate in events to inform citizens about candidates and other vital issues to the community. Chair: Carol Davies. Meetings are the first Thursday of the month, at 9:30 a.m., at Stockholm Inn at Rockford Plaza, 2420 Charles Street, Rockford, Illinois 61104.
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.