The League of Women Voters was founded by Carrie Chapman Catt in 1920 during the convention of the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association. She proposed the creation of a “league of women voters to finish the fight and aid in the reconstruction of the nation”. The League was designed to help women carry out their new responsibilities as voters following the passage of the 19th amendment.
From its beginning, the League has been an activist, grassroots organization whose leaders believe that the League should play a critical role in educating citizens about, and lobbying for, government and social legislation.
The League is 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.
In 1951, Dorothy Lindquist, a member of the Escanaba Board of Education became concerned about the lack of services for children in the Upper Peninsula. Upon learning that the Michigan League of Women Voters was studying the issue of services for children, she organized a meeting to explore the possibility of forming a League in Escanaba. This meeting was held in the “old city hall” in the Fall of 1951 with about 30 women present. The response was enthusiastic and officers were elected at this very first meeting. Clara Mosenfelder was elected the first president at 25 years old. To date, Clara is still a member of the DCLWV.
One of the founding members, Clara Strom, was elected vice-president and at early board meetings told the newly formed group about the Suffragette days in Delta County. According to her, the men of the county would tear down the posters advertising Votes for Women. The women would then hitch up the horse and buggy and proceed to put them back up on any available telephone pole or fence post.
The Escanaba League was formed as a “provisional league” and was required by the State League to do an in-depth community study of governmental services and conclude with a “Know Your Town” booklet. This, together with observations of governmental bodies’ meetings, voter service activities, such as, get out the vote and voter registration drives occupied the early years. “Know Your Town” was a year-long project and was updated annually.
In 1970, the Escanaba League expanded to include all of Delta County and made a formal name change to the Delta County LWV. A “Know Your County” study was undertaken and a booklet published. It was updated in later years, but was discontinued as other resources became available.
The Delta County League is proud to boast that a few of our members became so interested in local government that they ran for public office. Those that were elected were Clara Mosenfelder/school board, Elnora Vader/school board & County Board of Commissioners and Jeanne Rose/city council.
When the League was founded, most of the members were “stay at home moms” with working husbands and several children of varying ages. They worked hard at home, but were able to incorporate League activities into their busy days. As work opportunities for women opened up, and women entered the work force, the demands on their time increased. League members today have a different structure to their days and limited time to attend to League activities. And so, the League has had to adjust our level of activities and our organizational structure.
Despite limited time, our League continues to focus on Voter Service activities and public programs on timely topics. Our mission to provide voter education is our primary purpose. As part of the election process we offer candidate forums, Voter Guides, both printed and online/Vote411 and other timely voter information. Our public programs have included such topics as environmental studies, children’s services, education and libraries.
We have had a presence in our community since 1951. In that time, we have created a space for ourselves that our citizens rely on us to fill. It is our hope to continue our mission to inform and encourage active participation in government.