Story by Lindsey Ettinger, Stillwater History Museum at the Sheerar Intern
The League of Women Voters was officially founded in Chicago in February 1920, just six months before the 19th amendment was ratified and women won the vote. The League of Women Voters (LWV) has been and continues to remain an integral part of Stillwater history. The Stillwater chapter of the LWV began in 1946; quickly members got to work and began developing town studies and organizing events. One of the League’s largest impacts on the Stillwater community involves voting. The Stillwater League of Women Voters strongly encourages community members to get out and vote. In fact, in 1948 LWV members spent a significant amount of time going through the Stillwater phone book and calling everyone reminding them to vote. Additionally, they have helped several people through the process of registering to vote.
The Stillwater League of Women Voters has dedicated countless hours to the betterment of the Stillwater community. In addition to their commitment to voter registration and encouraging people to get out and vote, they also contribute to the community by conducting studies of various local and national issues. In the 1950s, the Stillwater League conducted a study on food sanitation in Stillwater and how it could be improved. They found four areas of sanitation in Stillwater that needed reform: sewage, food handling, meat inspection, and garbage. The League felt that sanitation inspectors should be given the power to ticket people. This provided an incentive for citizens to place lids on their garbage bins in an effort to bring better sanitation to Stillwater. Additionally, the league wanted to implement more rigorous standards for food handling and meat inspection. They believed that the first step to improving that industry was requiring that food handlers and meat inspectors be screened every 6 months to ensure that they did not have infectious diseases that could be spread through handling food.
The League’s dedication to Stillwater is inspiring and it even led to many college students joining the Stillwater League of Women Voters. In 1965, members of the Stillwater LWV marched in the Oklahoma State University homecoming parade while dressed as suffragettes. This was done to show their respect and admiration to the women who paved the way for them and fought for the rights of women everywhere.
The League accepts and encourages people of all ages to join. In fact, in 1974, the League changed their bylaws to allow men to become members of the League of Women Voters. Inclusivity is a large element of the LWV. One way they manage to remain inclusive is by keeping the organization non-partisan. Their goal is to advocate for policies that will be the best for the city, regardless of political affiliations.
They spend countless hours researching and conducting studies to decide what policies will be most beneficial to Stillwater. In 1976, the League conducted a study on juvenile delinquency and the Oklahoma penal system. This study took 2 years to complete. The results of their study outlined several causes they found for juvenile delinquency. They cited drug and alcohol abuse, the struggle of the family unit, lack of positive role models, economic downturns, and several other issues as some of the prominent causes of juvenile delinquency.
In addition to conducting studies, the League has also sponsored events and discussion panels to encourage community engagement. In 1987, the Stillwater League sponsored a discussion panel on the topic of teen pregnancy. Interestingly, Stillwater at the time had one of the lowest rates of teen pregnancy in the state. In addition to the discussion panel, the League decided to look further into this topic and conduct a state study on teen pregnancy. They wanted to find out what led to Stillwater’s low rate of teen pregnancy. They found that at the time Stillwater high schoolers were encouraged to participate in a workshop that discussed contraceptives, human reproduction, sexuality, and encouraged positive self-esteem.
What stands out the most about the Stillwater League of Women Voters is their dedication to the city of Stillwater. Members dedicate a tremendous amount of their time to making Stillwater the best it can be. Most recently in May of this year, the LWV won their case for allowing absentee mail-in voting without a notary requirement.
Their efforts do not go unnoticed and we commend them for all that they do for Stillwater and its citizens. If you would like to learn more about the Stillwater League of Women Voters, you can stop by the Sheerar to view the League of Women Voters exhibit. For information on how you can join the Stillwater League of Women Voters, you can visit their website at www.lwvstillwater.org