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Highlights in the History of the League of Women Voters
Kalamazoo Area

1920 The Kalamazoo County League of Women Voters was formed on July 20, five months after the formation in Chicago of the League of Women Voters of the United States. Each of the 16 townships covered by the League had a chairperson. The League central governing board consisted of 5 officers. The same group of women which had been involved in the fight for the equal suffrage amendment was instrumental in forming the local League. Dr. Caroline Bartlett Crane, Mrs. Caroline Hubbard Kleinstuck and Mrs. (Leah or Lydia) Shakespeare were among the founders. The stated purpose of the group was to further the political education of the newly enfranchised women. In the fall the first non-partisan mass rally for candidates was held in Kalamazoo. It was judged a great success, having been attended by about 2,000 people. It was called "an innovation in political gatherings.”
1922 Women candidates for state representative and Kalamazoo School Board were supported. The fledgling organization supported formation of a School of Nursing at the University of Michigan, and supported "dry" candidates and "anti-cigarette" programs.
1923 "Know Your Town" booklets were issued by the national League to be a guide for local leagues in conducting a thorough study of their communities. This study of the local community became a criterion for a provisional league to become accredited in later years.
1924 An intensive membership drive culminated in a party at the Y.W.C.A. for first-time voters. The membership was increased to 315.
1925 The Michigan League of Women Voters held its annual convention in Kalamazoo, and Mrs. Carrie Chapman Catt, Honorary President of the national League attended. A survey of all Michigan counties' food sanitation ordinances and waste disposal practices was conducted as requested by the state League.
1926 The nonpartisan stance was established.
1930s Many different programs and activities were tried. Attendance and active participation fell. At the Annual Meeting in 1933, four study groups were organized around the topics of efficiency in government, child welfare, living costs and international cooperation. Another variation of the study group was adopted in January 1935. A six-week marathon "roundtable" discussion was organized on "The Evolving Foreign Policy of the United States." It was suggested that many community organizations should be represented at the sessions. However, later that year two prominent and active members died, Dr. Caroline Bartlett Crane and Mrs. Florence G. Mills. From 1937 on there are no news articles about the League in the Gazette. Although no formal dissolution is recorded, after 16 years, the League ceased to exist. Speculation is that the strong leaders were gone and the remaining members found it difficult to remain non-partisan.
1951 In the spring a small group of women organized a Provisional League of Women Voters. Caroline Ham led work on the "Know Your Town" study. Within a year there were 75 active members engaged in numerous local, state and national issues, including child care, housing, sewage disposal, reciprocal trade agreements, and metropolitan government consolidation, in addition to voter service activities.
1960s 1960s “Voteramas” were held in Bronson Park in September of election years to register voters.
1963 1963 A study chaired by Helen Nelson found a serious shortage of housing for minority group members. The Kalamazoo Gazette published the story on the front page, to the delight of
LWV Handbook, August 2016 3 members who cheered: “We finally got off the women’s page.” The city open-housing ordinance and building code enforcement, supported by the League, were approved.
1973 The League was an amicus curiae in a successful suit – taken to the Supreme Court – supporting school desegregation in the Kalamazoo Public Schools. Mary Brown delivered the brief to Washington and testified before Congress, an event that won mention of the League in the Washington Post. Members traveled to other Leagues, sharing their experiences with those mounting similar efforts.
1974 Kalamazoo joined other Leagues in welcoming men as members.
1980s Challenged with the need to discover new strategies for recruiting and involving members, the League revised its traditional patterns of work – including frequent daytime meetings – to accommodate the schedules of employed women.
1995 The 75th anniversary of the suffragist movement was celebrated. Commemorative postcards helped raise funds for operating expenses and honored our courageous predecessors in this esteemed organization which continues to play an active role in the Kalamazoo community.
2004 League members approved expansion of the service area to all of Kalamazoo County.
2010 In this year of the 90th anniversary, the League was awarded the YWCA Women’s Group Achievement Award by the YWCA Kalamazoo, for “enduring contributions” to the community.
The Board wishes to express our appreciation to member Marguerite Day for her research on the early history of our League, and to Mary Henderson who solicited members’ recollections of the 1950s through 1970s for a series of Bulletin articles in 1995.


League of Women Voters Kalamazoo Area | P.O. Box 2106 • Kalamazoo, MI 49003-2106 | (269) 544-0303

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