LWV Greater Dayton – The 1920’s

After the passage of the 19th Amendment and its ratification by all the states, the League of Women Voters was founded in February, 1920 by Carrie Chapman Catt with the question, “Now you have the vote, what are you going to do with it?” Twenty million women were now enfranchised and the League set about educating women about issues, voting responsibilities, and how to vote.

The National League of Women Voters, as a multi-issue organization, adopted 69 action items ranging from support for United States participation in a League of Nations to legislation to limit child labor and protection for women in industrial jobs. League leaders thought they would pass all the legislation and train all the voters in the next five years, and would then disband. Although progress was made, and continues to be made, eighty years later we continue to work on many of the same issues!

The new National League of Women Voters declared itself non-partisan. (For several years, the Dayton League of Women Voters endorsed some political candidates). Study groups were set up. The concept of study and general agreement (consensus) before action continues to be an integral part of the League.

The Dayton League of Women Voters was organized in May 1920. NCR founder, John H. Patterson stated that the hope of political regeneration in this country lay in the work of the League of Women Voters. He and Charles Kettering, Colonel Deeds, and David Rike all supported the League financially.

Ohio Women's Suffrage headquarters

A flurry of activity evolved as the League conducted classes to study the city charter; ran a three-day citizenship school; produced educational leaflets, gave talks on civic matters, brought “many fine speakers” to Dayton, and stood for the city manager type of local government.

The Dayton Woman Citizens, the League’s monthly newsletter, was first published in 1922 with articles about the League’s work and about city government in Dayton. It cost 2 cents per copy, or 25 cents for a year and postage was 1 ½ cents. For primaries and General Elections, questionnaires were sent to the candidates and their answers published in the newsletter. During the first few years, some candidates ads were carried. There were also ads from local businesses – as many as 39 some months – to make the publication self-supporting.

“The local organization not only teaches citizenship and works for good laws, but also often takes part in local politics because they are interested in securing good public officials, regardless of party affiliation.”

Activities were varied. Members were successful in keeping the names of Ohio judges off the party ballot. They sent telegrams to Washington, D.C. at the opening of the Conference on Limitation of Armaments asking for “real accomplishments and full publicity.” They were pleased that the Juvenile Court was established. The local League also worked with the Ohio Women’s Federation for Social Health.

Always interested in children and schools, the local League worked for revision of Ohio’s school code. As a result, 17,000 rural Ohio children who has been working and not attending school, were able to go to school

1922. For the August primary, over 100 volunteer members organized precincts and distributed literature to homes. The League also endorsed three independent candidates for the school board. A committee was formed to maintain the non-partisan character of the school board. In September and October 1922, the Dayton League of Women Voters in cooperation with the Federation of Women’s Clubs brought speakers from England, France, and Germany to Dayton in the cause of peace. In July, the League lead a “No More War” demonstration.

1924. Dayton women voted in a presidential primary election for the first time on April 29, 1924. League representatives attended Dayton commission meetings. In March, the Dayton League reported 300 new members, which brought their total to over 800 paid-up members. Articles in the newsletter dealt with Dayton’s budget, tax rates and 1920sfacts for school voters.

1925. The Dayton League developed several departments including: Efficiency in Government, International Co-operation to Prevent War, Welfare in Government and Legal Status of Women. There was a policy change: no endorsement of candidates. The League brought a World Exhibit to Dayton. Crowds “four and five feet deep” viewed the display in a window of the Elder & Johnston Co. (where the Reibold Building now stands).

1926. Twenty team captains were chosen to get new memberships and gather renewals. General membership dues were $1.00. Another group called on businessmen to seek financial support. In March, the Dayton League, which had over 1000 members, brought Carrie Chapman Catt here to speak at the NCR Schoolhouse on S. Main St. on “The Cause and Cure of War.” Admission was free. The program was preceded with an organ concert by Mr. Robert E. Kline. A dinner in Mrs. Catt’s honor was held at the Dayton Women Club for $1.50 a plate. A November candidate’s meeting was held at the NCR City Club on First & Ludlow at 10:15.

1927. The League began the study of counties. Members kept watch on bills introduced in the Ohio Assembly and was heartily in favor of a bill providing permanent voter registration. At the annual meeting in May, members demonstrated the voting machines.

1928. A budget of $8,430 was presented, with $1,500 from ads. Fourteen neighborhood groups were formed, reaching 300 women. A committee of League members organized a Registration Bulletin Board that was erected on a “prominent corner of the city” with a thermometer for each ward to indicate at the end of each registration day just how many people registered in each ward

1929. Members circulated petitions to save the city charter’s non-partisan principle. It was signed by 3,600 voters. The League held several League Days such as: “What the Federal Government Does for Education,” and “Social Aspects of Your Community.”

An overwhelming amount of work was accomplished by the Dayton League of Women Voters in its first 10 years — in legislation, in government, in civic/citizenship education, in work toward world peace, in membership increase, in financing. These women were amazing in their enthusiasm, their staying power, and their vision. “Women are quite capable of mastering the complexities of our very complex for of government.” and “The League of Women Voters of Dayton is at the service of women who crave both to study and act.”