The next year, on February 14, 1920 - six months before the 19th amendment to the Constitution was ratified - the League was formally organized in Chicago as the national League of Women Voters. Catt described the purpose of the new organization:
"The League of Women Voters is not to dissolve any present organization but to unite all existing organizations of women who believe in its principles. It is not to lure women from partisanship but to combine them in an effort for legislation which will protect coming movements, which we cannot even foretell, from suffering the untoward conditions which have hindered for so long the coming of equal suffrage. Are the women of the United States big enough to see their opportunity?"
Maud Wood Park became the first national president of the League and thus the first League leader to rise to the challenge. She had steered the women's suffrage amendment through Congress in the last two years before ratification and liked nothing better than legislative work. From the very beginning, however, it was apparent that the legislative goals of the League were not exclusively focused on women's issues and that citizen education aimed at all of the electorate was in order.
Since its inception, the League has helped millions of women and men become informed participants in government. In fact, the first league convention voted 69 separate items as statements of principle and recommendations for legislation. Among them were protection for women and children, right of working women, food supply and demand, social hygiene, the legal status of women, and American citizenship.The League's first major national legislative success was the passage of the Sheppard-Towner Act providing federal aid for maternal and child care programs. In the 1930's, League members worked successfully for enactment of the Social Security and Food and Drug Acts. Due at least in part to League efforts, legislation passed in 1938 and 1940 removed hundreds of federal jobs from the spoils system and placed them under Civil Service.
During the postwar period, the League helped lead the effort to establish the United Nations and to ensure U.S. Participation. The League was one of the first organizations in the country officially recognized by the United Nations as a non-governmental organization; it still maintains official observer status today.
League was active in Kansas from the organization's founding. The Sedgwick County League was the first in the US (in 1919, before, in fact, the formal organization of LWV US!), with Leagues in Lawrence and other towns following soon after. Some accomplishments in Lawrence have included a ordinance requiring pasteurization of local milk (ca. 1945) and adoption of a city manager style of government (1950). LWV L-DC has supported public transportation in Lawrence since 1971, and our members were instrumental in the creation of the Lawrence Transit System in 2000. We have had a standing Land Use Committee for something over 30 years now. It is the only impartial, citizen group working to ensure that Lawrence grows in a sustainable way and following the city's comprehensive plan. The committee has become a resource for community members who wish to know more about land use, and occasionally a resource for Lawrence-Douglas County planning department staff who wish to know about past planning decisions! League, through its leadership and members, frequently advocates on legislation at the state and national level.
See also League History from the League of Women Voters of the US.