The League of Women Voters of Lawrence-Douglas County, 1921-1931
In 1995, local historian Katie Armitage presented “Highlights [of the] Lawrence League of Women Voters, 1931-1959” to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the National League of Women Voters (LWV) founded in 1920. Although Lawrence was one of seven local leagues organized in the early 1920s, she noted the “Lawrence league, however, was short lived and we know very little about it [because] apparently no records were kept”—“at least not locally.”1 As a result, the Lawrence league dated its founding to 1931 and celebrated its 50th year in 1981.2
For the Kansas league’s 50th anniversary in 1969, Barbara Meikle noted, “There is much disagreement about the Lawrence League of Women Voters in the years 1920 to 1931 when the first records of the League, as we know it today, were recorded.” She interviewed three early members (including Hearty Nelson). Pearl Clark, a 1922 KU graduate, recalled attending “the first meeting in 1920” as a political science student and moving “back to Lawrence in 1926,” the same year that Helen Beal came to Lawrence. Mrs. Beal recalled that “the League started in Lawrence in the ‘20s and disbanded because it became too partisan, and the national office was just as happy to see it disband because non-partisanship was a major objective of the League.”3
1 Quoted in two typescripts by Katie H. Armitage, “March 1995-75th Anniversary of the Founding of LWV” (from Marjorie Cole’s files) and “75th Anniversary of the FOUNDING OF THE LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS,” dated April 21, 1995, at Spencer Research Library, LWV-LDC, RH MS 1168, Box 2, Folder 26, “History.”
2 See typescript by Nona Thompson, “A Talk for the [Lawrence] League of Women Voters on Their 50th Anniversary,” dated April 23, 1981, at Spencer Library, LWV-LDC, RH MS 1168, Box 2, Folder 26, “History.”
3 Quoted on page 1 in a seven-page typescript by Mrs. Bill Meikle, dated September 18, 1969, at Spencer Research Library, LWV-LDC, RH MS 187, Box 1, Folder 1, “Historical Materials.” She interviewed Pearl Clark and Helen Beal by phone and Hearty Nelson in person. Her interviews, in slightly altered language, were published in a two-part series “League of Women Voters Found Early Going Rocky” and “League Here Organized in 1931,” Lawrence Daily Journal-World, September 23, 1969, 9, September 24, 1969, 21. All subsequent articles cited here are in this newspaper unless otherwise noted. According to Pearl Clark’s obituary (LJ-W, November 8, 1987, 7), she graduated in 1922 and married Carroll Clark in 1923. Mr. Clark taught at KU (1925-27), before attending the University of Chicago (1927-29). Therefore, it’s unclear whether Mrs. Clark may have attended other LWV meetings during the 1920s. Mrs. Helen Beal’s arrival year is in her obituary, October 5, 1973, 9. In other words, both women’s memories
However, the locally reported reasons for disbanding this league in March 1930 may prove less dramatic than any single event or recorded charge of partisanship.
In this essay, I seek to correct historicized accounts by documenting highlights of the long-lived activities of our “Douglas County” league from its official founding in September 1921 through its reorganization as the “Lawrence” league in May 1931. Much like the interchangeable names of the Sedgwick County and Wichita league (used from 1919 through 1941), the official name “Douglas County” was chosen, even as news reports sometimes referred to the “Lawrence league.” The Lawrence Daily Journal-World provided this white women-run league with high visibility by frequently reporting, and thereby verifying, its extensive meetings and activities throughout the 1920s.4 It is also crucial to recognize that African American women organized a “League of Women Voters No. 2” in 1924, led by President Lula (Carr) Irving and Secretary Gertrude (Taylor) Clark with twenty-six members, but unfortunately the Journal-World did not report their activities.5 Not until 1986 did our official name change to the more geographically inclusive “League of Women Voters of Lawrence-Douglas County” “to reflect
may date only from 1926. Unfortunately, the national league has no correspondence regarding the first league’s disbanding.
4 This sole Lawrence newspaper announced meeting dates at various places with speakers and topics but did not always report details of what transpired at meetings (e.g., October 8, 29, November 5, 26, 30, 1921; January 4, February 4, 18, March 1, 14, 30, April 7, 10, 25, May 8, 26, June 13, September 21, 1922, etc.).
5 “Women Voters’ League” and “Meeting of Women’s League No. 2,” February 18, March 14, 1924. In 1883, Louisa (Lula) Carr gave her high school graduation speech on “Woman Suffrage,” four years before Kansas women won the right to vote in municipal elections, in Western Recorder, May 17, 1883, 4. See her obituary in July 2, 1959, 2. Gertrude Clark, wife of attorney John W. Clark, founded the long-running Self Culture Club in 1915. See “Lawrence clubs united black women,” LJ-W, February 24, 1985, 10 and her obituary, June 25, 1975, 14. In her 1995 talk, Katie Armitage noted a “racially diverse Board” in March 1955, when Mrs. Leroy (Bertha or Birdie) Harris was elected a director for one year—the same year the league voted to study the “protection of minority groups against discrimination.” Even though Harris’ name was not listed among officers in September, she remained active and served on the membership committee with Gertrude Clark in 1964. See “LWV Elect Officers,” March 11, 1955, 6; “Lawrence LWV entertained,” September 29, 1955, 5; “Women Voters to Have Annual Event,” September 23, 1963, 6; “Women Voters Have Orientation,” December 2, 1964, 8. Although local members voted to study racial discrimination in 1955, they did not begin their study on local civil rights until fall 1963 and then unanimously supported a proposed public accommodation ordinance in spring 1964. See President Emily Camin’s “Report by League,” March 18, 1964, 4.
the group’s growing membership and the city’s growth.”6
As many know, the national LWV arose directly from the seven-decade-long fight for woman’s suffrage, six months before the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment on August 26, 1920. In March 1919, Carrie Chapman Catt, president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, proposed the creation of a “league of women voters to finish the fight,” and Jane Brooks from Wichita, Kansas, was elected chair of this “mighty experiment.” Upon returning home, Brooks established the first state chapter and Sedgwick County chapter in June, when the former Kansas suffrage association agreed to change its name to the Kansas League of Women Voters. This league held its “First School of Citizenship” in Wichita in January 1920.7 In May 1921, the Kansas league met in Lawrence at the Unitarian Church and re-elected Jane Brooks as “chairman.” From Lawrence, Elsie Neuenschwander was elected state recording secretary, Mollie Asher chaired the Second Congressional District, and Genevieve Chalkley, Dean Alberta Corbin, and Alice Winston also spoke at this meeting.8
Founding Our Local League
Shortly thereafter, the Douglas County League of Women Voters was founded on September 27, 1921 at Lawrence’s city hall, after meetings with Gladys Pyle, a national LWV representative. The following officers were elected: President, Mrs. T. H. (Genevieve) Chalkley; vice-president, Mrs. A. C. (Helen) Mitchell; secretary, Mrs. Gertie K. Johnston; and treasurer, Mrs. Emma Wall; along with executive board members Mrs. Frank (Mary) Strong, Mrs. Samuel D. (Martha) Bishop, Mrs. J. H. (Virginia) Mitchell, Mrs. E. L. (Ruth) Griffin, and Mrs. Anna H. Martindale.
6 “Women’s voter group planning to alter name,” LJ-W, April 28, 1986, 3. For the 1894 campaign, the Douglas County Equal Suffrage Club organized every voting precinct with ten city and eight county vice-presidents and meetings were held in the community room of Watkins Bank, in Lawrence Daily Journal, February 22, 1894, 4.
7 See “It Began First in Wichita,” https://www.lwvwichita.org/about-us/history/.
8 “League Will Meet” and “Mrs. Brooks Is Chairman,” May 23, 24, 1921, 1.
Appointed committee chairs were Mrs. W. C. (Gertrude) Simons (publicity), Mrs. C. F. Melton (membership), and Mrs. W. A. (Elizabeth) Dunn (program). At this same meeting, women took immediate action to protest the Industrial Court’s removal of Miss Linna Bresette, who enforced child labor laws as state head of children’s welfare.9
Genevieve H. Chalkley, an active Lawrence suffragist since 1904, was the perfect choice to lead the new league, having worked tirelessly through the 1912 campaign and serving as state president of the renamed Good Citizenship League in 1913. Governors Walter R. Stubbs and Arthur Capper appointed her respectively to the Board of Control of State Charitable Institutions (1912) and to the Kansas Industrial Welfare Commission (1916). After running for but losing a position on the Lawrence school board (1919), she conducted a child welfare study in the second ward for the state (1920). In February 1922, Chalkley decided to move to England to extend the education of her two daughters for two years.10 Anna (Lane) Johnson, the daughter of suffragist Mary Elizabeth and Senator James H. Lane, was elected league president to finish her term.11
One month later, national President Maud Wood Park spoke in Lawrence, with about sixty-five local members in attendance, to clarify LWV purposes. She emphasized that the league was a non-partisan, educative organization and not a separate women’s political party.12 In a previous speech, Park had addressed five frequently asked questions; for example, “Is it a mistake to segregate women as voters in a request for special legislation for women and children?” She answered, “We hope it will not be necessary to do this long, but it is necessary until we catch up with the present inequality of legislation which has been enacted by men from
9 “May Form League” and “Form County League,” September 26, 28, 1921, 1. For details on Linna Bresette, see https://socialwelfare.library.vcu.edu/eras/great-depression/bresette-linna-eleanor/. The DC-LWV supported Bresette’s successor, October 7, 1921, 4.
10 For details on Chalkley’s career, watch “Votes for Women,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nsLSaWJJGwc; See also “English Women Feel Very Kindly, Says Mrs. Chalkley,” September 6, 1924, 2.
11 “LWV,” February 7, 1922, 3.
12 “Head of National Women’s Party in a Conference Here,” March 1, 1922, 5.
a masculine point of view.” Her six slogans offered ongoing tips for conducting legislative work:
1. Remember that you have much to learn about your government.
2. Don’t forget that you also have to teach something which comes directly from your woman’s experience.
3. Start near home in your public work.
4. Begin early.
5. Do one thing at a time.
6. Keep at it! Eternal vigilance is the price of good government more than any other one thing.13
Lawrence suffragists had advanced the Kansas woman suffrage movement and thereby introduced nineteenth-century initiatives that remain in practice today.14 For instance, The Suffrage Advocate, a four-page newsletter published in Lawrence and distributed to state-wide subscribers during the 1894 campaign, reflected similar news in The Voter today. Following national and state organizational procedures, the Douglas County league established several traditions begun after 1912 when Kansas women won universal suffrage. Delegates continued to attend annual Kansas league conventions, and Mrs. Charles (Margaret) Vickery reported on her attendance at the joint national LWV and Pan-American Conference of Women in 1922.15 Over the years, Lawrence women worked with local community partners and state organizations, including the Kansas league, and hosted the Kansas LWV convention in Lawrence in 1927.16
13 Quoted in “Women Voters Will Not Encroach on Old Political Parties,” November 26, 1921, 2 and “No Separate Woman’s Party Says Mrs. Park,” February 11, 1922, 3.
14 For details, see Jeanne Klein, “Woman Suffrage in Lawrence, 1854-1920,” a 44-page booklet available for $5 at Watkins Museum of History.
15 “Mrs. Vickery Enjoys Affairs in Washington,” April 29, 1922, 4; “LWV,” June 13, 1922, 5.
16 Mollie Asher was a district director around 1924; chairs of KS LWV standing committees in 1925: Dr. Alberta L. Corbin (education), Dr. Florence Brown-Sherbon (social hygiene), Mrs. Frank Chase (child welfare); and Ruth
Like earlier women who had engaged in Civic Study groups since 1888, league members continued to investigate local, state, and national legislative issues and socioeconomic policies by adopting a state or national program of work for each year.17 They met every two to four weeks for teas or luncheons at women’s homes, local restaurants, churches, or city hall and invited local speakers or KU professors to explain contemporaneous topics, much like monthly “Hot Topics” today. For example, an economics professor spoke about government ownership of public utilities and the League of Municipalities secretary explained why he favored the city manager form of government.18 The league also set up a concession stand at the Douglas County Fair in 1923 to raise money for state and national pledges and citizenship schools.19 Any woman over age twenty was encouraged to attend meetings and join the league. A KU chapter of the College LWV, first established in 1909, was reorganized in 1928.20
Ever since 1887, when Sarah A. Brown, Frances Schlegel Carruth, and Annie L. Diggs taught white and Black women how to register for the municipal elections, the league worked to educate women voters—but voter apathy would prove a long-term and ongoing problem. In 1924, only 51 percent of US women reportedly voted in comparison to 68 percent in 2020. Kansas journalist William Allen White decried the “get out the vote” problem by proposing satirical polling signs “For Men Only,” while LWV members suggested “For Women Only” signs instead.21 In Lawrence, 319 more women than men registered to vote for the 1928
Garver Gagliardo, a contributing editor for the Kansas LWV Progress bulletin (1925-26), in US-LWV archives, Part II, Box 22, now at Spencer Library; “Kansas Convention To Be Held in Lawrence,” February 12, 1927, 6; March 1, 1927, 5.
17 For example, see “Women Voters’ League to Consider Program for Next Legislature,” October 8, 1921, 3; “Douglas County League of Women Voters Will Use National Program,” November 3, 1923, 3; and “An interesting meeting,” January 29, 1929, 5.
18 Respectively, “LWV,” Feb 4, 1922, 3; “Talk City Affairs,” February 26, 1924, 1.
19 “League Appoints Committee,” August 27, 1923, 3.
20 “Voters’ League at KU,” December 6, 1927, 1; “Ruth Van Riper to Head,” February 15, 1928, 1.
21 “LWV Is Taking Keen Interest,” March 29, 1924, 3; “A Sign ‘For Men Only,’ Says White,” September 6, 1924, 2. About half of eligible Lawrence voters registered, “Many Must Register,” February 14, 1927, 2. See also
presidential election, breaking 1924 records for total registrations.22 That year, the national league urged permanent registration, similar to Automatic Voter Registration initiatives today.23
From the beginning, the local league emphasized women’s and children’s welfare by pushing federal and state legislation with issues that still resonate today. In 1921, the national LWV achieved passage of the Sheppard-Towner Act to provide federal funding for maternity and child care, but the state of Kansas refused to accept government aid, similar to Medicaid expansion debates today.24 Regarding position statements, the “Lawrence league” planned to endorse the Child Labor Amendment to the US Constitution in 1925, but the state rejected regulating labor for persons under age eighteen.25 An economics professor spoke on a minimum wage for industrial women laborers that increased from $10.50 to $11 a week.26 Local women also followed international affairs by endorsing the world court (attached to the League of Nations) and by attending a state conference on “The Cause and Cure of War” in Topeka.27
In regard to state legislation, KU professor Alberta Corbin, state and local educational chairman of the league, and other speakers discussed various aspects of the Kansas Children’s Code Commission.28 During a state-wide movement to improve Kansas schools (ranked twenty-
22 “Big Gain over 1924,” October 27, 1928, 1.
23 “Women Voters May Urge,“ April 14, 1928, 6.
24 Regarding this act, see “To Boost League,” November 19, 1926, 1; “The child welfare group of LWV,“ January 25, 1927, 5; “Cooperate With Act,” May 21, 1928, 11; “An interesting meeting,” Jan 29, 1929, 5. According to her obituary, Mary Estelle Nelson “was instrumental in bringing the first federal health money to Kansas, via the maternity-infancy act,” August 15, 1973, 2. Anna Johnson reportedly attended a national child-welfare conference in Washington, DC, in “LWV,” September 26, 1922, 3.
25 LWV news, January 9, 1925, 4. Kansas rejected this still-pending amendment on January 30, 1925 and did not ratify it until 1937.
26 “Prof. Feis Will Speak,” Jan 14, 1922, 2; “Fight on Court’s New Minimum Wage,” May 20, 1922, 1.
27 “For World Court,” January 1, 1924, 1; “Tells Women of World Court,” September 17, 1925, 1; “At a called meeting,” January 15, 1926, 5; “Conference on Cause and Cure of War,” November 10, 1928, 6; “LWV,” November 23, 1929, 5.
28 “LWV” in Wichita, May 25, 1922, 4; Jun 13, 1922, 5. See “Proposed Child Welfare Legislation: Preliminary Report of the Kansas Children’s Code Commission” (Topeka: Kansas State Printing Plant, May, 1922) (online) and Domenico Gagliardo, “A History of Kansas Child-Labor Legislation,” Kansas Historical Quarterly (August 1932): 379-401. Corbin in LWV news, January 1, 1924, 1.
seven among states), the Lawrence branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) participated in a survey of rural schools, led by KU professors F. P. O’Brien and T. J. Smart. The Kansas LWV joined this movement, while Corbin chaired the education committee of the Kansas Council of Women, and Mrs. F. P. O’Brien, state AAUW president, shared the survey with local clubs.29 Dr. Cora M. Downs, a 1924 graduate in bacteriology, also answered questions about the new Kansas milk ordinance, a topic that continued into the 1930s.30
Women also studied local governmental institutions. In 1923, sixteen members inspected and compared conditions at the city and county jails. Prof. Frank W. Blackmar considered jails “schools of crime” unless youth received “remedial agency,” and his sociology colleague Elizabeth Nitcher noted that children under sixteen were cared for in a separate county jail room until after their trials.31 After two years of preparation, the league sponsored a School of Citizenship on city planning in 1926, in partnership with the League of Kansas Municipalities, the Chamber of Commerce, Parent-Teacher Associations, the Social Service League, and the City Federation of Women’s Clubs.32 Two national LWV secretaries, who complimented the “Lawrence League” on these efforts, explained leadership development and reorganizing state and local leagues on a ward and precinct basis.33 Together with other groups, the league also petitioned to preserve Riverside park along the south levee.34
As for potential charges of partisanship, speakers at league meetings included former
29 “Lawrence AAUW Takes Part in Plan to Raise Educational Standards,” October 6, 1928, 6; “Council of Women Plans School Improvement by Means of Legislation,” May 26, 1928, 6; “At a meeting of the Quivira club,” January 10, 1929, 5; “Mrs. F. P. O’Brien,” January 23, 1929, 5. For details on Corbin’s extensive accomplishments, see her obituary, March 18, 1941, 1.
30 “LWV,” April 29, 1925, 6.
31 “Inspect the Jails,” November 12, 1923, 5; “[Prof. Blackmar] Jumps on the Jail,” November 27, 1923, 1.
32 “Organizations Unite to Hold Citizenship School in Lawrence,” November 13, 1926, 6; “Plan Citizenship School for City,” November 18, 1926, 1; “School Under Way,” November 22, 1926, 1.
33 “To Boost League,” November 29, 1926, 1.
34 “Citizens in Petitions,” May 17, 1927, 1.
Kansas Governor Walter R. Stubbs (1922), W. Y. Morgan, the Republican candidate for governor (1922), two mayoral candidates (1924), and two Kansas House candidates in the Twelfth District (east of Wichita) (1928).35 In 1928, the league sponsored a county candidates’ forum during the primary campaign, led by President Mollie Asher and assisted by the Woman Christian Temperance Union and War Mothers.36 For a mock Republican convention with over 1,000 KU students, it is not known whether the league participated as a state delegation.37
As early as 1870, Lawrence women had run for school board positions, but none were elected until 1887 and 1893 during heated suffrage campaigns. In January 1923, President Stella F. Gaunt led an “enthusiastic” meeting “to get the women lined up for women representations on the school board at the next election, and also to urge the women to support women candidates for coming vacancies in city offices.” Members assured Supt. H. P. Smith that they did not intend “to stir up trouble” but to allow potentially elected women to investigate complaints during school visits. In a partisan action, the league decided to “endorse” Mollie Asher as their sole school board candidate for the spring election, but she lost to three re-elected men.38 While the league continued to urge “the placing of women on school boards or governing bodies,”
35 “LWV,” May 9, 1922, 5; “W. Y. Morgan,” October 7, 1922, 4; “Women Will Hear,” March 26, 1924, 1; “The September meeting,” September 22, 1928, 5. The Wichita league tried to arrange a joint debate between gubernatorial candidates W. Y. Morgan and Jonathan M. Davis, but when Davis couldn’t attend, they called off the meeting “on the grounds that the League is non-partisan,” October 30, 1922, 2.
36 “Women Will Liven Primary Campaign,” July 17, 1928, 1; “Candidates Speak,” July 21, 1928, 1.
37 “For Mock Convention,” February 23, 1928, 1; “Youths Will Assist,” March 31, 1928, 2; “Mock Convention,” April 24, 1928, 3, April 25, 1928, 1. Five KU women were among the fifty-three state chairmen, and students nominated Kansas Senator Charles Curtis for president, April 26, 1928, 14. At an earlier league meeting, Mary Thomas discussed the life of Senator Charles Curtis, a member of the Kaw nation, February 18, 1928, 5. Mrs. George Stabler, a full-blooded Omaha living in Lawrence, assisted Curtis’ vice-presidential campaign, “Lawrence Woman,” September 8, 1928, 6. It is not known if Stabler was a LWV-DC member at the time.
38 Quoted in “For Women on Board,” January 22, 1923, 1; “LWV to Take Hand in School Campaign,” February 5, 1923, 1; “Seeks School Board Candidates,” February 13, 1923, 2. Mrs. Asher stated that if the league endorsed two candidates, she would withdraw her name from the ballot, “League Names One School Candidate,“ February 20, 1923, 1. But the following day, Margery (Bowersock) Dalton, the league’s second candidate, also filed as a candidate, February 21, 1923, 1. If Dalton’s 454 votes had gone to Asher’s 679 votes, Asher would have won a seat, just behind W. S. Griesa’s 1,162 votes, “Unofficial Returns,” April 4, 1923, 1; “Made Official Canvass,” April 7, 1923, 1.
President Martha B. Quinlan repeated the league’s purpose not “to endorse any one candidate but merely to teach the women how to sum up the qualifications of a candidate and, to be well informed generally in regard to public questions and legislation.”39 Not until 1971 was Nancy Hambleton, a league member, elected to the Lawrence City Commission before serving as the city’s first woman mayor in 1973.
Disbanding and Reorganizing
In early 1929, the league discussed a membership campaign and elected new officers in mid-March.40 According to Kansas LWV budget reports, Lawrence members contributed the lowest amount in dues among nine local chapters in 1925 and only 2% of the state league’s income by April 1929, in comparison to Wichita (36%) and Topeka (19%). At this time, the salary of the Kansas league’s executive secretary ($19,500 today) required over half (53%) of the budget in addition to national league dues (12% or $6,507 today). As the Great Depression loomed, four remaining local leagues (Wichita, Topeka, Arkansas City, and Lawrence) began to show signs of financial struggles.41
In spring 1930, Lawrence President Mary S. Thomas, possibly a charter member, requested the presence of all members “as far as possible” to discuss “the question of disarmament” [sic] with eight members at the new city hall for “the last meeting” of the year. On March 24, 1930, “The subject of disarmament [which] proved one of the most interesting programs of the year,” resulted in the following decision:
After thoughtful consideration of the question, the members of the league voted to
39 Quoted in “LWV,” March 29, 1924, 3.
40 “LWV,” February 27 and March 23, 1929, 5. Although the names of elected officers were not reported, other articles suggest Blanche O. Dodds (vice-president), Mrs. A. Van Horebeck (treasurer), and Mrs. Daniel D. (Jessie) Hornaday (membership).
41 In today’s dollars, the Kansas LWV reduced its budget from $37,736 in 1928-29 to $31,074 in 1930-31 and to $10,907 in 1936-37, in KS-LWV, Membership and Finances, US-LWV archives, Part III, Box 164.
disband the organization and to go into the civic department of the Woman’s City club
[chaired by Mrs. Thomas]. This move was decided upon owing to the numerous
organizations represented among the club members and the expense incident to the
upkeep of the league for a small number of members.42
We can only imagine what transpired among the following five actors in this drama who assisted Thomas in reaching this decision. Back in 1924, former President Quinlan believed that the league should never “endorse any one candidate,” perhaps even charter LWV member Mollie Asher for a non-partisan school board position. Upon Asher’s death in November 1929, secretary Etta Beardslee read a Douglas County LWV tribute to her “as one whom with others the league owes its origin, its maintenance thru all the years, and as its [past] president . . . a staunch defender of its precepts and practices [who] gave of her richest and best to our organization.”43 As the league’s subsequent secretary one year later, Hearty Nelson later recalled that offering food during luncheon meetings helped to increase membership.44 Lizzie Sheldon, an outspoken lawyer, and Margaret Vickery had “worked for” Mayor Ellis’ election (whether before or after the league’s disbanding is not known) and expected “an economical administration,” in keeping with the national league’s promotion of “efficiency in government” in its 1928 bylaws.45
The Woman’s City club, a consolidation of the former City Federation of Clubs, had been organized in 1928 “for better [more efficient] methods of reaching a greater number of Lawrence
42 Quoted in LWV news, March 22 and March 25, 1930, 5. Unfortunately, the US-LWV archives at the Library Congress have no manuscripts regarding this disbanding nor anything on the Black “No. 2” league.
43 Quoted in LWV news, November 26, 1929, 5. Back in February 1923, Mary Thomas had explained why women should serve on the school board and she also chaired the candidate committee (see articles in note 36).
44 “League Here Organized in 1931,” September 24, 1969, 19.
45 No news reports attach Sheldon or Vickery to Ellis’ campaign that began in mid-February. In May, they protested the mayor and city commission’s decision to reappoint a female graduate nurse and urged a reduction of her salary, in “Reappoint Nurse; May Cut Salary,” May 26, 1930, 1. Back in 1911, Sheldon had written the resolution for equal woman’s suffrage for the 1912 constitutional amendment. By-Laws of the National LWV (as amended, April 1928) at Spencer Library, LWV-LDC, RH MS 187, Box 1, Folder 9.
women” and to keep individual members, rather than smaller clubs, “in touch with state and national groups.” Two hundred women heard President Hettie B. Menger stress this “efficiency” at the first open meeting in October at the Eldridge hotel.46 One year later, Patricia N. Solander, the state’s first woman senator, spoke to members about pressing state and national issues. At a luncheon with thirty-five women, she urged women to learn “the mechanics of government and the conduct of party politics” and “to push and not be discouraged” when “applying high standards” [if?] “working with one party or another.”47 In early 1931, Mary Thomas was elected second vice president of the Woman’s City club and chaired its citizenship committee.48
Hearty Nelson recalled meeting with Ida S. Hoxie, a former Lawrence resident and district director of the national LWV, and a small group of women at Lucene Lewis’ home sometime in spring 1931. On May 28, 1931, with thirty-five women present, “the Lawrence branch of the League of Women Voters” was reorganized by approving a constitution and electing the following officers: President Julia B. Chubb, four vice-presidents [Mildred A. Hedrick, Margery (Bowersock) Dalton, Agnes Thompson, and Lucene (Barker) Lewis], secretary Hearty B. Nelson, and treasurer Maude B. Thiele.49 In 1970, the surviving founders of this second league were honored during the 50th anniversary of the national LWV.50
Celebrating the Centennial
The official founding of our local league in 1921 with its nearly decade-long activities warrants this celebration of our Centennial today, on the 101st anniversary of the 19th Amendment.
46 Quoted in “The first open meeting of the Woman City club,” October 17, 1928, 6.
47 Quoted in “Mrs. P. T. Solander of Osawatomie,” November 20, 1929, 1.
48 Woman’s City club news, January 21, 1931, 5 and March 14, 1931, 5.
49 “About thirty-five women,” May 29, 1931, 5. Recall that Margery (Bowersock) Dalton had run for the school board in 1923 (see note 38). This second league doubled its membership from forty-five to ninety members by 1935, in “How the Lawrence League Doubled Its Membership” by Hearty Nelson, typescript at Spencer Library, LWV-LDC, RH MS 187, Box 4, Folder 7. Our current league holds its annual meetings in April.
50 “Founders to Be Honored,” May 12, 1970, 7.
Ironically, the founding of the first league and the first open meeting of the second league occurred at the original city hall, located at Vermont and 7th Street, and the disbanding of the first league occurred at the next city hall building, currently the Watkins Museum of History. Hopefully, this brief history will set the record straight for this and future anniversaries.
Douglas County LWV Presidents, Terms, and Residences51
Genevieve H. Chalkley Sept. 1921-Feb. 1922 1121 Ohio
Anna (Lane) Johnson Feb.-Sept. 1922 621 Louisiana/800 Illinois
Stella (Franks) Gaunt Sept. 1922-Sept. 1923 639 Tennessee
Martha B. Quinlan Sept. 1923-Sept. 1924 637 Tennessee/1042 Tennessee
Stella F. Gaunt acting 1924?-Jan. 1926 639 Tennessee
Lula Irving (Black No. 2) Feb. 1924-? 823 Connecticut
Harriet (Coleman) Lacy Feb. 1926-Nov. 1927 716 Mississippi
Mollie E. Asher Nov. 1927-Mar. 1928 601 Missouri
Blanche O. Dodds (VP) Mar. 1928-Mar. 1929 903 Alabama
Mary S. Thomas Mar. 1929-Mar. 1930 1201 Tennessee
51 In LWV news reports: Gaunt elected, September 26, 1922, 3; Quinlan elected, September 22, 1923? and resigned, September 18, 1924, 5; Gaunt served as acting president, January 9, 1925, 4, and re-elected, January 27, 1925, 5; Lacy elected, February 2, 1926, 5 and moved to Tulsa, December 17, 1927, 5. Mollie Asher elected “to fill the chair,” November 22, 1927, 5, but became too ill to attend meetings by January 1929; election of officers announced, March 17, 1928, 5, but no report; Blanche O. Dodds was vice-president, October 1, 1928, 6; Thomas elected, March 27, 1929.