SF League History

Women in San Francisco along with other Californians earned the right to vote in 1911 and they started the San Francisco Center which promoted voters education and women’s suffrage in California, throughout the west and the national movement. In 1920, the San Francisco Center became part of the League of Women Voters.

The League of Women Voters was founded by Carrie Chapman Catt in 1920 during the convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. The convention was held just six months before the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, giving women the right to vote after a 57-year struggle.

The League began as a “mighty political experiment” designed to help 20 million women carry out their new responsibilities as voters. It encouraged them to use their new power to participate in shaping public policy.

When she first wrote of how she envisioned the League in April 1919, Carrie Chapman Catt wrote, “The politicians used to ask why we wanted to vote. They seemed to think we want to do something particular with it, something we were not telling about. They did not understand that women wanted to help improve the general welfare of the people.”

For more than eighty years, the League has indeed helped improve the general welfare of the people. Some of the League’s earliest causes included support for child labor laws, minimum wage, compulsory education and equal opportunity for women. Some of these issues affected the creation of laws that are still in force today.

A brief review of some other issues in which the League took a leadership role reads like a historical summary of our nation. The League has been involved in environmental issues, the fight against poverty and discrimination, the civil rights movement, reproductive freedom, health care reform and became a major advocate for campaign finance reform.