A Tribute to the League of Women Voters of New Rochelle
August 18, 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote. This success of the women's suffrage movement stands as a transcendently important moment in the history of American democracy. Carrie Chapman Catt, who led the movement as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, also established the League of Women Voters in 1920 to continue to educate on all the social and political issues bearing on the rights and responsibilities that come with voting. Four years later, in 1924, New Rochelle established its own branch of the League of Women Voters, and the fact that Ms. Catt was a resident of the city ensured that their challenges, their power, and their successes would be intertwined. The New Rochelle Public Library was also part of the equation as a venue for lectures, meetings, and programs sponsored and organized by the League.
An inconspicuous part of the League's legacy has been the preservation of its own history. The art and practice of keeping documents often happens unseen, but League officers have carefully preserved the record of its work over the years as the most knowledgeable curators of its history. However, let this important work be inconspicuous no longer! The League of Women Voters of New Rochelle has utilized the Library for the storage of its records, and its entire collection is now formally organized as part of the Library's Archive. An archival finding guide to the collection is available here. This is a rich and wonderful collection of documents that provides, in great detail, not only the history of the League but a political history of the City of New Rochelle itself. The League of Women Voters of New Rochelle has been a formidable actor in the field of education, and with the organizatino of its historical records its legacy as a nonpartisan political organization is again revealed as a vital leader in the education of the community. Kudos to the League of Women Voters of New Rochelle!
It is interesting to know that other local branches of the League have maintained archival collections, such as the one at Columbia University Libraries documenting the League of Women Voters of the City of New York. And, there are archival collections of Carrie Chapman Catt papers at the Library of Congress and the NY Public Library. Ms. Catt's work as an advocate for world peace as also deserves renewed attention. In 1930, she participated in a "World Affairs Conference" in her honor held in New Rochelle that focused on the possibilities for lasting peace. With the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, and with availability of the archival collection at the New Rochelle Public Library, there will be many occasions to study the work of Carrie Chapman Catt and the League of Women Voters even further.
August 13, 2020 / David Rose / New Rochelle Public Library Archives