apap128
New York State Modern Political Archive
Collection ID: apap128

League Of Women Voters of Albany County Records, 1938-2001

Collection description

Summary

Creator:
League of Women Voters of Albany County (Albany County, N.Y.)
Abstract:
The records of the League of Women Voters of Albany County (LWVAC), include material produced by the LWVAC as well as material that was produced by the League of Women Voters of New York State and the League of Women Voters of the United States. The most comprehensive series in the collection is the Administrative Files. There are meeting minutes, annual reports, and Board of Directors lists from 1940-2001. A large portion of the LWVAC collection relates to the two main purposes of the organization: voter service and "study and action." Records relating to voter service include pamphlets with information about candidates and citizen voting rights published by the LWVAC and material used to increase voter participation. Records related to "study and action" include material used by the LWVAC to inform citizens about public policy issues locally, statewide, and nationally. A strength of the LWVAC collection is the amount of material related to various public policy issues and how they affected the local community.
Extent:
31.47 cubic ft.
Language:
English and English
Preferred citation:
Preferred citation for this material is as follows: and Identification of specific item, series, box, folder, League Of Women Voters of Albany County Records, 1938-2001. M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York (hereafter referred to as [shortened name]).

Access and Use

Conditions Governing Access:

Access to this record group is unrestricted.

Terms Of Use:

The researcher assumes full responsibility for conforming with the laws of copyright. Whenever possible, the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives will provide information about copyright owners and other restrictions, but the legal determination ultimately rests with the researcher. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the Head of Special Collections and Archives.

Background

Scope and Content:

The collection documents the organization and its activities from 1940 to 2001. Although the LWVAC was founded in 1922, the records from the first fifteen to eighteen years of the organization have been lost. Information about the LWVAC during these first years of existence was collected from recollections of the early members and can be found in the 40th Anniversary of the LWVAC pamphlet. From 1940 to 2001, however, the collection is relatively comprehensive. Administrative records including meeting minutes, annual reports, board of directors lists, and membership lists are complete with only a few exceptions. President's correspondence, on the other hand, is very sporadic spread over three decades. Budget and treasurer's reports can be found primarily interfiled with the meeting minutes and annual reports of Series 1, but also grouped together within the same series. Other organizational records of the LWVAC include by-laws and League history.

The majority of the LWVAC collection relates to the two main purposes of the organization: voter service and "study and action". First, the voter service series contains material related to the League's efforts to educate citizens about their right to vote and increase voter participation. This includes studies of election law and surveys of polling places in Albany County, Voter's Guides produced by the League explaining the issues and candidates in upcoming elections and other brochures, Speaker's Bureau notes and speeches given to groups on topics of interest to voters, and items dealing with special elections and League sponsored debates. The Study and Action series is made up of items concerning public policy including study material and the LWVAC's position on certain local, state, and national issues. Of local concern was the Albany County government, which is in its own series, and such topics as redistricting and public schools, which are in the Local Program Studies series. Many subjects are well documented from the beginning of study to the point of action and results. However, there are a few topics of interest in this collection for which information about the activities of the LWVAC is lacking, such as the campaign for Libraries for Albany County Knocking and the Equal Rights Amendment.

The remainder of this collection consists of subject files, publications, memorabilia, and audio-visual material. The subject files include material related to topics that are not associated with voter service or specific LWVAC action on public policy issues. The LWVAC's newsletters, The Active Voter and Educate, Participate, Advocate, are in the series containing printed material. Newsletters from the state and national League as well as publications and bulletins by these organizations can be found here also. Many of the publications in this series were produced by other organizations and collected by the LWVAC for study on topics such as the environment and foreign policy. The audio-visual material is made up of VHS video cassettes and audio cassettes. This small collection contains videos of town meetings and forums sponsored by the LWVAC and audio tapes from the 75th Anniversary Oral History Project of the LWVNYS. Also, the League kept several scrapbooks along with awards and other items related to their activities which can be found in the memorabilia series. The LWVAC collection is a potential resource for information on local voting practices, local issues of public policy, and local reactions to state and national issues of public policy.

Biographical / Historical:

The League of Women Voters (LWV) has been informing citizens about, encouraging their participation with, and lobbying for national, state, and local political issues for over eighty years. Carrie Chapman Catt founded the League in 1920 during the convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Six months later women across the nation were given the right to vote with the ratification of the 19th amendment to the United States Constitution. Following ratification the League of Women Voters took up the responsibility of helping 20 million women carry out their new power to participate in shaping public policy.

The founders believed the League should take on a nonpartisan status so members of the League, as well as citizens, could participate in shaping public policy without getting involved in party politics. Being a nonpartisan political organization allows the League of Women Voters to work on issues of concern to members and the public at the national, state, and local levels. Within state and local affiliate organizations League members encourage the informed and active participation of citizens in government, help to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influence public policy through education and advocacy. The branches of the national organization into local communities made the LWV "an every woman's organization".

Women in New York State, enfranchised in 1917, created the League of Women Voters of New York State (LWVNYS) in 1919. In Albany County, according to local league history (records from this time period have been lost), an organization called the City Club, created in 1920, provided a means "for better citizenship" for the area's women and perhaps temporarily negated the demand for a local League. At the 1921 annual convention of LWVNYS, held in the city of Albany, the attendance of local women suggested there was in fact a need for a League in the Capital District. Women of the Albany area pledged money to support the State League as a group and held a meeting on March 6, 1922 to raise a sum of $150 to be sent to the LWVNYS. Women throughout Albany County attended this meeting and the League of Women Voters of Albany County (LWVAC) was formed.

According to the organization's by-laws, the purpose of the LWVAC is to "promote political responsibility through informed and active participation of citizens in government". To achieve this purpose the LWVAC is charged with "[taking] action of local governmental measure and policies in the public interest in conformity with the principles of the League of Women Voters of the United States" and "shall not support or oppose any political party or any candidate".

In accordance with the organization of the LWVNYS Albany County became a subdivision of the state League with a county chair. The county was further divided into assembly districts with a chair for each district. The first chair of the Albany County League was Mrs. Charles L. A. Whitney. Under the leadership of Mrs. Whitney the LWVAC immediately acted on its stated purpose and provided non-partisan voter services to the citizens of Albany County and informed the people on political questions.

By the end of its first decade of service the LWVAC had around fifty members. The League's activity was focused on, but not limited to, providing voter service. This involved educating citizens about voter registration, election law, primaries, elections, and amendments. The League also sought to increase voter participation within Albany County. In addition to voter service, members of the local League participated in monthly meetings, study groups, and a number of committees. The committees studied and took action on issues including the legal status of women, education, and public welfare. Within the next ten years membership of the LWVAC increased to seventy-five members; the head of the organization's designation was changed from "chairman" to "president"; and the action committees were increased to include international relations, labor relations, operation of government, and social welfare. The LWVAC was also encouraged to adopt local programs of study.

As the League grew in members its efforts to educate the public increased as well. For example, the LWVAC informed citizens through articles in the newspapers, radio spots, and television series. In 1951, the organization had a weekly radio series entitled "Spotlight on Government". Two years later the Voter's Guide of Albany County, which outlined the candidates and issues in upcoming elections, was published in a local newspaper and the group had a television series called "Mr. and Mrs. Citizen USA". Beside voter service, the League's action on legislative issues, including trade on the national level and permanent personal registration of voters on a state level, continued in line with the national League and LWVNYS.

Local program studies at this time included Albany County government. After studying local government, the League published Spotlight on Albany County in 1955. This pamphlet was the first publication to describe the administrative organization of the county, while a subsequent publication, This is Albany County, was published in 1968, 1971, 1980, 1996 and 2000. In 1973 and 1993 the local League supported the revision of the Albany County Charter. In particular, the group advocated for a County Executive in 1973 and making the County Coroner a medical doctor in 1993.

Other local items of study were mental health and public libraries in the area. The LWVAC began studying mental health facilities in 1955, aided in the creation of the Albany County Mental Health Board in 1958, and continued to take part in the County's mental health services over the years. In 1961, the LWVAC surveyed the library services available to citizens in the county. The group determined that the Town of Colonie was in greatest need of a public library and took part in a door-to-door campaign called Libraries for Albany County Knocking (LACK). In cooperation with 45 other organizations the LWVAC aided in the founding of the Colonie Library Association in November 1961.

Membership in the LWVAC continued to grow through the 1960s and 1970s as did the League's study and action, voter service, and local programming. The LWVAC was active in preparing the community for the New York State Constitutional Convention of 1967 and advocated, along with the LWVNYS, for the defeat of the proposed Constitution. In 1971, the LWVAC included the local school board in its voter service activities. The organization endorsed a non-partisan elected school board for the City of Albany and produced a Voter's Guide for the subsequent election. And, in 1978, the preservation of the Pine Bush reserve became a local program item.

The local League's dedication to promoting "political responsibility through informed and active participation of citizens in government" is also apparent through their activities in the 1980s and 1990s. Over 1,000 high school students registered to vote at tables set up by the LWVAC in local high schools in 1982. The organization received a $15,000 grant in 1987 from the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation to study and publish Household Hazards: A Guide to Detoxifying Your Home. In 1991, the group organized the Governor's Town Meeting on Universal Health Care. And, in 1996 the LWVAC participated in the national League's Get Out the Vote Campaign by joining other local organizations in the Power the Vote Coalition.

The LWVAC continues to this day to "educate, participate, [and] advocate". The League, on its own, with other local organizations, and in concert with the LWVNYS and the national LWV, helps citizens to practice their right to vote and encourages participation in shaping public policy.

Founders

Mrs. Joseph Gavit

Mrs. Edmund Huyck

Mrs. Charles Whitney

County Chairs

Mrs. E.V. Colbert

Mrs. David Newland

Mrs. Herbert Cummings

Miss Ethel Van Benthuysen

Mrs. H. Jackson Davis

Presidents

1938-1940 Mrs. Frank Ross

1940-1942 Margaret Freeman

1942-1946 Zoraida Weeks

1946-1947 Mrs. George Kenny

1947-1950 Audrey Price

1950-1952 Betty Jane Mayersohn

1952-1954 Gladys Newell

1954-1957 Annette Ungerman

1957-1960 Lois Dillon

1960-1962 Maryanna Muntz

1962-1963 Roseanne Mack

1963-1966 Lorena Abrams

1966-1968 Beatrice Herman

1968-1970 Rita Grossman

1970-1972 Carol Wallace

1972-1974 Ann Brandon

1974-1976 Roxy Smith

1976-1978 Marggie Skinner

1978-1980 Phyllis Goldstein

1980-1982 Carol Bullivant

1982-1986 Sally Webb

1986-1988 Susan Richmond

1988-1990 Pat Junkins

1990-1992 Joanne Esposito

1992-1994 Laura Ladd Bierman

1994-1996 Aimee Allaud and Sue Secor, co-presidents

1996-1999 Karen Bonventre

1999-2001 Carol Saginaw

2001- Melanie Trimble

Notes

1. League of Women Voters, "About LWV: Past & Future", 1 February 2002, (7 February 2002). http://www.lwv.org/about/past.html.

2. League of Women Voters, "About LWV: State and Local Leagues", 1 February 2002, (7 February 2002). http://www.lwv.org/about/past.html.

3. Louise M. Young, In the Public Interest: The League of Women Voters, 1920-1970 (New York: Greenwood Press, 1989), 147.

4. League of Women Voters of Albany County, League of Women Voters of Albany County 1922-1962, 1. League of Women Voters of Albany County Records, 1940-2001.

5. League of Women Voters of Albany County, League of Women Voters of Albany County 1922-1962, 2.

6 . League of Women Voters of Albany County, "League of Women Voters of Albany County: By-Laws, As Amended and Adopted May, 1967". League of Women Voters of Albany County Records, 1940-2001.

7. League of Women Voters of Albany County, League of Women Voters of Albany County 1922-1962 (n.p., undated), 2. League of Women Voters of Albany County Records, 1940-2001.

8. League of Women Voters of Albany County, League of Women Voters of Albany County 1922-1962 (n.p., undated), 5-7.

9. Albany County League of Women Voters, "Highlights of Fifty Years, 1922-1972" (n.p., undated). League of Women Voters of Albany County Records, 1940-2001.

10. League of Women Voters of Albany County, Spotlight on Albany County (Albany: League of Women Voters of Albany County, 1955); League of Women Voters of Albany County, This is Albany County (Albany: League of Women Voters of Albany County, 1968; 1971; 1980; 1996). League of Women Voters of Albany County Records, 1940-2001.

11. Albany County Charter, 1973-1974; Albany County Charter Revision Coroner Study, 1993-1994. League of Women Voters of Albany County Records, 1940-2001.

12. Albany County Mental Health Study, 1955-1957. League of Women Voters of Albany County Records, 1940-2001.

13. Lorena F. Abrams, 50 Years: 1922-1972 (Albany: League of Women Voters of Albany County, 1972), 18-19. League of Women Voters of Albany County Records, 1940-2001.

14. Lorena Abrams and Beatrice Herman, eds., 70 Years: 1922-1992 (Albany: League of Women Voters of Albany County, 1992), 12-15. League of Women Voters of Albany County Records, 1940-2001.

15. Lorena Abrams and Beatrice Herman, eds., 70 Years: 1922-1992 (Albany: League of Women Voters of Albany County, 1992), 16-18.

16. Power the Vote Coalition, 1996-1997. League of Women Voters of Albany County Records, 1940-2001.

17. League of Women Voters of Albany County, Educate, Participate, Advocate (February 1992). League of Women Voters of Albany County Records, 1940-2001.

18. Abrams and Herman, 70 Years: 1922-1992; Board of Directors lists 1990-2000; Educate, Participate, Advocate, League of Women Voters of Albany County Records, 1940-2001.

Acquisition information:

All items in this manuscript group were donated to the University Libraries, M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, by the League of Women Voters of Albany County in 2002.

Processing information:

Processed in 2003 by Anna Appleman, Jennisse Pichardo, Sarah Campbell, Amy C. Schindler, July 2003.

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Restrictions:
Access to this record group is unrestricted.
Terms of Access:
The researcher assumes full responsibility for conforming with the laws of copyright. Whenever possible, the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives will provide information about copyright owners and other restrictions, but the legal determination ultimately rests with the researcher. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the Head of Special Collections and Archives.
Preferred citation:
Preferred citation for this material is as follows: and Identification of specific item, series, box, folder, League Of Women Voters of Albany County Records, 1938-2001. M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York (hereafter referred to as [shortened name]).