It was the zeal of Carrie Chapman Catt that established the League, which is now in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. It was her organizing genius and leadership that brought the adoption of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in 1920, making the United States the 27th country to grant women the right to vote. The League has been a force in public policy since its founding because of sound, informed work at the grassroots level, and Carrie Chapman Catt set its standard.
In 1885, after she married Leo Chapman, the editor of the Mason City Iowa newspaper and worked as an assistant editor, she organized a group of women to canvas the town for signatures to support a bill granting suffrage to women, all but 15 women signed. This caught the attention of the national suffrage movement. After her husband died, Catt became state organizer for the suffrage movement in Iowa. In 1890 she married George Catt, but only after he had signed a contract agreeing that each year she could devote two months in the spring and two months in the fall to speaking and organizing women's suffrage. In 1900 she was elected president of the National American Women's Suffrage Association and continued working for women's suffrage until it was passed in 1920.
Mrs. Ethel Dreier and Mrs. Molly Hoyt (of the Hoyt Farm family) founded our Smithtown League in 1920. They had marched in the Women's Suffrage Parade in New York City and were inspired to start a League in Smithtown.
In the 1920's and 1930's Smithtown was a rural community so the League concerned itself with National and State affairs. However, after the land boom in the late 1940's, the League studied town planning. The report won a prize for excellence at the New York State Fair. The Smithtown Town Board used the League study for many years in its planning.
During World War II, The Smithtown League did a study on rationing. Years later, during the formation of the United Nations in San Francisco, the League sent a telegram commending the founders for work done for world peace.
The years have wrought many changes. Most of the members are in the work force outside the home. Membership is now open to men as well as women. The fundamental aims of the League of Women Voters, however, are still appropriately expressed in a quotation from a 1919 League pamphlet described as follows: "The organization has three purposes + to foster education in citizenship, to promote forums and public discussions and support needed legislation." Remember, the League is non-partisan, but political. This means "we don't endorse candidates" but we do "lobby legislators." A past Smithtown President, Ida Kimbrig, best expressed another of our fundamental aims with the words, "let the people know + make the people care + help the people act."
The Smithtown League meets socially every last Friday of the month at Bagel Express - 264 W. Main St. in the Hilltop Shopping Center (Smithtown). We get together for breakfast and discussion at 9:00 AM and would welcome anyone who is interested in civic affairs, wants to improve local, state and national government and is willing to work in a nonpartisan way to accomplish this.
For more information contact LWV Smithtown President MZSmithtown@lwv-suffolkcounty.org
The League's History
In the 111th Congress, the League lobbied in support of the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act that would provide a path to citizenship for young immigrants who complete a college degree or serve in the military, thereby enabling them to be a fully productive part of American society. The legislation passed the House, but lacked enough votes to overcome a filibuster in the Senate.
The League's Position
Statement of Position on Immigration, as Announced by National Board, April 2008:
The League of Women Voters believes that immigration policies should promote reunification of immediate families; meet the economic, business and employment needs of the United States; and be responsive to those facing political persecution or humanitarian crises.
Provision should also be made for qualified persons to enter the United States on student visas. All persons should receive fair treatment under the law.
The League supports federal immigration law that provides an efficient, expeditious system (with minimal or no backlogs) for legal entry of immigrants into the United States. To complement these goals the League supports federal policies to improve economies, education, job opportunities and living conditions in nations with large emigrating populations.
In transition to a reformed system, the League supports provisions for unauthorized immigrants already in the country to earn legal status.
The League supports federal payments to impacted communities to address the financial costs borne by states and local governments with large immigrant populations.
Criteria for Legal Admission to the United States
The League supports the following criteria for legal admission of persons into the United States:
Our work consists of voter service activities, education and advocacy.
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. From the beginning, the League has been an activist, grassroots organization whose leaders believed that citizens should play a critical role in advocacy. It was then, and is now, a nonpartisan organization. League founders believed that maintaining a nonpartisan stance would protect the fledgling organization from becoming mired in the party politics of the day. However, League members were encouraged to be political themselves, by educating citizens about, and lobbying for, government and social reform legislation.
This holds true today. The League is proud to be nonpartisan, neither supporting nor opposing candidates or political parties at any level of government, but always working on vital issues of concern to members and the public. The League has a long, rich history,that continues with each passing year.