Making Democracy Work

100th Anniversary

History of the LWV

The League of Women Voters of the United States was founded on Valentine's Day in 1920, six months before the ratification of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. Its principal aim was to help newly enfranchised women become politically educated, responsible voting citizens. Today there are Leagues in every state, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands.

The North Carolina League had an up and down start. The first NC League was formed in 1920 by Miss Gertrude Weil, President of the Equal Suffrage Association of North Carolina. Over the next 10 years there were 4 League chapters developed - Wake, Duke University, Mecklenburg and Goldsboro. The State League faltered in 1932 and ultimately the national League closed them down. In 1951 a new state League was formed and is still in place today.

Over the years, the League has opened a door to intellectual activity and involvement in political life. Local politicians depend on League members to bring them well-researched, valuable opinions. The League has studied many issues and has been active in calling for changes and reforms. It has served as a training ground for many community leaders and is determined to continue to be a pertinent and meaningful citizen voice in local governance. Today, the League of Women Voters remains a grassroots organization. In 2018, the League of Women Voters had more than 300,000 members and supporters and 700 state and local Leagues throughout all 50 states. Though the League is known widely for its voter education efforts, it also brings its expertise to critical issues such as health care reform, global climate change, redistricting reform and many others.

The stated purposes of the League are to promote political responsibility through informed and active participation of citizens in government, to act on selected governmental issues and to influence public policy through education and advocacy. The League neither supports nor opposes any political party or candidate for office. However, individual members are urged to be as active as possible in the political process.

Voting membership is open to any citizen at least 16 years old living in the United States. Men are welcome as members. A person joining a local League automatically becomes a member of the state and national levels of the organization, as well.


North Carolina Suffragettes went head to head with a state legislature that opposed the 19th Amendment. In the end, the suffragettes' fight helped ensure a victory for women. Read about the suffragettes efforts and how the League of Women Voters in NC evolved from it.

Gertrude Weil: Jewish Progressive in the New South, by Leonard Rogoff (Author). Biography of NC suffragist and founder of the LWV North Carolina.

Votes for Women (1996) was produced for the 75thAnniversary of the 19th Amendment. It is an overview of the 72 year-long struggle, from 1848 to 1920. The film covers not only the national campaign, but also leaders and individual states.

Inez Milholland: Forward Into Light. This fifteen-minute documentary tells the story of Inez Milholland, an important player in the suffrage movement, as well as a death penalty abolitionist and advocate for the poor. Though Milholland fell ill in 1916, she decided to complete an already-planned speaking tour. She died after speaking at a suffrage event in Los Angeles. The "Forward into Light" website explains that Milholland... "standing at the podium...wobbled and fell to the floor, gasping her famous last public words, `Mr. President, How Long Must Women Wait for Liberty?'". The site also offers other resources, such as links to further research  and photos.

Women's Suffrage Teaching Resources from the Library of Congress. The Library of Congress contains a 100-plus teaching-suffrage resources listed on the site--many of which feature primary sources and activities related to them--include:

Additionally, teachers can search by teaching standards to find resources that adhere to various state standards, the Common Core, and more. Check out the Selected Suffrage Images from the Library of Congress archive.

The Oratory of Women's Suffrage is a video documentary that recreates the speeches of leading suffragists whose impassioned words shaped the women's movement. It includes speeches by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Sojourner Truth. It is available to purchase as a DVD or for streaming. The website provides a free two-minute preview of the documentary. You can also find the documentary at academic libraries (see WorldCat to check for a copy near you). ISBN:978-1-62290-345-0

One Woman, One Vote. This PBS documentary is a sweeping look at the women's suffrage movement. It features historical photos and video clips of the suffrage movement and also delves into the divisions within the suffrage movement, such as whether to support voting rights for black men. It can also be ordered through Netflix. There is a companion book by the same name that you can buy on Amazon. The book is an anthology of contemporary and historical writing on women's suffrage.

Not For Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Stanton & Susan Anthony. This two-part documentary by Ken Burns tells the story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, the duo that brought the suffrage cause to widespread attention in the United States. The PBS website on the film is filled with teaching resources, companion articles, and historical documents. You can also buy the film on Amazon or search WorldCat to see if your local library carries it. Burns and Geoffrey Ward also wrote a companion book to the film available on Amazon.


African-American Women in Suffrage Movement and Beyond About 27 min.

Bad Romance, by Soomo Publishing, is about suffragist Alice Paul, the Nationa Woman's Party, US President Wilson, and the ratification of the 19th Amendment. 

Schoolhouse Rock - Women's Suffrage movement Just under 3 minutes.

The Black Sorority Project : The Exodus (2006). This is a 45 minute documentary by Derek Forjour and Jamar White chronicling the lives of 22 Howard University women, members of the Delta Theta Sigma sorority, who marched in the Women's Suffrage March of 1913.

The 1910s-Women's Suffrage and Equal Rights. This Vanity Fair video is short (4 min) but packs in a lot of information. The video is a good introduction to the topic and places it neatly within its historical context.

The historic women's suffrage march on Washington. Under 5 minutes.

The film, Iron Jawed Angels Just over 2 hours.

The Woman Suffrage Movement in the United States by The National Humanities Center. One hour and 45 minutes.

The Black Suffragist Trailer, under 3 min

TIMELINE: Women's Suffrage Worldwide. Encyclopedia Britannica. World map showing women's suffrage by country and year. Under 2 min.

19th Amendment/Women's Suffrage Movement U.S. Constitution for Kids (19th Amendment), 2 minutes

Have Fun with history and learn about Susan B. Anthony. Susan B. Anthony for Kids Video Under 3 min.

Lifting as We Climb: African American Women in the Suffrage Movement Film Festival Edition, Just over 9 minutes

Panel explores racism in women's suffrage 1:07. Christy Wood, Vice President, League of Women Voters of Washington, moderator.

US Women's Suffrage Movement A little over 2 min.

Voices of Democracy: The Woman's Suffrage Movement About 16 min.

Women in the 19th Century is found at Crash Course US History #16. This 20-minute film gives an overview of the women's suffrage movement in the United States. Summary

WOMEN'S RIGHT TO VOTE A Kid Explains History, Episode 18, 4 min

Women's Suffrage: Crash Course US History #31 Runs just over 13 minutes.