To Mobilize and Educate
In 1920, six months before women officially won the right to vote, Carrie Chapman Catt called for a national “League of Women Voters” to mobilize and educate new women voters.
In Arlington, two groups heeded the call - in their own unique ways and at their own pace.
Organized Women Voters
A local League of Women Voters group formed in Arlington in 1923. Cherrydale and Clarendon, the two neighborhoods with their own distinct identities, each formed a separate League subgroup, with a third covering the rest of Arlington (which at the time was still quite rural).
The League was a national group, and worked on national matters. However, the women of Clarendon wished to focus exclusively on Arlington-related topics, and so it was not long before the Clarendon group broke off to form a new group, the Organized Women Voters.
The Organized Women Voters collected information on state and local issues that effected Arlington residents directly. In the early years, the Organized Women Voters were a force for creating a hospital in the County, construction and modernization of the County sewer system, and the construction of a County jail. Through the years, they have supported women candidates for local office, arranged for candidates and policy experts to speak at their meetings, and promoted voter education.
This group is still active in Arlington today. Every year in March, the Organized Women Voters celebrate their Birthday Luncheon, with prizes and special guests.
These women wanted to use their suffrage for the betterment of their local community, and for 95 years they have been a strong voice in Arlington’s political and developmental scene.
League of Women Voters
Unfortunately, the original League of Women Voters group in Arlington did not survive the early years of the Depression (although they did exist long enough to contribute to the formation of the early County library system).
But in 1944, inspired by the work done through the National Board of the League of Women Voters, and spurred by Arlington’s population growth during World War II, Kathryn Stone formed a new Arlington-Alexandra League of Women Voters, with women from both counties.
Their voter education and outreach program proved highly appealing to local women, leading to rapid growth in the organization. By 1947, the group split along County/City lines due to membership growth and a desire to look to their own municipalities’ needs. Mrs. Stone herself was elected to the Virginia General Assembly in 1954, and stayed there until 1966.
The Arlington League of Women Voters followed the lead of the non-partisan national League, conducting forums and information sessions on different issues affecting Arlington and Virginia. League women would only take action on a subject after studying it during meetings and within committees.
For many years, the Arlington League would host a Candidate’s Night, where candidates for various levels of office would come to speak and take questions from the public. Currently, they create a Voter’s Guide so the public can see where candidates stand on various issues, and the League has always focused on new voter registration.
In addition, the Arlington League of Women Voters published a Community Guide for new residents that listed civic, educational, recreational, and other information about Arlington for new residents.
The women of Arlington’s League of Women Voters are dedicated to a healthy and informed electorate, and take a serious mission seriously.