League of Women Voters Holds Biennial National Convention in Denver


Carly Philpott

A protester holds a League of Women Voters sign during the abortions rights protest Friday. The LWV national convention in Denver just happened to coincide with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, but national secretary Jessica Rohloff said the two issues were intertwined. “It’s a fight for human dignity,” she said. “And if we can approach that, and if we can approach one another with some humility and understanding.”

Carly Philpott, Editor-in-Chief

The League of Women Voters of the United States held its biennial convention in Denver this weekend, 102 years after the organization’s founding in 1920.

Originally created in Chicago by the National American Woman Suffrage Association to support women voters across the country after the ratification of the 19th Amendment, the League of Women Voters, or LWV, serves to boost female voices, advocate for women in politics, and fight for voting rights – a “grassroots nonprofit dedicated to empowering everyone to fully participate in our democracy,” according to their website.

From June 23 to 26, sessions, presentations, and other meetings were held in the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel along the 16th Street Mall. Delegates from Leagues across the country were in attendance. Susan Acton, president of her local league, came all the way from Grosse Point, Michigan, to attend the convention.

“It was fascinating to hear from the delegates around the country, though, as they raised issues, some of national concern, some specific to their region and promoted them in either workshops or at tables in an exhibit hall,” Acton, 63, said. “Much of our free time was spent with the others from Michigan, mostly because we haven’t been able to gather, except by Zoom, in over two years. We have many issues in common, especially expanding access to voting through a current petition drive.”

Other delegates came from closer by. The LWV Arapahoe/Douglas Counties, or LWVADC, sent two delegates, who staffed an information table. Jill Smith, Key Contact Person and Secretary for LWVADC, was one of them.

“The convention was ‘abuzz’ with mostly women networking with leagues from around the nation,” Smith, 75, said via email interview. “Each league is represented by delegates based on the membership total of the Local League. Our LWVADC League was able to send two delegates because we have about 110 members.”

The convention drew from all around the country. Smith spoke of meeting with people who weren’t even from the contiguous states.

“I spoke with a 15-year-old from Alaska who shared with me her collaboration with a youth program and the Local League,” she said. “I was able to ‘connect’ with a League member from my home-state California who I hadn’t seen in over 10 years.”

This LWV convention comes at a turning point in American politics. Individual Leagues often serve as nonpartisan centers for political action in their communities, though many issues have become increasingly polarizing. Acton described some of her League’s biggest recent work as being in “gerrymandering, election security, what’s actually taught in our high school history classes, and how does our library decide which books to provide,” in addition to registering high school students to vote and educating citizens about their government officials.

On the second day of the convention, June 24, the Supreme Court handed down its decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the case that once allowed for abortion rights nationwide. According to national Board of Directors secretary Jessica Rohloff, this issue is an important one for LWV.

“Our current president, Dr. Deborah Turner, also is a regional director for Planned Parenthood,” Rohloff, 48, said. “So we can’t be divided from this issue. We are one in the same. And we believe that a woman’s right to choose is directly linked to her being able to have her own dignity for own decisions. And that’s why we wanted the vote in the first place as women, because we wanted to be recognized as full people in this country.”

That Friday afternoon, hundreds of LWV delegates decided to march in protest of the Court’s decision. Rohloff was among them. So was Acton.

“Our group made signs earlier in the afternoon, then left the Sheraton downtown around 5:30, after our meetings were done,” Acton said. “We were delighted by the thousands already assembled. I was impressed by the passion of the speakers and the nod to diversity as there was someone interpreting in sign the whole time.”

Community among American women is an important part of the LWV for many of its members. The attendance at the march was one example of that for some. Another is the way it connects generations. Despite missing out on its 100-year anniversary convention in 2020, LWV still provides an important foundation for activists to work together to solve issues.

“I’ve always believed that I am standing on the shoulders of women who came before me who have made my life better,” Smith said. “Seeing 50-year members of the League here with their walkers and canes are such an inspiration to persevere with the work that continues to be needed to be done.”