League of Women Voters celebrating 100 years

In 1920, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granted some women the right to vote, and of Feb. 14 of that year, the League of Women Voters was founded. The Southeast Missouri chapter is joining more than 750 chapters around the country in celebrating the 100-year milestone this year with a unified Day of Action on Friday, said Jill Young Rickard, chapter president.

“The League was founded by suffrage leaders 100 years ago to help American women exercise their new right to vote,” Rickard said. “We want to call attention to the celebration of Leagues across the country demonstrating the power of women to achieve a more perfect democracy.”

The theme for Friday’s Day of Action is “Women Power the Vote,” Rickard said, and will provide the opportunity for the League to share its mission with the country, and to engage current and new volunteers.

“The Day of Action may be a one-off event, but it provides the opportunity to re-energize our base and solicit additional volunteers motivated to participate in a historic moment,” Rickard said.

The Southeast Missouri chapter is actively seeking new members, Rickard said. The current League has a small but active membership — only about five people at the core.

“We’re small, so feel free to join,” she said, laughing. “Our mailing list is longer than our membership right now.”

The League welcomes both men and women, Rickard added ­— it’s a non-partisan political organization encouraging informed, active participation in government.

“A big part of our focus is educating voters, and we have a lot going on this year, since it’s an election year,” Rickard said.

The League is planning a voter forum at 7 p.m. March 30 at the Cape Girardeau Public Library, Rickard said.

Candidates for the Cape Girardeau City Council’s Ward 3 seat will join school board candidates at the forum, and information on ballot issues will also be available.

The Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce will co-sponsor the event.

Rickard said more events will be scheduled this year, then posted at facebook.com/lwvsemo.

As for Friday’s event, nationally, it’s an important commemorative event.

“For 100 years, Leagues have registered voters, informed their communities on the issues, advocated in their legislatures, and helped shape their communities and this country,” Chris Carson, president of the board of the League of Women Voters of the United States, said in a news release. “We only saw it fitting that we should celebrate this milestone with a coordinated day of the kind of grassroots activism our members and supporters have embraced for an entire century.”

Locally, “We’re celebrating our history by taking action for our future,” Rickard said. “Our League founders achieved the impossible by getting the 19th Amendment passed 100 years ago, so on Feb. 14, 2020, we encourage everyone to honor their fight by continuing to push our democracy forward so that every voter can play a critical role in shaping our country.”

The League of Women Voters of Southeast Missouri formed as a provisional League in 1967 and was approved as a chapter in 1969, according to lwvsemo.org.