This year on August 18th we will observe the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment’s ratification that granted women the right to vote. “It is a reminder that the women’s vote is a relatively young privilege. It is a reminder that women who rarely had anybody pay attention to their civic and intellectual abilities sacrificed much to accomplish convincing men that our votes were as valuable and responsible as theirs,” said Mayor Loella Haskew of Walnut Creek. “I hope it inspires women right now to respect the right to vote by exercising that right.” Although, the 100th anniversary for the League of Women Voters was on February 14th.
Many people don’t realize that the local league, the League of Women Voters of Diablo Valley (LWVDV), has been instrumental in Walnut Creek’s community: “The League started 100 years ago to register new voters, educate voters about candidates and issues, and advocate for issues that are important to the members,” said Ann Flynn, a member of the LWVDV. “We still do exactly that. Now our registration efforts try to reach underserved populations, bring in new voters, and provide information to enable voters to make their own decisions …we each have a responsibility to speak up at the ballot box.” The League of Women Voters is not just about the suffrage of women now. With the theme of all of their programs this year being “Looking Back, Moving Forward,” they now focus not only on democracy for women but also democracy for underrepresented minorities.
In Walnut Creek, women in politics are working to inspire voters, aspiring leaders, and young women in politics to take a larger part in government. “What I learned over the years is that there are two or three components to inspiration,” said Haskew. “The first is to do the job well so that women can see that we really can succeed. The second is to be available to mentor them and to support them so that they can build confidence that they, too, can be successful. The third is to enjoy what I’m doing. Enthusiasm is catching and not intimidating so having fun and pride in what I’m doing often takes away some of the terror of taking on a challenging job.”
As the League of Women Voters has proven, there is still relevancy in commemorating women’s suffrage. The League is not just about the suffrage of women now. With the theme of all of their programs this year being “Looking Back, Moving Forward,” they now focus not only on democracy for women but also democracy for underrepresented minorities. “As we celebrate our first 100 years, the League is focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion. Some groups of people haven’t felt as welcome in the past as our ideals would hope. We are trying to change that perception which was a reality.” said Martha Goralka, member of the LWVDV. “As we more carefully look at our history of the suffrage movement, we can better see past mistakes.”