Marin Historians discuss League History
The Early Days of the LWV in Marin
On May 28, 1936, thirty Marin County women met at the Mill Valley Outdoor Art Club for the purpose of organizing a League of Women Voters in Marin. The annual dues were set at $2.00, monthly member meetings were scheduled for the 4th Tuesday of each month and a temporary president, secretary and treasurer were named. On May 28, 2011 we celebrate our 75th birthday.
On that same day in May, work was progressing on the building of a bridge that would connect San Francisco to Marin. When it opened a year later, residents and visitors were able to drive from point to point; the ferries and the trains would fade into the background and then reappear over the next 75 years. The construction of the Golden Gate Bridge was just one factor contributing to the population expansion that took the County from about 45,000 in the mid-thirties to over 200,000 by 1970. Could those women in 1936 imagine that the League they were forming would in 75 years have housing, transportation, water and clean political campaigns as their top issues?
During that same 75 years the Marin League would conduct studies, observe elected officials, take positions, advocate on issues and inform the voting public. During the first ten years, the minutes tell us that the top issues focused on local government. The minutes were sometimes typed and sometimes handwritten; they were always hand signed by the recording secretary. We don’t know the first names of most of these women that started our League; they were known as Mrs. John Irving, Mrs. George Engels or Mrs. George F. Marier. The minutes were kept neatly in a three-ringed black binder that measures five inches by seven inches.
The action and study items approved in 1940-41 demonstrate the focus on local government: “1) integration of state and county agencies to promote effective administration of public assistance programs 2) support of a Marin County public health department 3) improve public personnel and 4) organization of County offices for efficient administration”. The following items were also approved for study: “1) organization and administration of city and county government 2) standards and regulation of dairy products 3) foreign policy as it pertains to a) problems of the non-belligerents b) reconstructing peace and 4) teacher tenure”. A very ambitious agenda!
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor and America’s entrance into the war, the minutes reflect concerns regarding local defense. The normal program was suspended in order to assist the war effort. Under the leadership of president, Vera Schultz, the League members provided assistance to service families and helped train speakers on “consumer interests and public defense”. Some of the topics addressed were protection of school children during air raids, information on how to recognize the presence of poison gas and the handling and disarming of bombs. Vera Schultz went on to become the first woman elected to the Marin County board of supervisors. She was a trail-blazer in opening doors for women to run for elected office.
Over the years, the original countywide League split into two or more organizations, coming together again as one in 1978. Throughout all the decades and reorganizations, the League has continued to provide public forums for candidates running for elected office and written materials on state and local propositions. Our issues for emphasis and advocacy have changed; some have gone out of focus for a while and come back. Our method of communication has changed. We have moved from typewriter and stencil to computer with floppy disc to Internet and web pages. We’ve changed our focus from live debates, to television, to webcast.
It would be impossible to list all the talented League members who have contributed so much to the well being of the community and to the on-going success of the League in Marin. Many have held elected office and have worked tirelessly on issues they care passionately about. Happy Birthday to us all.