My 50 Years with the League
Ginger Whittington, LWV chester county
My husband worked for the newspaper in the small city of New Castle, Pa., and was determined to be so objective that he didn’t want me to get politically involved. But when a couple of thirtyish, educated women contacted me to say they were forming a chapter of the League of Women Voters, he agreed I could join. They made it easy for me, offering rides and a babysitter for members’ youngest children at our morning meetings. Soon I was appointed to the board, elected secretary and then president. They insisted I attend the national convention in Chicago in 1969, paying all expenses. I was amazed at the orderly way delegates followed Robert’s Rules to push their program preferences.
We wanted to become more inclusive, and since we had a dedicated member who conducted several phenomenally successful fund drives by convincing businessmen that we were worth “good-will” donations, we were able to set up scholarship memberships for low-income minority members. Some of them remained active for many years. We sponsored well-attended candidate and voter-education meetings. Our first big public acclaim resulted when we joined with the Jaycees to successfully promote an election changing our ineffective City Council government to a strong-mayor form. It attracted qualified candidates, including one of our members who became the first female representative, then Mayor and County Commissioner. We increased membership so rapidly that we were honored at a state board meeting. A clever member wrote a rhymed script summarizing our activities, and the two of us performed it there.
After meeting many officeholders and even the late U.S. Senator John Heinz, I decided to start working for the candidates who I felt were most deserving. While no longer a board member, I continued to be an active League member, including the 15 years I lived in Eastern Ohio and now that I’m living in Eastern Pennsylvania (to be near family). That’s because I feel the League supports the kinds of issues I think are most important, such as preserving water resources and reproductive freedom. It also gets the public’s respect because it’s known to be nonpartisan and participates with other groups, such as the ACLU, to permit more citizens to be able to vote. In fact, Mary Lou Dondero managed to keep me useful by helping to register voters and monitoring candidates’ meetings, at least until I’ve become less mobile in recent years. It’s been a rewarding experience, and I only wish more women (and men) would join and benefit from all they could learn about how to make our democracy stronger and more inclusive.