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Records of the League of Women Voters of Florida

 Collection
Identifier: Ms 038

Scope and Content

The Records of the League of Women Voters of Florida are comprised primarily of presidential correspondence and files about the organization of conventions and meetings, the coordination of local leagues, and the League's relationship with the League of Women Voters of the United States. Early documents reveal the efforts of the League to educate women through citizenship schools and women's involvement in politics and the activities of local leagues. Later documents provide evidence of the increased importance of the LWVF in state politics and the legislative process.

The papers are organized in five series. The Administrative Series includes correspondence of the presidents (especially related to the organization of the conventions and council meetings), convention materials, bylaws, and minutes of council and other meetings.

The Legislative Programs Series consists of subject files concerning the different areas of interest and actions of LWVF such as constitutional amendments, health and welfare, campaign finance laws, coastal issues, education, election law, energy, the environment, farmworkers, taxes, water management, voting rights, reapportionment, and other legislative issues in Florida and the United States. The series also includes the legislative testimonies and statements given by LWVF committees and members to the Florida Legislature in support or in defense of programs and legislative proposals. Of particular interest are records documenting: the revision of Florida's 1885 Constitution in the 1960s, reform of state tax structure, improvements of the education system, election law, ratification of equal rights amendments, environmental issues, and housing.

The National League Series contains LWVF presidential correspondence with officers of the League of Women Voters of the United States, annual reports of state and local activities, national conference and convention materials, files about national programs, and publications.

The Local Leagues Series consists of correspondence from local chapters to the president of the LWVF, copies of letters from the national League to the local chapters, letters from the national League recognizing local leagues, organization reports edited by local presidents, and a compilation of state board reports sent to the local leagues.

The Publications Series contains runs of League of Women Voters publications and newsletters including Board Reports, Capitol Reports, Tally Topics, The Florida Voter, and various clippings.

Dates

  • 1939-2013

Creator

Access

The collection is open for research.

Biographical/Historical Note

The League of Women Voters of Florida (LWVF) is a non-partisan political organization affiliated with the League of Women Voters of the United States. It was founded in 1939 as the Non Partisan League of Women Voters of Florida (NPLWVF). A previous state organization named the Florida State League of Women Voters (FSLWV) had been established in 1921 with Nellie Healy O'Hara as the first president. It coordinated lobbying activities through annual conventions, sponsored citizenship schools, and started publishing the Florida Voter newsletter. However, the FSLWV was disbanded in 1937 by the president of the national League of Women Voters because of difficulties in maintaining its non-partisanship.

The NPLWVF had its first organizational meeting on October 29, 1939. The participants elected the officers (Mrs. Nelson Poynter was the first president) and adopted a budget and bylaws (documents from the first organizational meeting can be found in the collection). Early activities focused on three main goals: study of Florida's state government, surveying the school system, and monitoring the foreign policy of United States. From 1940 to 1947 the NPLWVF held annual state conventions at which officers were elected and budget and program of works were discussed and approved. The NPLWVF board of directors also held periodic meetings between the statewide conferences.

At the 1947 Convention, the members agreed to change the name of the organization to the League of Women Voters of Florida (LWVF). During that same convention, the assembly resolved that the LWVF hold a biennial convention in even numbered years and council meetings in alternate years. Starting in 1968 the state conferences were scheduled in odd numbered years.

Although the LWVF has functioned as a non-partisan association, it has had considerable influence on state politics. From the 1950s through the 1980s, the LWVF promoted and participated in the constitutional revision process, and focused on reapportionment and election reform. The LWVF began using lobbyists in 1949 when Maxine Baker was elected as the first lobbyist to be sent to Tallahassee. During this period she founded the newsletter Tallahassee Topics (later Tally Topics) to inform members about legislative activities in the capital. Beginning in 1981, the LWVF began hiring professional lobbyists. Starting in the 1950s a large number of LWVF leaders have also held office in the state and national legislatures.

Education has been one of the main areas of interest for the LWVF throughout its history. The League started monitoring the state of Florida's public schools in the 1940s and has fought for improvement of the education system for several decades. In 1972 the LWVF established an Education Fund to support citizen education activities. In addition to education, the LWVF also has focused on other subjects including housing, taxation, environmental quality, natural resources, social policy, and equal rights amendments.

The LWVF also coordinates the activities of local leagues and serves as the channel of communication between the local groups and the League of Women Voters of the United States. The local leagues have to operate under bylaws that are not in conflict with the state and national League bylaws (e.g., they must adhere to the non-partisan policy). Each local league holds an annual meeting, elects its officers, and participates in state or national programs. In addition, they have to periodically report their activities to the LWVF.

Sources: Arnetta Brown, Recollections: A History of the League of Women Voters of Florida 1939-1988, League of Women Voters of Florida, St. Petersburg, 1989. Virgil D. Chandler, "Brief History of the Florida State League of Women Voters," in Florida State League of Women Voters Year Book, 1932-1933. League of Women Voters of Florida website: www.lwvfla.org

Extent

38.25 Linear feet (39 boxes)

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

The Records of the League of Women Voters of Florida document the League's activities related to increasing women's involvement in politics and improving Florida's legislation.

Physical Location

Please note that this collection is housed in the Auxiliary Library Facility off campus and will require advance notice for timely retrieval. Please contact the Special and Area Studies Collections department prior to your visit.

Acquisition Information

The records were donated to the University of Florida by the League of Women Voters of Florida.

Related Material

For additional information see also the Maxine E. Baker Papers and the Florida NOW Records at the University of Florida Smathers Libraries.

Processing Notes

The collection was reprocessed in 2009. Previously, the records had been organized and described in two groups. The first group, consisting of 5 boxes, included records spanning from the establishment of LWVF (as NPLWVL) in 1939 to 1951. The second group consisted of 3 boxes that contained documents from 1959 to 1977.

A substantial addition was added to the collection in August 2018.

Title
A Guide to the Records of the League of Women Voters of Florida
Status
Completed
Author
Finding aid created by Paola Pizzichini and Gerald Loyola.
Date
May 2010
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared Using Dacs
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Description is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida Repository

Contact:
George A. Smathers Libraries
PO Box 117005
Gainesville Florida 32611-7005 United States of America
352-273-2755