April 1923 — Presidential Address, 4th Annual Convention, League of Women Voters, Des Moines IO
Madame Chairman, gentlemen and ladies,
I don’t know that the delegates to this Convention have yet been informed of everything that is expected of them. I was not aware myself of quite all the contract we were under, until our Press clippings a few days ago brought in a syndicated press article, which has evidently gone all across the country, and which predicts what is going to happen at this Convention. It carries the pictures of the imitating Committee, and the article is headed, “Women arrange a fine, fancy Feminism fight.” Just think of all that alliteration. Then the article goes on to tell us, and since it gave me a great deal of information, I will repeat that information to you. It goes on to tel lus what we are expected to fight about.
First, whether to maintain aggressively the line of cleavage that has separated the suffrage activities of the League rom those of the National Women’s Party.
Second, whether to give official organization standing to the League of Nations.
Third, what part the organization shall play in the movement for international cooperation to prevent war.
Fourth, whether the organization shall hereafter specifically endorse candidates for public office. In addition to those issues, concerning which there already is much palpitation in League circles, there seems certain to develop a find factional fight over the election of the seven Regional Directors. However, there are also to be elected two Vice-Presidents and a Treasurer.
Then the article adds a little despondently, “Mrs. Maud Wood Park holds office for one year more.” . . .
Now, I never have claimed any particular gift of prophecy, but I want to make one prediction, and at the end of the Convention, I want you to decide whether the writer of that article, or the present speaker is the better prophet. What I predict for this Convention is that we shall have frank, fair, friendly freedom of speech and of action.
Now, there has been another press clipping that I have seen of late that has attempted to make a partial prophecy with regard to the League of Women Voters, and that statement I should like to analyze a little more seriously with you. In a Sunday full-page article, printed in one of the New York papers recently, there was a record of the history of the New York State and City League of Women Voters during the three years of its existence, and that history reported the struggles that the League had had, and the obstacles that it has overcome, and then it ended with this query: “The League of women Voters has weathered adversity. How will it bear prosperity?”
There was a time when always in Republican States we were held to be a Democratic organization, and always in Democratic States we were held to be a Republican organization. I saw two years ago, in my first annual talk to the League that I believed . . . that kind of an argument against us was the best possible proof that we were steering an even, unpartisan course — we, who are composed of the women of all political parties . . .
I suspect that as time goes by the average citizen will find out about us what we firmly know about ourselves, that we are neither reactionary nor radical that we are advancing firmly, steadily, straight-forward, along that middle road of which we believe means sane and orderly progress towards the realization of the great ideal of our nation.
Source: League of Women Voters Papers on film, II. A.5. 0857-64.
Also: For the Public Record: A Documentary History of the League of Women Voters, ed. Barbara Stuhler, (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press) 2000, pp. 87-88.