Name of the collection: League of Women Voters of the Flint Area
Inclusive years: 1926-1991
Quantity: 4 linear feet + 1 oversize folder
Acquisition: This collection (donor no. 238) was donated to the Genesee Historical Collections on March 25, 1993. Another accession (donor no. 243) was made on Oct. 11, 1993.
Access: There are no restrictions on access to this collection.
Photographs: Twenty-three photographs were removed from this collection and cataloged separately.
Processed by: Paul Gifford, July, 1993.

ORGANIZATIONAL HISTORY

The League of Women Voters traces its origins to the woman's suffrage movement, headed by such leaders as Carrie Chapman Catt, president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. With the passage in 1920 of the amendment giving women the right to vote, the movement's leaders were determined to test the power of women's votes, but felt a need to educate the voters. The League of Women Voters, inspired by Mrs. Catt's call for a non-partisan educational organization, was created that year. Local chapters soon began to form throughout the nation.

It is not clear from these papers exactly when the Flint chapter was organized, but the first surviving minutes, from January 30, 1926, indicate that the organization had been in existence for some time. The chapter's name was the Genesee County League of Women Voters and remained so until the late 1940s or early 1950s, when the name became League of Women Voters of Flint. In 1974 the name was changed to League of Women Voters of the Flint Area.

The group had the usual structure, with officers and a board of directors. An annual meeting was held in May (in January during the first years), with varying numbers of general membership meetings and board meetings, as time progressed. Flint's chapter followed the national organization on matters of policy and purpose, but it could form its own stands on city and county issues. It participated in national efforts mandated by the central organization, but also developed its own local initiatives. In the 1920s the following committees existed: Finance, Efficiency in Government, International Cooperation to Prevent War, Legislation, Child Welfare, Education, Legal Status of Women, Living Costs, Social Hygiene, Women in Industry, and New Voters.

The League of Women Voters, socially speaking, also fit into a matrix of women's clubs. These organizations often were study clubs, with members assigned to present reports on subjects relevant to the purpose of the study club--music, art, literature, foreign life, for example--and the League's activities in its early years resembled other those of other women's clubs. These typically consisted of daytime study committee or board meetings or teas and dinners featuring a speaker. The organization's news and announcements generally were treated on the pages of the Flint Journal's women or society sections. The two service organizations with physical facilities most closely identified with the League were the YWCA and the International Institute.

The public was familiar with the organization chiefly through its voter's guides, published by local newspapers. However, the League studied all kinds of legislation or proposed legislation, national, state, and local, and recommended positions. The Flint chapter worked closely with the state and national organizations through attendance by its members at conventions and the hosting of several state conventions, and many of the local chapter's efforts were dictated by the national organization.

It appears that the Flint chapter was most active in the early to mid-1970s, least active in the mid-1950s, although this evaluation rests mainly on the amount of documentary evidence which has survived. The League was involved in organizing a 1976 debate between candidates for the open U.S. Congress seat, for example; its president served on the planning committee for the Educational/Human Service Complex of the Doyle Urban Renewal Project. Among the local issues on which the League took a vocal stand in the 1970s was that against revising the city charter in favor of a strong mayor/ward system of government.

DESCRIPTION OF THE CONTENTS

The records of the League of Women Voters of the Flint Area consist chiefly of minutes of the executive board meetings; newsletters; correspondence; and newspaper clippings. In general, the records tend to document the organization's history better than they do as documents of the organization's political positions and activities.

The minutes of the executive board date from 1926 to 1990. Voids in the coverage include 1934-1937 and 1951-1960 and for certain periods (for example, the late 1960s) the minutes are not complete. Included with the minutes often are committee reports, treasurer's reports, annual reports, memoranda, membership lists, and agendas. The minutes typically document the organization's efforts at attracting members and arranging meetings, in studying issues, coordinating actions with state and national organizations, and participating in local political efforts.

Among the major local issues covered by records in this collection are: Doyle School redevelopment project (c.1976); Flint Public Schools; Flint city charter revision (c.1974). Under the heading "Testimony before local government agencies" in the topical series can be found many speeches and other types of testimony given by League members on topics such as millage elections, school desegregation, open meetings, land use, and revision of the city charter.

Although the time span of the entire collection covers a wider period, the mid-1970s is the period for which the best documentation on general political subjects exists. The activities of the League itself can be fairly well documented for the rest of the period, but material concerning larger political issues is generally missing.

Besides the series of minutes, the three other major series are newsletters, correspondence, and newspaper clippings. The correspondence series dates only from the 1970s. It contains letters from other Flint non-profit agencies, from Congressmen acknowledging the League's support of a particular position, and from individuals regarding particular League activities. The series of newsletters is fairly complete from the late 1950s, but is incomplete for the earlier years. The scrapbooks and individual clippings are useful for descriptions of the League's activities.

FOLDER LIST

BOX 1

CONSTITUTION AND BY-LAWS, 1926
BY-LAWS, 1958-1974
EXECUTIVE BOARD
Minutes (may also include: agendas, treasurer's reports, committee reports, memoranda, membership lists, annual reports)
    1926-1929
    1930-1934
    1937-1945
    1945-1946
    1947-1951
    1960-1962
    1962-1964
    1964-1966
    1966
    1968-1969
    1969-1970
    1970-1971
    1971-1972
    1972-1973
    1973-1974
    1974-1975
    1975-1976
    1976-1977
    1978-1979
    1979-1982
    1982-1983
    1983, May-December
    1984
    1985-1986
    1987
    1988-1990
ANNUAL MEETINGS, 1945, 1971-1982
    Annual reports of committees, 1945
    Annual meeting notes, 1974-1977
    Annual reports, 1970/71-1977/78
    Annual reports to national organization, 1974-1982

BOX 2
CORRESPONDENCE
    1973
    1974
        January-June
        July-December
    1975
        January-April
        May-September
        October-December
    1976
        January-April
        May-August
        September-December
    1977, January-April
    1978-1979
TOPICAL
    Action reports, 1974-1975
    Awards, 1965 "The Battle for the Ballot" [script], undated
    Broadcast on WTAC, 1949
    Candidates
        1972
        1976
    Charter position re-opened, 1979
    Charter revision, 1974
    Children's services survey, 1978-1979
    Congressional debate, 1976
    Doyle Urban Renewal Project, 1976
        (1 of 2)
        (2 of 2)
    Flint Public Schools - Update of 1968 study, 1976
    Human aspects of relocation study, 1972
    Jail study, 1972-1973
    Know Your County Committee, 1974
    Meet the Candidates Night, 1985 Miscellaneous, 1968-1985

BOX 3
    Observer program, 1971-1972
    Practical politics workshop, 1983
    Skit scripts, slide-show scripts
    Speeches, 1973-1977
    Subscription service, 1972
    Testimony before local government agencies, 1971-1978
    "Time for Action," 1973-1979
        1973-1976
        1976-1979
    "Women in Government," 1976

NOTEBOOK OF MRS. ELDON WATKINS, 1941-1942
NEWSLETTERS     
    1931-1955     
    1961-1967
    1967-1969
    1970-1971
    1972
    1973-1974
    1975-1976
    1976-1977
    1978-1980
    1981-1982
    1983-1984
    1985-1987
    1988-1991
CLIPPINGS
    1940-1946
    1952-1959
    1960-1978

BOX 4

SCRAPBOOKS
    National League of Women Voters convention, 1954
    1952 Voters' Service, July-August 1952
        1946-1948
        1948-1954
OVERSIZE:
Folder of resolutions from the Genesee County Board of Commissioners and Flint mayoral proclamations of "League of Women Voters Week," 1971-1985