League of Women Voters of Philadelphia records
Held at: Historical Society of Pennsylvania [Contact Us]1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19107
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
The League of Women Voters of Philadelphia was established as a local chapter of the National League of Women Voters (LWV) soon after the national organization's founding in 1919. The larger organization was created to replace the National American Woman Suffrage Association, which was deemed obsolete due to the impending ratification of the 19th Amendment, granting American women the right to vote. State and local chapters of LWV, including the Philadelphia chapter, were formed with the primary purpose to "educate those [women] whom their agitation had enfranchised—initially by a crash program in the mechanics of voting and the institutions of government" (Young, p. 2). Over the next fifty years, maintaining a strict nonpartisan position, LWV's agenda expanded. Group leaders studied issues affecting American society and developed campaigns around those issues to educate women and, later, the general public.
Initially, LWV's efforts focused on women, and encouraging women to take an active role in politics. LWV built its educational program around the areas where women's lives were directly touched by the political sphere, including schools, community service, law enforcement and public health. The group also worked for a more generally equal status for women in society, such as the right to run for public office or participate in a legal contract without the consent of their husbands.
During World War II, the group launched a campaign in support of the war and how Americans were made to contribute: higher taxes, rationing and price controls, for example. It also established the "Take it to the People" campaign in support of the formation of the United Nations at the end of the war in 1945. In the 1950s, the League of Women Voters Education Fund was created to develop educational programming that could solicit funding from foundations, corporations, government agencies and individuals. In the 1960s and 1970s, LWV gave support to the civil rights movement, the "War on Poverty" and environmental initiatives. In the 1970s, LWV also endorsed the Equal Rights Amendment.
The Philadelphia branch of LWV focused largely on fundraising and local voter services, but they were also involved in programs relating to education, city government and women's rights. They hosted candidate debates and meetings, and published Philadelphia voters' guides, as well as the monthly Philadelphia Voter newsletter, which informed "…League members and the general public about current issues and the activities of the League of Women Voters of Philadelphia." As of 2011, LWV of Philadelphia is still an active organization.
Young, Louise. In the Public Interest: The League of Women Voters, 1920-1970. New York: Greenwood Press, 1989.
"League of Women Voters of Philadelphia." Website (accessed on December 30, 2010: http://www.palwv.org/philadelphia/).
The League of Women Voters of Philadelphia records houses administrative documents and organizational papers for the Philadelphia branch of the League of Women Voters (LWV), dating from 1920 to 1984. Researchers will find financial records, membership lists, publications, program materials, meeting minutes, correspondence and memoranda, newspaper clippings scrapbooks, and audiovisual materials. The records document the organization's administration as well as its outreach activities, and document the development of an important women's rights organization with a strong commitment to educating women on political issues and the importance of voting. In the course of their work, the Philadelphia chapter communicated with national and state LWV branches, politicians and civic leaders, and other organizations, and the contents of this collection reflect those relationships.
The collection is arranged into four series: "I. Records (early accession), 1920-1982;" " II. Records (later accession), 1927-1984;" "III. Scrapbooks, 1933-1960;" and "IV. Audiovisual materials, 1963-1969." The first two "Records" series constitute two separate accessions, and are organized according to the LWV office filing systems already in place. Files are arranged into subseries according to League branch (local, state or national) and subject, then arranged alphabetically. Note that the filing system changed slightly between the two series. For example, Board meeting minutes are filed under "Minutes, Board meeting" in the first series and under "Board minutes" in the second series. Note also that, while the bulk of the first series predates 1966 and the bulk of the second series dates after 1966, there is significant overlap in documentation. For example, the first series contains Board meeting minutes from 1923 to 1957, and the second series contains Board meeting minutes from 1955 to 1983. Researchers should examine the folder listings for both series.
The first series, "I. Records (early accession), 1920-1982," is arranged into three subseries: "a. Administrative records, 1921-1982," "b. Subject files, 1922-1981" and "c. Publications, 1941-1969." The "a. Administrative records" subseries is further divided into three sub-subseries, each representing a branch of the LWV: "1. Local League, 1921-1982," "2. State League, 1924-1961" and "3. National League, 1940-1961." The "1. Local League" materials consist of a wide variety of administrative documents, including meeting minutes, financial records, correspondence, memoranda, and committee reports pertaining specifically to the work of the Philadelphia chapter. Documentation found amongst the "2. State League" and "3. National League" sub-subseries is not as extensive, and is centered mostly on LWV conferences and conventions.
The "b. Subject files, 1922-1981" subseries within "I. Records (early accession)" contains clippings, memoranda, correspondence, and research materials gathered by LWV on a variety of political subjects; as well as relating to activities carried out by the LWV, such as finance drives and voter services programs.
The "c. Publications, 1941-1969" subseries within "I. Records (early accession)" contains publications produced by the local Philadelphia chapter, as well as the state and national branches of the LWV. Additional publications exist throughout the “Records (later accession)” series.
The second series, "II. Records (later accession), 1927-1984" is arranged into three subseries: "a. Local League, 1937-1984," "b. State League, 1927-1984" and "c. National League, 1941-1983."
The first subseries, "a. Local League, 1937-1984" within the second series, is further divided into four sub-subseries: "1. Administrative records, 1937-1984," "2. Education fund -- Inner-City Citizenship Education Project (ICCEP), 1965-1981," "3. Program files, 1947-1983" and "4. Voter services, 1946-1984." The first sub-subseries, "1. Administrative records," contains annual reports, meeting minutes, correspondence, event information, financial records, membership information, public relations materials and publications. The second sub-subseries contains administrative records and documentation of the "2. Education Fund -- Inner-City Citizenship Education Project (ICCEP)." The LWV Education Fund was a tax-deductible organization, technically separate from LWV, and focused on increasing citizen awareness of political, social and environmental issues. Among its programs was the Inner-City Citizenship Education Project, which aimed to increase civic participation and local public involvement in political leadership within inner-city neighborhoods. The third sub-subseries, "3. Program files," includes materials associated with programs of the LWV of Philadelphia. The majority of the programs relate to education, local government and women's rights issues. The bulk of the fourth sub-subseries, "4. Voter services," pertains to the publication of voters' guides.
The second subseries, "b. State League, 1927-1984," within the second series, is divided into three sub-subseries. The first sub-subseries, "1. Administrative records, 1955-1984" contains convention information, financial records and publications. The second sub-subseries, "2. Program files, 1927-1981," houses programs relating to government structure, election law and education. The third sub-subseries, "3. Southeastern Pennsylvania League, 1958-1975," houses records related to collaborative projects between LWV chapters in the tri-state area.
The third subseries, "c. National League, 1941-1983," is divided into five sub-subseries. The first sub-subseries, "1. Administrative records, 1947-1983," consists mostly of publications. It also contains materials related to annual LWV conventions and the LWV Education Fund. The second sub-subseries, "2. Government subject files, 1941-1975," contains materials on LWV issues surrounding government structure. The third sub-subseries, "3. Human resources, 1964-1975," does not pertain to a personnel department; rather, it relates to human rights concerns such as the Equal Rights Amendment. The fourth sub-subseries, "4. International relations, 1947-1978," contains materials on LWV foreign policy issues, especially the founding of the United Nations, which LWV strongly supported. The fifth sub-subseries, "5. Natural resources, 1956-1976," contains materials on LWV's positions on environmental issues.
The third series, "III. Scrapbooks, 1933-1960," contains newspaper clipping scrapbooks on LWV publicity, likely compiled by League members. The fifteen scrapbooks in this series focus on events of the 1930s and 1950s, with little coverage of the 1950s.
The fourth series, "IV. Audiovisual materials, 1963-1969," consists mainly of reel-to-reel audio recordings of LWV radio spots.
This collection will be of interest to anyone studying the history of the League of Women Voters, especially as they functioned in an inner-city environment. Researchers interested in the history of women voters in the United States will also find this collection to be valuable. Education, Philadelphia governmental reform, and other political and social issues of special concern to the League of Women Voters are also well documented here.
Series I. Records (early accession)
Subseries a. Administrative records Subseries b. Subject files Subseries c. Publications
Series II. Records (later accession)
Subseries a. Local League Subseries b. State League Subseries c. National League
Series III. Scrapbooks
Series IV. Audiovisual materials
Gift of the League of Women Voters, per Mrs. Herbert Chatheart, 1966 and 1982.
The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources' "Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives" Project.
This collection was minimally processed in 2009-2011, as part of an experimental project conducted under the auspices of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries to help eliminate processing backlog in Philadelphia repositories. A minimally processed collection is one processed at a less intensive rate than traditionally thought necessary to make a collection ready for use by researchers. When citing sources from this collection, researchers are advised to defer to folder titles provided in the finding aid rather than those provided on the physical folder.
Employing processing strategies outlined in Mark Greene's and Dennis Meissner's 2005 article, More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Processing Approaches to Deal With Late 20th-Century Collections, the project team tested the limits of minimal processing on collections of all types and ages, in 23 Philadelphia area repositories. A primary goal of the project, the team processed at an average rate of 2-3 hours per linear foot of records, a fraction of the time ordinarily reserved for the arrangement and description of collections. Among other time saving strategies, the project team did not extensively review the content of the collections, replace acidic folders or complete any preservation work.
- League of Women Voters (U.S.). Education Fund.
- League of Women Voters (U.S.).
- League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania.
- Historical Society of Pennsylvania
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Celia Caust-Ellenbogen and Michael Gubicza
- The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources' "Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives" Project.
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This collection is open for research use.
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