League of Women Voters: members, 1921 National Convention

The minutes of the early meeting of the League of Voters of Radnor Township show the eagerness of spirit with which its members set about the new tasks which the 19th Amendment had created for them.

In addition to the women named in last week’s column, many others soon joined the ranks, all of them representatives of other interests and organizations in the township. Among them were Mrs. M.S. Ketchum, Mrs. Warren Turner, Mrs. Humbert B. Powell, Mrs. Henry Roever, Miss Mary Bright, Mrs. W.H. Turner, Mrs. Henry Smaltz, Mrs. Walter Yeatts and Mrs. Y.P. Dawkins.

Still others were Miss Grace Roberts, Mrs. W.H. Roberts, Mrs. Frank Shoemaker, Mrs. Esther D. Tatnall (now Mrs. Esther Robinson), Mrs. Ross W. Fishburn, Mrs. Alan Calvert, Mrs. Frederick P. Ristine, Mrs. Walter Whetstone and Mrs. Frank Browne. And this is to mention only those who became members during the first weeks of the local League’s existence.

Although the National Suffrage Proclamation was not signed until August 26, 1920, the enrollment of women voters in the five precincts of Radnor township was completed by September 1. This was accomplished by members of the League, working in conjunction with the township assessors. In all, 1,348 women of legal voting age were listed in the township.

On September 21 an open meeting for citizenship training was held in the High School Gymnasium, at which Mrs. John O. Miller, chairman of the Pennsylvania State League of Women Voters, and Benjamin Ludlow, a prominent Philadelphia lawyer, were the speakers. Also, much enthusiasm was shown by those present, at a meeting held at the home of Mrs. Powell, on Windermere avenue, when Mrs. Lewis Lawrence Smith, State vice-chairman, talked on the necessity for women to fully meet their new responsibilities.

On November 2, many members of the local league helped as watchers at the polls in the five precincts. In all, some 800 women voters exercised their rights on this occasion “showing a general intelligence beyond all expectation”, to quote from the early minutes book of the Radnor League. Apparently, the League did not expect too much of the women of the township at the first election in which they were allowed to participate.

Various committees of the Radnor Township League were already busily at work. A report of the meeting at the executive board held on February 16, 1921, shows that Mrs. Warren Turner, representlng Child Welfare, spoke of a possible canvass of the township to enroll all children of pre-school age, so as to have physical examinations made and defects corrected. Another member suggested “the offering of prizes for normal children.”

Interest in the schools of the township was evidently keen, as shown by Mrs. Powell’s report that all five of the members of her committee had attended the last meeting of the school board. At this time “they helped start the fight for new school buildings, encouraging the board in their stand to overcome overcrowding and unsanitary conditions. Present high and grammar school have been twice condemned by State authorities. An open meeting of the League of Women Voters will be held on March 16 on school questions, when President Schock of the School Board and Superintendent Rowland will speak plainly of the needs of the school”, it was reported.

Mrs. Smaltz, reporting for township government, told of her committee of eight women, whom the township commission “will welcome at meetings.” She had obtained “helpful literature” for committee members, realizing that “all women need much education.” Justice of the Peace Hunter would also be glad to have the committee attend magistrates’ meetings if the “irregular times for such hearings did not make it difficult to notify the committee.”

Miss Bright, speaking for her committee on the legal status for women, stated that their purpose would be to obtain information, in order to support state movements. Her committee “would advise all married women to see that husbands made wills.”

At the March meeting Mrs. Dawkins presented “a single plan” for her committee on social hygiene, in which they would start by “finding out what has been done and cooperating with existing movements, including the Board of Health, Neighborhood League, etc.” She would also “advocate developing playgrounds and a community center for wholesome amusements; a high standard for motion pictures; good street lighting; helpful big sisterly contacts with boys and girls… and above all, to try to inspire and help mothers as the best teachers and friends for their children.” The executive board thought so highly of this all inclusive outline of work that they authorized Mrs. Dawkins to go ahead with carrying it out, if “the county chairman approves of her outline.”

By the time of this March meeting Mrs. Smaltz’s committee had had an opportunity to attend the February meeting of the township commissioners, where they learned “much of interest regarding compromise settlement with Springfield Water Company, increased tax rates, and re-arrangement of street lighting.” The committee also reported on a conference with the board of health and of informal discussion in regard to a building code.

These brief excerpts, from the first minute book of the League of Women Voters of Radnor Township, show the keen interest its members immediately took in matters of township government and of township schools as soon as their organization was completed and their committees formed. In general they were following the outline of work as presented by the national league, which emphasized the study of “efficientcy in government, of education, of child welfare, or economic welfare, of the legal status of women and of international cooperation.”

For reporting on the great success of the 1921 National Convention, held in Cleveland, Mrs. Hartshorne, chairman of The Delaware County League of Women Voters, told the local leagues of an attendance of almost 600 delegates, of whom 66 were from Pennsylvania, the largest representation from any one state. Pennsylvania also led in the number of organized counties, 44 out of 67 in all.

By this time, membership ln the local League of Women Voters had passed the 100 mark, which entitled the group to nn extra delegate to the county executive meetings. By the May meeting this had been increased three-fold as a result of a two-week campaign put on by Mrs. Marian R. Troth, chairman of the membership committee. And with increased membership, came even more activity on the part of the newly formed League of Women Voters.

(to be continued)