League of Women Voters 1920-1921: School Board meeting on new school site

The minutes of the League of Women Voters of Radnor Township, under date of July 12, 1921, record that the organizatlon then had a membership of 492.

This was less than a year after 10 women, meeting at the home of Mrs. J.S.C. Harvey, In Radnor, on August 23, 1920, had changed their former name of Radnor Township League of Women Citizens to the League of Women Voters of Radnor Township.

At this same July meeting, Mrs. Humbert B. Powell, reporting for the school committee, told of a meeting attended by members of the school board and a group of citizens, at which there had been opposition to all three of the sites proposed for the new high school building. The interest of her committee had been unflagging in this much discussed question. It was, perhaps, partly because of this, that Mrs. Powell had been approached by the Republican Township Committee to fill the vacancy then existing on the school board. To this she had consented.

An animated discussion ensued at this meeting concerning a policy in regard to endorsing local candidates. There had been so many different viewpoints on the matter in state policy that eventually, a special meeting was called by the Radnor group to settle the question locally. By a rather close vote, the motion finally passed, that the “Radnor Township League for the present does not go on record as endorsing any candidate.” However, when the new by-laws came up for adoption the following September, this particular section was omitted “since the state conventlon was expected to formulate their policy very soon.”

When Mrs. Powell’s name came up for election to the school board the league did endorse her. She was a successful candidate and maintained her place on the board untll 1928, when she moved to Devon and resigned.

Mrs. T. Magill Patterson (your columnist) was chosen by the board to fill out Mrs. Powell’s term of office. And when her name came up for the six-year term of office in 1929 the league endorsed her as a candidate. Their assistance helped to win the election for the only woman on the slate.

At the annual meeting of the league on November 23, 1921, Mrs. Y.P. Dawkins was elected to succeed Mrs. Harvey as chairman. One of the early events of her regime was an evening meeting held in the early spring of 1922, under the joint auspices of the Saturday Club, the Men’s Club and the League of Women Voters, for the purpose of meeting candidates running for office at the state and county elections.

The history of the league, as given in this column up to this point, has been based on the very detailed entries in the first Minute Book. However, the information given from this point on is based on a brief resume of the subsequent minutes as made by Mrs. Paul W. Bruton for the annual meeting held on April 15 of this year.

Chairmen who succeeded Mrs. Harvey,in addition to Mrs. Dawkins, were Mrs. Marshall Smith, Mrs. P.B. Weaver, Mrs. H.K. Hill, Mrs. Weaver (second term), Mrs. Oswald Chew, Mrs. J. Prentice Murphy, Mrs. E. Shippen Willing, Mrs. George S. Worth, Mrs. J. S. Curtis Harvey, Jr., Mrs. J. Barclay Jones, Mrs. John Meigs (now Mrs. Clarence Tolan, Jr.) Mrs. Thomas B. Harvey, Mrs. Henry Ecroyd, Mrs. Joseph Aronson, and Mrs. Boudinot Stimson.

From 1920 until 1928, women who headed the league were called “chairmen”, while from 1928 until the present they have been called presidents. It is interesting to note that among Mrs. J.S.C. Harvey’s successors have been her daughter, Mrs. l. Barclay Jones, and her two duaghters-in-law Mrs. J. S. Curtis Harvey, Jr., and Mrs. Thomas Harvey.

Beginning in the latter part of 1923 and continuing into 1924, there seems to have been a great lessening of interest in the work of the local league and a large loss in membership of today’s league. Mrs. Bruton has noted in her resume that by February, 1924, there were only about six members who were really active.

In an effort to revive former enthusiasm, the league held a large luncheon, at which Mrs. Gifford Pinchot was guest of honor. The attendance reached the 500 mark. But this one event did not lead to permanent enlargement of membersblp or replenishment of the treasury. There were no regular meetings from February, 1925, to November, 1927, and indeed no annual meetings, either in 1925 or in 1926.

However, there must have been interest in the work of the Delaware County League since in May, 1924, the Radnor township group contributed about $500 towards the building of a clubhouse in Media which is the joint property of the County League and the Media Woman’s Club. The 1926 program in Wayne included a course of six lectures on Pennsylvania State institutions, which had a fair average attendance.

Programs for this general period, as suggested by the national league, included study of such matters as immigration, bills, naturalization, the multilateral treaty, cause and effect of war, the marriage code, child labor laws and the city manager plan. In 1941, the group became interested in the work of the board of health; In 1942 there was a study group on living costs and in 1943 they helped to inaugurate the Radnor Schools Day Camp, an outstandlng project which has been successful each summer.

Before going into a report on the present highly effective League of Women Voters of Radnor Township, as we shall do in the concluding number of this series, it may be interesting to share with our readers a letter received recently from Mrs. Charles C. Suffren, of Strafford, one of the veteran workers in the women’s suffrage work, and an intlmate friend of Mrs. Corrie Chapman Catt. Mrs. Suffren writes: “I was very close to Mrs. Catt and loved her very dearly – helping her to build up the Woman Suffrage Party of New York City. I was vice-chairman of it for seven years.” Mrs. Suffren considers the work of the league futile in many respects… “All they do is study”, she writes. “They study everything and get out the vote! I think they should follow Mrs. Catt’s instructions, as given in her last speech to the League of Women Voters… she evidently meant them to force their way into the caucuses, both Republican and Democratic – to insist upon some women candidates. The ‘Motherhood of the Wide World’ can never be done by men! The League of Women Voters prides itself on being non-partisan; they would never be so considered if they worked to put into office both Republican and Democratic women. Women in government offices were never more needed than now – with our problema of juvenlle delinqueney and narcotics.

(To be Concluded)