League of Women Voters Marks 100th Anniversary of Founding

The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts celebrated the 100th anniversary of the founding of the voters’ rights organization Thursday, Feb. 6, at the State House.

Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo; Sen. Joan Lovely, assistant majority leader; and Rep. Patricia Haddad, speaker pro tempore, saluted the League, whose national organization began in February 1920, six months before the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution establishing women’s right to vote. The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts was started three months later, in May 1920.

The Massachusetts League is asking the legislature to honor these centennials by passing Election Day registration, a voting reform already in place in 21 states.

“In these challenging political times, organizations like the League of Women Voters are crucial to maintaining democracy and keeping elections fair,” said DeLeo. He cited the work the legislature has done passing a pay equity bill, the pregnant workers fairness act, and an $8 million funding bill for women’s reproductive health organizations to offset federal cuts.

Legislation last fall, he added, will create a women’s rights history trail.

Sen. Lovely noted the gains women have made, but pointed out that only 197 women have served in the Massachusetts legislature in its history, compared to 20,000 men.

“The League of Women Voters continues to help us make significant strides toward equality,” she said.

Rep. Haddad honored the League with a joint resolution from the House and Senate, recalling League members in her childhood “were the first time I realized women could organize and get things done.”

Acknowledging Speaker DeLeo’s comment that the current House has more women in leadership than ever before, Rep. Haddad added, “it’s still a small number compared to the men.”

She challenged her audience with the question, “Are we still working as hard as the women who won the vote did 100 years ago?”

The State House celebration was part of the League’s nationwide day of action, “Women Power the Vote.”

“The League was founded by suffrage leaders 100 years ago to help American women exercise their new right to vote,” said Mary Ann Ashton, co-president of the Massachusetts League. “We’re celebrating by joining Leagues across the country in demonstrating the power of women to achieve a more perfect democracy.”

“We’re honoring our history by taking action for the future,” said Judy Zaunbrecher, co-president of the Massachusetts League. “Our founders achieved the impossible by getting the 19th Amendment passed. We continue their fight by working to improve voter access, including Election Day registration in this session of the legislature, and advocating for such reforms as automatic voter registration, early voting, and online registration in the recent past.”

“For 100 years, Leagues have registered voters, informed their communities on the issues, advocated in their legislatures, and helped shape their communities and this country,” said Chris Carson, president of the League of Women Voters of the United States. “It is fitting that we celebrate this milestone with a coordinated day of the kind of grassroots activism our members and supporters have embraced for an entire century.”

The Massachusetts League represents 47 local Leagues across the state, from Cape Cod to the Berkshires, with about 3,500 members.

January 2020 Scharfman Grants Awarded to Seven Local Leagues

Seven local Leagues received Lotte E. Scharfman Citizen Education grants in January 2020:

LWV Arlington: LWV Arlington (LWVA) co-sponsors an annual Candidates’ Night with a Town of Arlington Committee called Envision Arlington. LWVA is responsible for contacting and inviting candidates to attend the event where they present their ideas and respond to questions from attendees. The event, held in Arlington Town Hall, covers local positions such as Select Board, School Committee, Housing Authority, Town Clerk, etc. LWVA prepares the Voter’s Guide for Candidates’ Night, a printed pamphlet that contains a picture, brief biography and response to questions posed by LWVA for each candidate. LWVA is responsible for the cost of printing about 200 copies of the Voter’s Guide, which is available as a handout at Candidates’ Night, and is also distributed to town libraries. LWVA also pays for the cost of sending a postcard to all Town Meeting candidates inviting them to Candidates’ Night, and for printing tent-style name tags placed on tables in front of candidates at the event.

LWV Concord-Carlisle:  The LWV Concord-Carlisle will print and distribute “Yellow Rose Bookmarks.” Yellow Rose Bookmarks are a collectable series of bookmarks with the face, words and short bio of women in the US who have made a difference. The first series of Yellow Rose bookmarks were funded by a Scharfman Grant and highlighted four early era influential women from Massachusetts who promoted woman suffrage; Abigail Adams, Lucretia Mott, Abigail Alcott and Lucy Stone. The proposed second series commemorates the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment and the 100th anniversary of the League of Women Voters and consists of four women who were prominent in the fight for a woman’s right to vote; Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, as well as Maud Wood Park and Carrie Chapman Catt, both of whom were also influential in starting the League in 1920. A proposed third series of bookmarks commemorate women of color who fought for woman suffrage in the face of racism and bigotry in the US at large but also within the woman suffrage movement; Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Mary Church Terrell, and Ida B. Wells. A proposed fourth series commemorates four young suffragists who pushed the suffrage movement beyond the comfort zone of its revered leaders into a new era; Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, Inez Milholland, and Chrystal Eastman. A proposed fifth series of bookmarks commemorate men who helped make woman suffrage possible through their words and actions; Frederick Douglass, Henry Blackwell, W.E.B. du Bois, Harry T. Burns.

LWV Franklin County:  LWV Franklin County hosted a “Legislative Coffee” with state legislators Representative Natalie Blais, Senator Jo Comerford, and Representative Paul Mark on Saturday, November 16, from 10:00am to 12:00pm. Senator Adam Hinds was also scheduled to attend, but had to cancel at the last minute. The event was held at Element Brewing Company on 16 Bridge Street in Millers Falls. Our event was meant to give constituents the opportunity to share their concerns and stay informed on the issues by providing them direct access to their state lawmakers. Judging by our excellent turnout and enthusiastic feedback from the attendees, that goal was met. This event was handicapped accessible, free and open to the public, with complimentary refreshments provided by League members.

LWV Hamilton Wenham:  Celebrating its fifth year in 2020, the LWVHW Civics Bee is a community-wide, collaborative and friendly trivia competition based on civics-related topics. This year’s event will have a special focus on voting rights to honor the milestone 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment and to acknowledge and educate on the work that remains in order to expand and protect access to the ballot. Teams of four (requiring at least one student and one adult to foster cross-generational community) answer questions on founding documents like the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution, institutions, Supreme Court decisions, and local, state, and federal government. Competition is divided into rounds and prizes are awarded. Spectators and students who are not playing on teams can participate with a hard-copy of the quiz and have a chance at trivia prizes. 8th graders through senior citizens participate in the event.

LWV Waltham: The League of Women Voters of Waltham is launching a series of programs entitled “Know Your City” in 2020. The inspiration for this is a brochure published by the LWV Waltham in 2003 entitled “The Inside Workings of Waltham or What Makes the Watch City Tick.” The objective of the program is to engage the residents of the city with public programs highlighting various parts of the City Governmental Organization. Waltham has a number of departments and Boards and Committees whose decisions affect the daily lives of its residents. The goal is to provide insight into their functions and their impact on the city, as well as to empower the residents to interact with city officials. The first program is a public reception for elected officials before the first City Council meeting of the year on Monday, January 13th, 2020. The Scharfman Grant will provide monies for promotion, marketing and advertising, especially on social media. LWV Waltham will also create an exhibit at the Waltham Public Library for the month of September, which will highlight the“Know Your City” programs as well as the League’s Centennial. Part of the funds will be used for professional signage for the display.

LWV Northampton: The LWV Northampton will host a public event at the Florence Civic Center on May 3, 2020 featuring a talk by Dr. Susan Ware. Dr. Susan Ware is a women’s history scholar, teacher and author of many books, including the recent “Why They Marched: Untold Stories of the Women Who Fought for the Right to Vote” (Harvard University). The celebrated feminist historian will give a talk on the women who worked tirelessly in communities across the nation, out of the spotlight, protesting, petitioning and insisting on their right to full citizenship. Dr. Ware will also respond to questions from the audience. Refreshments will be served. Dr. Susan Ware’s appearance will be widely publicized in local media, including newspapers and radio, at the many colleges and universities in the area, by posters and notifications in shop windows and on various community bulletin boards.

LWV Worcester Area: The League of Women Voters of the Worcester Area (LWVWA) will hold monthly educational forums addressing a variety of topics relevant to civic engagement. Programs will be held at the First Baptist Church, 111 Park Avenue, Worcester, MA, 01609, from 5:30pm to 7pm and will be open to the public, free of charge. Programs are held on the last Wednesday of the month.

Women Power The Vote: Nationwide Day of Action Celebrating 100th Anniversary of The League of Women Voters

Please join us on Thursday, February 6, 2020 at 10:00 AM at the State House in Room 428 for a 100th anniversary celebration of the League of Women Voters. Following a speaking program with House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Karen Spilka, we will act to support Election Day Registration in MA. Cake and coffee will be served. Let’s demonstrate the power of women to achieve a more perfect democracy. Email tgrenga@lwvma.org to RSVP.

LWVMA Co-President Judy Zaunbrecher Presents the People Powered Fair Maps Campaign

On November 21, LWVMA Co-President Judith Zaunbrecher gave a presentation on the League of Women Voters People Powered Fair Maps redistricting program.

Watch Judy’s full presentation below:

Patricia Comfort Joins LWVMA as Executive Director

Our new Executive Director, Patricia Comfort, has joined us this week.  Pattye has spent her career working in the public interest, most recently serving as Executive Director of the Women’s Bar Association and Women’s Bar Foundation of Massachusetts.  She joins LWVMA with extensive experience managing a nonprofit, collaborating with members and Board, and in education and advocacy.

Along with interest in a broad range of membership and advocacy issues, Pattye brings insight and expertise in women’s issues.  She has worked throughout her career to empower underserved constituencies.  In addition to her most recent position with the Women’s Bar, she has worked with the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation and with The Fund for the Public Interest.  Pattye holds a B.A. in political science from Boston College and a J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law.

Members of the LWVMA Board look forward to introducing Pattye to our members, our local Leagues, and to our many partners in the community over the next few months. See our press release here.

Successful 2019 League Leader Lunch

Over 70 registrants, representing 33 local Leagues, attended the 2019 League Leader Lunch at the First Baptist Church in Worcester on Saturday, Oct. 26th. Attendees heard about the “state of the LWVMA” and the LWVUS People Powered Fair Maps campaign from co-presidents Mary Ann Ashton and Judy Zaunbrecher; panel discussions on civic engagement opportunities for local Leagues and local League interest action groups; a presentation and group discussion on the LWVMA’s new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) policy; and a presentation about our 100th anniversary celebration and toolkit resources.


October 2019 Scharfman Grants Awarded to Nine Local Leagues

Nine local Leagues received Lotte E. Scharfman Citizen Education grants in October 2019:

LWV Bedford:  In Spring 2020 LWV Bedford will print voter guides in partnership with The Bedford Citizen. The guide will be focused on informing and engaging Bedford residents in preparation for the Town Election and Town Meeting.

LWV Cape Ann:  The LWV Cape Ann held a Gun Forum at Gloucester High School in December 2019. The event was free and open to the public.

LWV Cape Cod Area:  To distribute U.S. Constitutions in small booklet form (“Pocket Constitutions”) at voter service events.

LWV Grater Haverhill:  LWVGH has been attending Naturalization Ceremonies in Lowell. These funds will be used to purchase miniature flags to hand out with voter registration forms to new citizen candidates as they enter the auditorium. A League member will explain to the candidates how to complete the form and that completed forms will be collected at the end of the event and mailed to their local city or town clerk.

LWV Melrose: The LWV Melrose held a Voter Education Forum for their local election in November 2019. Candidates for office took questions from the moderator which were submitted by the public.

LWV Norwood: The LWV Norwood mass mailed voter service materials to people who were not yet registered to vote.

LWV Plymouth: To hold a Civics Bee on March 29, 2020 for high school students.

LWV Westford:  LWV Westford, the Westford Historical Society and Museum, and the Westford Cultural Council is presenting a speaker series that celebrates the anniversary of the 19th Amendment.  The grant will help cover the cost of one particular event, “After Suffrage: A 20/20 Perspective on Women’s Rights, 1920-2020” and a roundtable discussion “Women in Politics in Westford”.

LWV Winchester: LWV Winchester is hosting an educational theatrical performance at Winchester High School, “We Did It For You! Women’s Journey Through History.” This musical portrays the women who struggled throughout history to gain the rights for women.




November 6 Webinar Pipeline to the FUTURE Delivering Safe, Renewable Geothermal Energy to Massachusetts

Over 80 attendees tuned into the Pipeline to the Future webinar, hosted by the LWVMA Environmental Action and Advocacy Committee. The topic of the webinar was how Massachusetts can improve efforts to repair gas leaks and how we might begin to transition the gas utilities toward becoming renewable energy utilities. The program began with remarks by Massachusetts Senator Cynthia Creem, the FUTURE ACT’s Senate sponsor, and was followed by a comprehensive presentation by Audrey Schulman and Zeyneb Magavi on the specifics of how gas utilities can start now to become renewable energy utilities and provide safer, cleaner energy to the customers they serve.

Questions for Senator Creem, call 617-694-1639 or email her.
Questions for Audrey Schulman and Zeyneb Magavi of HEETemail them.

Senator Creem was first elected to the Senate in 1998 and has been the Chair of several joint committees, including Criminal Justice, Revenue, and Judiciary, as well as chairing Senate Post-Audit and Oversight. As Senate Majority Leader, Senator Creem has filed numerous bills taking on high profile issues, including: criminal and juvenile justice reforms to promote successful re-entry and diversion policies; reducing gun violence; protection of privacy rights including a moratorium on government use of  facial recognition technology and protecting consumer data privacy; promoting food allergy policies to protect all restaurant customers; increasing voter participation by allowing election day registration; and, this session, the “Future Act” to expedite gas leaks repairs and expand renewable energy options for consumers and utilities.
Audrey Schulman is the co-founder and executive director of HEET. An experienced grassroots activist, Audrey has performed energy assessments on everything from homeless shelters to historic churches. She has also led HEET’s work on gas leaks by mapping the utility-reported gas leaks across Massachusetts. With Metropolitan Area Planning Council, she led the FixOurPipes.org study to find how to fix gas leaks faster and at less expense through increased municipal/utility coordination. She was also the instigator of the Large Volume Leak Study. Schulman is the author of five novels, which have been translated into 11 languages, and reviewed by the New Yorker and CNN.
Zeyneb Magavi, HEET director. Zeyneb is currently focused on transitioning the natural gas distribution system to a thermal energy distribution system, or HEET Grid, using the GeoMicroDistrict concept. The next step is to pilot in a neighborhood in MA, together with the state’s largest gas utilities. Zeyneb previously led HEET’s Large Volume Leak Study which established a method to rapidly cut emissions from leaking gas pipes in half. She has worked at BBN Technologies, Harvard University, and in multiple startups. She is committed to creating and driving forward just and wise solutions to the urgent challenge of climate change through multi-disciplinary problem solving, co-creation, and innovation.


Senate President Spilka Keynotes LWVMA Day on the Hill

Senate President Karen Spilka will be the keynote speaker at the League’s Day on the Hill lobby day Thursday, Oct. 17.

Day on the Hill, Time to Act, will focus on legislation in four priority areas:

  • Election Day Registration
  • The climate crisis
  • Education funding reform
  • Women’s reproductive rights

Day on the Hill is in Room 428 at the State House.  Registration and coffee begins at 9:30 a.m. and the program runs from 10 a.m. to noon.  Then League members will visit their own Senator and Representative.

Register for the lobby day here. The LWVMA office will notify legislators to expect visits from their League constituents who register before Oct. 11 after the morning’s program. League members can also make their own appointments with their legislators.

Action Plan on Climate Emergency UPDATED AUGUST 20, 2019

We are pleased to announce LWVMA is an official sponsor of the Boston Youth Climate Strike, set for Friday September 20th! The Strike is being organized and led by youth and youth leaders are asking for our help. Please register to participate in the Youth Climate Strike on September 20th, share information about the Climate Strike and the event registration link widely within your networks, and stay tuned for more specific details as they develop!

The Strike is a global effort powered by youth of all ages from around the world, with hundreds of students striking on Fridays since March to bring meaningful attention and political action on the climate emergency confronting us. These youth are asking for our help as adults. LWVMA is doing its part to support their effort as part of the larger plan of action described below.

At the June LWVMA Convention, League members unanimously supported a Climate Emergency Resolution. To begin acting on the resolution, the LWVMA Environmental Action and Advocacy Committee developed a plan of action, approved by the LWVMA Board on July 26, 2019.

The plan, available here, sets two immediate goals of developing a detailed mobilization plan, including proposed actions at both the state and local levels, and developing a communications plan.

To meet the goals, the committee is offering seven specific actions for state and local Leagues to work on, including supporting the Global Climate Strike on Sept. 20, asking local governments to adopt climate emergency language, including climate emergency questions at candidate forums, and developing ways to raise awareness of the climate emergency issue within our membership and throughout our communities.

As part of the climate emergency action plan, the committee drafted Sustainable Practices Guidelines, available here, for the League at both the state and local levels to consider in their planning and operations.  The guidelines encourage implementation of zero waste and low-waste practices at League events.