League still urging independent thinking

July 30, 2010

The League of Women Voters was founded in 1920, when passage of the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing any citizen the right to vote regardless of their sex, appeared imminent.

Anticipating approval of the amendment, members of the National American Woman Suffrage Assn. met to form the League of Women Voters to "finish the fight" and to work to end all discrimination against women, according to the league's website.

The league gradually expanded its interests to include issues affecting the whole community. This year, more than 850 state and local chapters across the country are celebrating the league's 90th anniversary.


The Glendale chapter was organized in 1940 to unite women in a nonpartisan effort to push for equal rights.

Georganne Parsons Thomsen, a 45-year member, joined the local chapter in 1965.

"I got into it when we were doing an education study on the Glendale Unified School District," she said. "I was very impressed by the gals involved. They really went in-depth, and I learned a lot."

Thomsen, who graduated from Hoover High in 1944, said one of the best things about the league is the study sessions.

"After members have studied an issue, then they can agree and adopt a position and take action," she said.

The chapter takes action by presenting forums on measures and on candidates.

"We never take positions," she said. "We never support or oppose a candidate. Our goal is to inform the public. Our greatest accomplishment is presenting these forums."

Thomsen served as president from 1979 to '81, during which time the Burbank chapter joined forces with the Glendale group. Then she went on to serve at the county level.

"I was very impressed and learned so much," she said of her time there.

Thomsen said she had become discouraged about the future of the organization.

"So many of us were aging, but now I see new members who are employed but want to give of their time," she said.

Another member, Peggy Parks Steppe, a 1960 Hoover graduate, joined soon after her son started first grade, around 1982.

"I wanted to find a group where I could meet women, and men, who liked to think and learn about important issues," she said.

Like Thomsen, Steppe has participated in studies such as education, government at various levels, use of land, election methods and water concerns.

"When I have gotten some background, I find I can more easily add to my knowledge and understanding by reading newspaper and magazine articles, following the news and watching reports on the topics," she said.

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