Making Democracy Work

History of the League

The League of Women Voters started after women fought for the right to vote.

History of the League of Women Voters of Atlanta-Fulton County

"Will you help? We need you urgently. All who picket must be prepared for imprisonment. The longest sentence which can be imposed in six months." (Alice Paul, National Women's Party, 1917)

In this 1917 letter to Eleonore Raoul, an Atlanta suffragist and future League of Women Voters founding member, women from Atlanta are called on to support the struggle for the right to vote. The League of Women Voters of Atlanta-Fulton County grew from the strength, commitment and courage of this movement.

In January of 1919 it was evident that the women's suffrage would become constitutional. Eleonore Raoul was the driving force in organizing the Atlanta League of Women Voters which was founded in 1920, one month before the National League was established in Chicago. From the beginning the League's primary objective was to get women to register and vote. The League quickly became noted for its registration campaigns and the use of candidate questionnaires.

Almost immediately the League began to work for better government. In 1922, the League studied plans for an Atlanta City Charter. The Atlanta League of Women Voters supported the Atlanta Plan Charter, beginning a long history of study and action on government structure.

Membership and finances were a challenge during the 30s. Because the League did not need to persuade people of the importance of government during the Depression, its work was regarded more seriously. Its first political directory was published in 1932, and in 1937 the League co-sponsored legislation providing for jury duty by women.

The League's womanpower suffered during the war years of the 40s when members moved away with their soldier husbands or joined the work force. In spite of this the League maintained its services. It monitored the city elections of 1940 and alleged improprieties were reported. The booklet, Atlanta City Government, was published in 1945 and used in ninth grade civic classes.

In 1956 the League survived its most critical internal crisis when a resolution was introduced to continue the policy of limiting League membership to white women. The resolution was voted down and membership was opened to all women. Eleven board members resigned over this issue but the remaining board members rose to the challenge, affirming the inclusive nature and openness of the League.

Throughout the 60s and 70s the League supported desegregation, rapid transit and the improvement of public schools in Atlanta-Fulton County. The League changed its name to The League of Women Voters Atlanta-Fulton County in 1964 to reflect both its growth countywide and to enable units to act on local issues. The League celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1970. It studied a new city charter, the Atlanta Regional Commission and supported fair, affordable housing. In 1975 the Atlanta-Fulton league strengthened its inclusiveness by opening membership to men.

Determined to make a stand for good government, the League sued the Atlanta City Council in the early 80s when it failed to select its president in a proper, open manner. With the Georgia Supreme Court's favorable decision, the League reminded government officials that it was watching. The League later filed suit against the county for improprieties in the first school board election and, again, won.

In the 90s the League actively supported the implementation of "Motor Voter." In 1996 the League filed suit against the city of East Point and its city council to force them to hold a special election to fill a council seat, as required by law. The judge ruled in favor of the League position.

Over the past eighty years the League of Women Voters of Atlanta-Fulton County has changed with the times, matured with experience and been strengthened by challenge. As we continue our commitment to voter registration/education and responsible government we can look back with pride at the women and men who have been part of the League. The call still echos..."Will you help? We need you urgently."