Athens, Ga. – Former members of the Athens League of Women Voters gathered May 18 to celebrate the opening of the Athens League of Women Voters Records Collection at the University of Georgia Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies.
Members worked for almost six decades to promote voter education and increase awareness of public policy issues. The chapter studied and distributed information on a wide range of local issues, such as city-county consolidation for Athens-Clarke County, housing, juvenile justice, desegregation and water quality.
“These materials need to be captured, remembered and celebrated,” said former Athens-Clarke County Mayor Heidi Davison, who donated her personal documents. “All of the work that was done needs to be remembered.”
Donated materials include copies of newsletters, including the Athens Voter, the Georgia Voter and the National Voter; administrative files and correspondence; membership directories; and handbooks. Scrapbooks containing clippings and photographs from league events, along with artifacts, such as League of Women Voters campaign buttons, banners and posters, also are included.
“With the opening the records of the Athens League of Women Voters, we are happy to call attention to the Russell Library’s commitment to documenting the experience and engagement of women in Georgia’s modern political history,” said Sheryl Vogt, director of the Russell Library, adding that the library is “…steadfastly building a group of collections from women who are elected or appointed to public office, who are reporters of the political and policy process, and who are significantly engaged in civic and political organizations or grass-roots groups in their communities. Just as important to us are those women who appear secondarily in our collections but often play important roles in the careers of others or work behind-the-scenes to effect change to improve their livelihood or the lives of their family and friends.”
Former member Heather Kleiner reminisced about her involvement in the league and how it helped her become an independent (“liberated” in accordance to the times) woman. As women became increasingly self-sufficient, in both financial and more abstract ways, their available time for participating in activities, such as the league, diminished however.
“We were a victim of our own success,” she said. The final meeting of the Athens League of Women Voters was held March 23, 2006.
Former Mayor Davison said ideas for league activities may have come from individuals, “but they came to fruition through working with others.” Davison’s political life, beginning in 1989 with the Athens-Clarke County Unification Commission, grew from her league involvement, she said.
Carrie Chapman Catt founded the League of Women Voters in 1920 during the convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Created as a non-partisan political organization, the league was dedicated to empowering citizens to play an active role in government through education and advocacy. The Athens league became an official chapter of the national organization in 1948. Former members included Davison; Phyllis Jenkins Barrow, wife of Judge James Barrow; and Janice Mathis, former president of the Athens League of Women Voters and former director of the National League of Women Voters.
The Russell Library is open for research Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. The Russell Library Galleries are free and open to visitors Mondays-Fridays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturdays from 1-5 p.m.