In light of the National League of Women Voter's 90th anniversary today, local league members remember and appreciate the organization's last 45 years in Juneau.
"This anniversary recognizes the long-term stability of an organization dedicated to helping to maintain our democracy through the support of active citizenship," said Juneau League board member Marjorie Menzi. "As a non-partisan organization, the LWV brings together people with a variety of views and political persuasions to consider issues."
A 39-year Juneau resident, Menzi has been a league member for most of the last 42 years. She served as president of the Juneau League, in a number of positions in Juneau and Anchorage as well as on the board of the LWV of Alaska. She was a young mother when she joined the Anchorage league.
"I was immediately taken with the idea of women who gathered to discuss important civic issues and to take action on them, as well as a group whose goal it was to help develop active citizenship," Menzi said.
When Menzi first joined, many women were home raising children. Over the years, she has seen less involvement by younger women who are trying to balance jobs and families.
"As time passed and more of us went to work at full-time jobs, it became more of a challenge to engage in LWV studies and to commit time to the organization," she said. "On the other hand, those who have been involved have usually brought their professional interests, skills and knowledge to the organization, and that has helped to expand the resources available to us."
Menzi believes the most important things the league does deals with voting: registering new voters and providing voter information through its annual candidate forum and Voter's Guide.
"We also educate voters on selected issues after researching, discussing and coming to consensus on them," she said.
In the future, Menzi hopes the local league is able to attract a younger and more diverse membership.
"I want to see collaboration with the Juneau School District and UAS in strengthening the civics curriculum and in developing civic activism and voter participation," she said. "Throughout our school system and in the community, the LWV needs to help reinforce the concept that citizenship is a privilege and responsibility that informs your entire life."
IN THE DAY
The Juneau LWV was started around 1965 by former resident Shari Gross Temple, of Seattle. It had 125 members. Temple also went on to organize leagues in Kodiak, Kenai, Fairbanks and Ketchikan as well as a state league. She was assigned a National League mentor, Margarite Pearson, a well-known Seattle leader at the time.
"Without a doubt, I learned more from the experience and with Margarite's guidance than any of my other educational experiences," Temple said. "Alaska's League became the largest League and most creative and active in the United States per capita."
President-elect Caroyln Brown, a member for about three years and Alaska resident since 1965, said the league has truly come a long way but still has a long way to go regarding "equal pay, absence of glass ceilings, reproductive equity, empowerment over prevention of domestic violence, more complete health care access and involvement in the political process," she said.
Brown hopes the league will increase its presence in Juneau and Southeast in the areas of voter registration and understanding of community issues before the electorate.
"(I hope for) a better understanding of where the community money comes from and how it is spent, and the health of our community," she added. "I would welcome an increased presence in the school system so that citizenship and participatory democracy can be a part of school education and activities."
For Brown, the league has provided camaraderie, lifelong friendships and an opportunity for non-partisan involvement in the community and decision making.
"This dedicated group of people do many, many things in this community that help enable this citizenship and democracy," Brown said. "They 'walk the talk' about their commitments to helping the community understand democracy and participation."
The Juneau LWV annual meeting will be March 20. For more information on the league, call 364-2614.
Contact Neighbors editor Kim Andree at firstname.lastname@example.org.