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90 Years of WA Women’s Political Clout

February 11, 2010

SEATTLE - The League of Women Voters is 90 years old on Valentine's Day. One of its senior members in Washington - Peg Williams of Seattle - already turned 90 in November, a few days after the last presidential election. Williams was raised in New York, but moved across the country to Washington as a young mother in the 1970s.

Williams says League membership has helped her keep up with politics over the years, because members set aside their partisan political affiliations to study the issues and take positions on them as a group. In Washington, she notes, that's not as difficult as some might assume.

"The thing I noticed when I came to Washington State was that the legislature is approachable. You can call 'em up or you go to some meeting where you could meet them, or even go down to the legislature. I didn't have that feeling in New York."

This year in Olympia, the League is supporting 13 bills, watching six others and opposing further cuts to the state's supplemental budget.

In national politics, Williams says the most exciting election for her so far was in 1944, when Franklin Roosevelt won his fourth term as president over Republican challenger Thomas Dewey. She was just a toddler when her mother first got the right to vote in 1920. She chuckles as she describes how her father felt about it - he wasn't thrilled, she says.

"He was pretty much of a free thinker, but he thought that if women got to vote, it would only mean that married men would get two votes. That was his take on women voting!"

League members range in age from their 20s to a few centenarians. Williams says today's biggest challenge is getting busy young people - women or men - involved in the organization.

"It's really important, because League of Women Voters requires really putting your mind to things and working at them. And whatever League can do only happens because of the volunteer efforts that go into it."

Information about the League of Women Voters of Washington is available at www.lwvwa.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA