I’m speaking tonight at an annual meeting of the League of Women Voters in Winchester, MA. I have actually been a member of the League (which doesn’t discriminate by gender) since I was in my twenties. I was then working for Common Cause–frequently a coalition partner of the League–and writing a book about the Progressive Era. I love the fact that the League was launched by suffragists at the end of the Progressive Era, just when they were sure that the 19th Amendment would pass and women would be able to vote. Their immediate response was that women should vote well, which would take work. Note the combination of equality (votes for women as well as for men) and quality (voting after talking and learning). That remains the essential combination. I also appreciate the combination of governmental reform and grassroots civic action.
The Winchester chapter has asked me to talk about generational issues. The rising generation offers a lot of promise for American democracy and shares some traits with the generation that launched the League in 1920. (Idealism, enthusiasm for consensus and deliberation, and some leeriness about political parties.) It is a different question whether the new generation will choose to populate and sustain the League itself. I don’t have an answer to that, but I hope to discuss it.