On more than one occasion, I’ve found myself in awe of the remarkable passion that Latah County women bring to the causes they champion. Over the last several months the personal relationships I have cultivated with individual members have provided me with countless examples of sincere devotion to the improvement of our shared community. One of our Trustees volunteers with TaxAid, assisting folks with tax preparation at no cost. Another has a weekly commitment at the local food bank. A third not only serves our organization, but also the Juliaetta-Kendrick Heritage Foundation. I suppose it is little wonder that the women who donate countless hours to LCHS would also do the same for other worthy groups, but that fact makes their generosity no less inspiring.
The list of charitable organizations in Latah County is long, and women contribute significant time and energy to every cause, be it childhood education, environmental stewardship, or human rights. Indeed the LCHS archive is filled with records from non-profit organizations that bear witness to that fact. While nearly any charitable group could be used to demonstrate my point, given that it is Women’s History Month I could think of none more appropriate than Moscow’s League of Women Voters.
The League of Women Voters was established as a national organization in 1920 by suffragette Carrie Chapman Catt. From its beginning, the League was meant to serve as a support structure for grassroots mobilization. With a commitment to the ideal that progress often begins at the local level, League members were (and continue to be) encouraged to engage in city and county politics and planning. The League also avows nonpartisan dialogue, welcoming members of all political persuasions to contribute positively to a more democratic society.
Moscow’s chapter of the LWV was organized in 1951, and immediately took up several projects that would set a precedent for the work the group continues to this day. As the article below notes, the group (still designated as “provisional” in May of 1951) surveyed the resources available to Moscow residents and compiled a “Know Your Town” report.
In the 1950s and ‘60s the League would publish several of these studies, both for Moscow and Latah County. As explained in the county guide, the League hoped that “this small pamphlet can help to create the informed electorate necessary to initiate and implement long over-due modernization of the county government and its relation to city and state.” By providing basic information, such as the names and numbers of County Commissioners and the yearly budget of the county government, League members believed that citizens would be better prepared to consider important issues regarding the financial and social wellbeing of the area. A list of ongoing challenges faced by Latah County was also included.
By its own definition, “the League of Women Voters is a non-partisan organization open to all women who are interested in educating themselves and others for effective ‘participation in government as a public trust’.” As is the case today, most of the names of early League rosters can be found on the rolls of other area civic and philanthropic organizations. Mrs. Jeannette Talbott, for example, served on the League’s Board for several years and has long been a friend and supporter of our historical society. Another former League Board member, Coralee Borning, was also a charter member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Palouse.
The Moscow chapter of the LWV remains active and engaged in nonpartisan pursuits. Among their many good works, the group sponsors candidate forums for most local elections, presents weekly educational presentations over the noon-hour on Wednesdays in the 1912 Center, and produces valuable surveys on topics such as affordable housing in Moscow.
As I noted earlier, the League of Women Voters is just one of many organizations devoted to improving the lives of some or all in Latah County. During this month of recognition, LCHS extends its gratitude to all the women who make this county such a wonderful place to live, work, and play.
— Dulce Kersting