Skip to main content

Follow Us

Social networking will appear here

Support Us

Join  |   Donate

Contact Us
Phone 412-261-4284
LWV of Greater Pittsburgh
436 Seventh Avenue
Suite 350
Pittsburgh PA 15219
Copyright 2022 All Rights Reserved Privacy Policy Terms of Use Powered by ClubExpress
HomeHistory of the LWV and LWVPGH

100 Years of the
League of Women Voters

"I joined the League to help keep democracy intact. 
I joined the League because it was nonpartisan calm   
in the midst of a partisan storm."
--Arlene Levy, 50-year Member

See MORE CLICK here when you see this icon for EVEN MORE...

When you see

these icons...


Read MORE--

Quotes from League Members

Accordion Widget
Meeting Honors 50-Year Members
Meeting Honors 50-Year Members

LWVPGH December Meeting Honors

50-Year Members and Pittsburgh Suffragists

On December 16, 2020, ten League of Women Voters of Greater Pittsburgh 50-Year Members were honored. Sharing the spotlight were two of the most influential Pittsburgh Suffragists, sisters Eliza Kennedy Smith, also known as Mrs. R. Templeton Smith and Lucy Kennedy Miller. What made this night so inspiring, was that the presenters--Eliza Brown (photo below) and John Miller--are the grandchildren of these dynamic women. Their books, "She Devils at the Door" by Eliza Brown and "A Bend in the Silver Spoon" by John Miller, chronicle the stories of these earliest suffragists and their own personal knowledge of their grandmothers.

For More About Pittsburgh Suffragists, CLICK

Eliza Smith Brown, granddaughter of Pittsburgh Suffragist, Mrs. R. Templeton Smith,

presented at the LWVPGH December 2020 Meeting

which honored 50-year Members

The Struggle - Part 1
The struggle for the vote for women began well before the creation of the League of Women Voters in 1920. The Justice Bell Story (from the Justice Bell Foundation at
 is an example of the kind of feisty determination of the early suffagists. 

"Be spectacular so as to obtain brilliant vermillion headlines."
In 1915, suffragists in Pennsylvania were looking for a way to drum up support for a referendum to approve the amendment to the state consititution that would give women the right to vote. That's when Chester County activist Katharine Wentworth Ruschenberger came up with the idea--a replica of the Liberty Bell. She offered to pay $2000 for the bronze replica. 

The words Establish Justice were engraved on the bell and its clapper was chained to its side, not to be rung until women were given a voice. All summer and up until the November election, a detail of suffragists escorted the Bell to the 67 counties in Pennsylvania on a flatbed truck to the delight of the crowds. 

 The "Justice Bell" became a galvanizing symbol not just in Pennsylvania but around the country, even though, unfortunately, the state referendum failed.  In 1920, following the passage of the 19th Amendment, the Justice Bell was finally rung in a huge celebration at Independence Square in Philadelphia.

The "Justice Bell" visits

67 Pennsylvania Counties in 1915

Accordion Widget
"The Day Women Took Over" by Eliza Smith Brown
"The Day Women Took Over" by Eliza Smith Brown

The Pennsylvania campaign for women's suffrage went on for more than a decade. In 1915, the Equal Franchise Federation engaged in some spectacular strategies-- from pulpits to parades, from schoolhouses to Kennywood, from exclusive clubs to factory gates and union halls, from car shows to poultry shows, from the Opera House to Forbes Field and the Ringling Brothers Circus, from bustling city street corners to dusty country roads."

On a fair morning in February, 1912, 16 formidable women staged a take-over. They were club and society women, debutantes, professional women, and housewives. It was "Ladies Privilege Day"--the day when a man could propose to a women. With a sympathetic newspaper, The Sun, the ladies performed every task. They wrote the articles, gained the advertising, printed and distributed the "Women's Suffrage Edition".

"From the first page to the last page it was a paper of, by and for women," the Pittsburgh Post reported. The women made the case that with access to voting, they could make an impact on the issues of the day: impure food and water, excessively young ages of consent, child labor, white slavery, poor working conditions for women, vice, war, unsanitary tenenment conditions, inefficient schools and more.

For the entire article by Eliza Smith Brown, click here.

Suffragists in 1920

Once women got the vote, they championed causes that reached into every corner of their communities. They were anti-corruption and pro-transparency members of the public--always looking out for the common good. That spirit is still close to the hearts of League of Women Voters members today.

Origins of the League of Women Voters 

of Greater Pittsburgh

1920 - 1950's

(From "100 Years of Changing and Evolving," 

by Nancy Naragon and Maureen Grosheider)

From the beginning, the League of Women Voters has existed both in Pennsylvania and in Pittsburgh--but a part of the time, multiple Leagues existed in conflict.

From 1920 to the 1950's, the local LWV called the "Allegheny County LWV", was populated by the wives of many of the influential business and industrial leaders in the area.

The Struggle- Part 2 (A Parallel Push)

Daisy Elizabeth Adams Lampkin was a suffragist, civil rights activist and community organizer. Born in 1883, Lampkin got her start organizing consumer protest groups made up of African-American housewives in Pittsburgh. In 1915, she was elected president of the Lucy Stone Woman Suffrage League, a Pittsburgh-based organization dedicated to advocating suffrage for black women.  She became more involved in state politics in the 1920's when she served as vice chairman of the Negro Voters League of Pennsylvania. She went on to have a long career in civil rights, credited with establishing a large base of NAACP members. 

Daisy Lampkin was the first to receive the National Council of Negro Women's Eleanor Roosevelt-Mary McLeod Bethune World Citizenship Award in 1964.
Daisy Lampkin
Alma Speed Fox
The Struggle- Part 2 (A Parallel Push) 
 A More Recent Champion of Civil Rights and Women's Rights
Source: Pittsburg Post-Gazette Obituary January 30, 2022

Alma Speed Fox February 18, 1923 - January 24, 2022
Alma Speed Fox, known in Pittsburgh for her work over seven decades, and known as "Mother Alma", passed away on January 24, 2022 at the age of 98 years old. She worked at the crossover of civil rights with the NAACP and women's rights, as a member of the East End National Organization for Women, and as a national board member of NOW.  She was among the founders Freedom Unlimited, an organization in Pittsburgh that promotes self-sufficiency of low income residents.  In a statement after her passing, Mayon Ed Gainey called her a “civil rights icon who helped to transform the city of Pittsburgh".  He said, "She is a trailblazer in our city, not only because of her fight, but also because of her victories”.  In October, 2018,  she was the first women given the Key to the City, by former mayor, Bill Peduto.  He said, "Alma, thank you for changing our city for the better. Thank you for representing people whose voices would not be represented without you."

She responded, "I'm going to open wide whatever door there is to help me get voters to the polls...It' not hard. Just do it!"

Accordion Widget
The 1950
The 1950

By the 1950's, the national LWV decided that their voice could be amplified if the national and all of the state and local Leagues spoke with the same voice when addressing national issues. Prior to this, there was not consensus, as the individual Leagues often had views that contrasted with the national's position.

The Allegheny County LWV vigorously debated whether they should affiliate or remain independent. The problem--they actually endorsed candidates, which was directly counter to the nonpartisan position of the national League. The result-- a split into two Leagues--the Allegheny County LWV, which would not affiliate and the Pittsburgh LWV, which would.

Accordion Widget
The 60's and 70's
The 60's and 70's

LWV, Allegheny County Council (1961-1991) 

Records from 1945-1991 of the League of Women Voters in the Pittsburgh area are housed in the Detre Library and Archives of the Heinz History Center.

Publications include a near complete run of "Facts for Voters" from 1967 to 1991. This widely popular publication for citizens provides contact and other information of local, state, and national elected and appointed officials. 

Also included are the working papers and the finished publication of "Allegheny County Government" (1971). This book was produced by the LWV, Allegheny County Council, and provides information on county organization, facilities and budget. In addition to material that supports active, informed citizens, these records also include information about the concern for the availability of housing (April 1973)

 Want to read about even more history of the LWVPGH? Click on this link to the Heinz History Center Archives here.

LWVGP's Good Government Award presented to the Pittsburgh Foundation by Elsie Hillman, from Elsie H. Hillman Papers, Detre Library and Archives, Heinz History Center and University of Pittsburgh

Accordion Widget
More LWV in the Pittsburgh Area
More LWV in the Pittsburgh Area

Pittsburgh Area (1945-1991) 

From the Detre Library and Archives

The Pittsburgh Area records include board meeting minutes, financial materials, information about club programs, press releases, and other sundry items. Material produced by the Pittsburgh Area League provides the strongest organizational material in these records. The minutes of the board from 1967 to 1991 are not comprehensive, but provide strong documentation of the activities and organization of the Pittsburgh Area League. Since the secretaries for the League switched over time, the quality of the minutes varies greatly during the 25-year span. Other organizational material includes financial documents concerning budget, income and expenditures, as well as the planning of programs, conventions and other activities. The programs documented by these records include one on economic welfare, held in the late 1940s, and desegregation in the schools, held in the 1970s.

Publications from the Pittsburgh Area League include a nearly complete run of the newsletter, "Pittsburgh Voter", from 1959 to 1991 and annual report workbooks, from 1979 to 1991. Miscellaneous materials include general information, notices of events, election information, correspondence, general information about Pittsburgh and Fox Chapel schools, as well as information about the Pittsburgh area. Of particular note are materials about Pittsburgh schools (1968-1969), a booklet entitled "This is Pittsburgh" (1953) and other sundry items.

Want to read about even more history of the LWVPGH? Click on this link to the Heinz History Center Archives here.

LWVPGH Member Martha Raak

and Gloria Steinem with others

"Bella was with me at a meeting of women’s groups sponsored in Greensburg. I remember in Beaver in the 60's and the National LWV ...we advocated for opening up to China. Marching for the ERA in Washington, DC was energizing. My first national LWV meeting in Colorado was terrific. My husband Ray took off work to watch

our 5 children (including a 6-month-old)

so I could attend!

Time marches on."

--Martha Raak, 50 Year Member

Information Table at

LWV 90th Birthday Event

Allegheny County Commissioners (L-R: Tom Forester, Jim Flaherty, and Robert Pierce) present a proclamation to the LWVGP for Voter Service work, including Facts for Citizens.

LWVGP members L-R: Phyllis Majesky, Susan Hughes, Carol Hartnett, Patricia McDonald, Barbara Seay, Kathy Potter, Roz Treger

The 70's and 80's
In the 70's and 80's a number of League members staffed the office in the YWCA building, but over the years, a few really held the League together. They shared the job, an innovation at the time, learned how to use a computer and sent some very early emails. In 1985, the office moved to the old ALCOA building, which visionary Paul O'Niell had donated to the city's nonprofit organizations. In appreciation, he received the LWVGP's Good Government Award. In 2013, the building was sold, and the League office moved to the Koppers Building where it remains today. The League of Women Voters of Greater Pittsburgh is one of the only League chapters to have a staffed office. 

"The biggest challenge in the 80's was raising money and our members did some things that had nothing to do with League. Many League members became "Secret Shoppers" working with a chain of shoe companies. Members would go buy a pair of shoes, then go back and return them, while writing a review on the experience. They were paid so much per encounter and could be seen in malls all over Western Pennsylvania and Ohio! This practice ended when new League members began real fundraising efforts with the major corporations and foundations in Pittsburgh."
                                         -Dorothy Wriedt, Office manager 1983-2009 and                                                               Treasurer of the Pittsburgh League

By 1985, there were six affiliated Leagues in the county: Pittsburgh Central, Mt. Lebanon, Bethel Park, Upper St. Clair, and North Hills, plus the County Council LWV

Two trends began to develop. The first, that the focus of study and testimony increasingly centered on city and countywide issues, along with a belief that a countywide League would be more effective. The second involved the agony of filling positions of six boards of directors, just as more and more members began working full time.

"There was lots of agony filling those board positions, which usually resolved by the Annual Meetings.  During the agony, 
the subject of becoming a county League came up again and again, 
but was dismissed as 
board positions were mostly filled."
                                                              --Nancy Naragon, Past-President

"When Nancy and I arrived here in 1985, someone told me to get the Voter's Guides from the Allegheny County League, because they told you who to vote for."
                                                           -- Maureen Grosheider Co-president LWVPGH

In 1992, a committee to explore the formation of a County League, stirred up many high emotions and brought simmering opinions to the surface. Research was conducted, Leagues around the county were consulted, and discussions were held. League members wrestled with the many issues of a merger. Members wanted to maintain friendships and wanted to maintain the status quo on local issue positions, local funds, and the way local meetings were run. 
The Solution: Each of the local Leagues became a unit of the LWV of Greater Pittsburgh.  Each unit would maintain its separate identity in their community; would have a chair (also a member of the LWVGP Board), membership and program designee; and for three years (before being folded into the LWVGP), would maintain control over its funds, over it's own local positions and activism, and its own meetings.  All units would collaborate with the LWVGP for all-League meetings, like Annual Meetings, Kick-off Meetings, Fundraisers, etc.
The Vote: Finally in 1992, the merger was approved to create the League of Women Voters of Greater Pittsburgh. What became of the Allegheny County League? Over the years, membership dwindled and the group eventually disbanded.

"It was challenging to get people who were willing to do things--serve on the Board, take on jobs-- Phyllis Armstrong and I did everything, but that is not a way to grow an organization. To see the growth now is heartwarming. The biggest change during my time with the League was when women started working (outside of the home) which changed the whole composition
of the membership-- and now the women who are home are retired.
I'm happy to see people I don't know steering the League in new ways."
                                                   ---Dorothy Wriedt,   Office Manager 1983-2009 and                                                  Treasurer of the Pittsburgh League

LWVPGH Members at State Convention-- June, 25, 2019

(Standing L-R, Eileen Olmsted, Maureen Mamula, Judy Clack, Don Naragon,

Terrie Griffin, Preston Shimer.

Seated- Nancy Naragon, Annette Shimer)

LWVPGH Member Kathy Scheuble and New

Registered Voter

"I worried for a number of years that we had no real identity--other groups had taken on individual issues and we just weren't on the front line.  Now we are, thanks to all the people
who work on registration, Get Out the Vote,
and civic education, as well as
state participation in court cases."
                                                                                                                  --Phyllis Dreyfus,  50-Year Member

"I loved the debates, the Legislative interview, and the conventions were incredible.  I think we have been less successful with diversity--there was a big push in the late 90's, but here we are today.  I would like our League to reflect America as it is and
make democracy work."
                                                                                                              --Carol Emerson, 50-Year Member

City Proclamation on the 90th Birthday

of the League of Women Voters

(LWVPGH Members Sue Broughton,

Arlene Levy, Eileen Olmsted, Martha Raak,

and others)

Accordion Widget
Do You Know What Happened with the LWV and Presidential Debates?
Do You Know What Happened with the LWV and Presidential Debates?

“After a 16 year period in which there were no public presidential debates, the League of Women Voters Education Fund (LWVEF) sponsored three presidential debates in 1976. These debates between Jimmy Carter (D), former governor of Georgia and Gerald Ford (R), President of the United States, were the first to be held since 1960. In 1976 the League also sponsored one vice presidential debate between Senator Walter Mondale (D-MN) and Senator Bob Dole (R-KS).

The League continued to sponsor the presidential and vice presidential debates every four years through the 1984 elections. Following that election cycle, the Democratic and Republican national parties came together in a decision to move sponsorship of the debates under the purview of the parties.

Between 1985 and 1987 the League challenged this move and sparked widespread public debate on the matter. The LWVEF argued that a change in sponsorship that put control of the debate format in the hands of the two dominant parties would deprive voters of one of the only chances they have to see the candidates outside of their controlled campaign environment.

In 1987 the parties announced the creation of the Commission on Presidential Debates. The Commission chose LWVEF to sponsor the last presidential debate of 1988, but placed so many rules and restrictions on the possible format of the debate that the LWVEF was finally unable to agree to participate. In a press release at the time, Nancy Neuman, then LWVUS President, stated that the League had “no intention of becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public.”

The nonprofit Commission on Presidential Debates sponsored all the presidential debates since 1988 (1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012)”


Here are 2 interesting videos on this topic:

1988 - League of Women Voters End Sponsorship of Presidential Debates - Press Briefing----from CSPAN

LWV and the Presidential Debates

Pittsburgh Bicentennial celebrated on July 19, 2016- Began with a parade (Eileen Olmsted, Nancy and Don Naragon, and other LWVPGH members hold banner) which began on Liberty Avenue and ended at Point Park

The Pittsburgh Bell- Pittsburgh Bicentennial Parade, July 19, 2016

Pittsburgh Bicentennial- Arlene Levy and reenactiment soldiers celebrate 200th Birthday of the City of Pittsburgh- July 19, 2016-Pittsburgh as a City incorporated on March 18, 1816, the day that the first Mayor, Ebenezer Denny was sworn in.

Issues, Issues, Issues
The Action and Advocacy of LWVPGH
Voting Age from 21- to 18-years-old; Voting Rights; Voting Access; City Council Elected by District Rather than At-large; Civil Rights; the Power of the President (following Watergate); the environment; the 1st Earth Day, the ERA; Local Housing; Local Water and Sewage; Allegheny County Three-Commissioner System changes to County Executive and Council under Home Rule; the Viet Nam War; ICBM's; School Desegregation; Mental Health; Marcellus Shale Impact; Pittsburgh Public Schools; Education; Charter Schools; Pennsylvania Court Cases.
Latest: Rules for State Legislature; Election of Judges by Region; Legislative and Congressional Redistricting Act. Reproductive Rights, "Independent State Legislature Theory"

50 Year Member Quotes 3

June 2, 2018, "Wear Orange National Gun Violence Prevention Day"

at Market Square

Seated: Rosemary Prostko; Standing, left to right: Cynthia Grace Devine-Kepner, Christine Peters, Emily Ferri, Judy Clack,

Marye Phillips, Francie Cech, Maria Magone

Terrie Griffin, LWVPA President and LWVPGH Board member with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion tee shirt, following the first DEI workshop for Board members, August 25, 2020

The League of Women Voters of Greater Pittsburgh TODAY

The merger was a success, giving our 
League (LWVGP) a stronger voice in the community as well as in the state. We are the largest League in Pennsylvania. Our League has been active and effective in such vital areas as Voter Services, civic education, and elections, as well as advocating for issues like gun safety, education and healthcare. 

100 Years of History--100 Years of Change
Through each year and each new challenge, we have evolved and grown. The crisis of a pandemic caused us to ramp up our digital tools and our outreach at the same time. We have come to rely on our email and web address "", as both are consistent with our social media as well. As people around the country use a city name to designate of region, rather than only a city, we have changed our acronym to LWVPGH.

As our membership looks forward to 2023, we are committed to growing our organization including our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion effort , committed to advocacy of crucial issues, committed to our goals for voter outreach and education, and committed to:
"Empowering Voters, Defending Democracy"

 To read about the lives and work of some of our trailblazing "Marvelous Members",  click here

 Want to read about even more history of the LWVPGH? Click on this link to the
Heinz History Center Archives here.