The League of Women Voters (LWV) of Johnson County was established in 1920 by Zella White Stewart. Stewart started the local league with interested friends after attending a meeting of the National American Woman Suffrage Association in Chicago. With the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the National American Woman Suffrage Association evolved into the National League of Women Voters.
The local Leagues of Women Voters are an integral part of the National League and of the state leagues. Upon its founding in 1920 the Johnson County LWV became the first local league established in Iowa. It was founded as a nonpartisan women's political organization. The purpose of the league was to provide a forum for women to come together and discuss topics in politics so that they might become informed and conscientious voters.
In 1923 the Bulletin of the Johnson County League of Women Voters was inaugurated. To give the bulletin a bipartisan viewpoint two editors were appointed, Mrs. Carl E. Seashore, a Republican, and Professor Clara M. Daley, a Democrat. The quarterly publication kept members informed about local, state and national political issues and candidates for office. In 1955 the name was changed to The Voter, which reflected a change of the titles of the state and national LWV magazines. In the 1940s and 1950s the LWV of Johnson County produced a monthly radio broadcast on WSUI. The first broadcasts were half an hour long but this format was later changed to two fifteen-minute programs presented monthly. The broadcast introduced topics to the public to develop an informed electorate.
Through discussion and study of political topics and active political involvement the LWV of Johnson County continues to inform its members and serve the electorate at large. The topics studied cover a wide spectrum of political subjects on the local, state and national levels. These studies have encompassed issues from the United Nations and its global impact (1965-1969) and the Equal Rights Amendment (1980) to garbage collection in Johnson County (1947-1950). The LWV of Johnson County has provided voter service to the public through voter registration drives, voting machine education, and forums for candidate debate. Since 1974 men have also been admitted as members of the LWV.
The 1981 ACCESSION (boxes 1-18) dates from 1920 to 1978. It consists of a mix of administrative and topical files arranged in one alphabetical sequence.
The 1989 ACCESSION (boxes 19-22, 26 and 27) dates from 1922 to 1987. Like the first accession, it consists of administrative and topical files arranged in one alphabetical sequence. The Voter, the newsletter of the LWV of Johnson County, is filed at the end of the 1994 accession.
The 1994 ACCESSION (boxes 23-25) dates from 1955 to 1994 (bulk dates 1978-1992). The records are arranged in four series: Administrative, Community involvement, Topical files and Publicity. The bulk of this accession contains administrative records.
The Administrative series (1978-1991) contains organizational material such as annual reports, board meeting minutes, membership lists and program planning reports.
The Community involvement series (1985-1991) contains information on two referenda, one to change the city charter of Iowa City and the other a change to the state constitution to have the governor and lieutenant governor elected as a team. This series also contains information on local government and voter services provided by the league. The community involvement series covers campaigns that the LWV-JC participated in to improve the political efficacy of LWV members and local voters.
The Topical files series (1981-1992) concerns issues addressed by the League, such as reproductive rights, juvenile justice and ground water.
The Publicity series (1983-1992) contains newspaper clippings about or of interest to the league. This series also contains the press releases made by the LWV-JC to the local media to announce their meetings and public forums.
The 1998 ACCESSION (boxes 28-29) dates from 1987 to 1998 (bulk dates 1995-1997). The records have been arranged in four series to resemble the organization of the 1994 accession as closely as possible: Administrative, Community involvement, Newspaper clippings, and Other leagues.
The Administrative series (1988-1998) contains organizational materials such as Board agendas and minutes, annual meeting agendas and minutes, and membership lists.
The Community involvement series (1993-1998) contains information on activities sponsored by or of interest to the League. There are many materials related to the candidate forums sponsored by the League in 1996 and 1997, including candidates' brochures and videocassettes. Materials on the forum involving the contentious special election called to fill the position of Johnson County Recorder vacated in 1997 by the mid-term retirement of long-time incumbent John O'Neill are of special interest, and the performance of one of Iowa City's more colorful left-wing political figures, Gary Sanders, in the District B forum (VC227) is an entertaining break from politics as usual. The interviews with and letters from LWV-JC members who were active between 1950 and 1970, collected for the League's history celebration in 1993, are also notable items in this series.
The Newspaper clippings (1994-1998) document League activities covered in the local press. Much of the collection covers the highly controversial Deborah Conger-Steve Lacina special election for Johnson County Recorder.
The Other league series contains records relating to the activities of other branches of the League of Women Voters that involved members of the LWV-JC. The bulk of this series contains administrative records and reports of the League of Women Voters of Iowa.
The 2006 and 2009 ACCESSION (boxes 30-32) dates from 1993 to 2004 (bulk dates 1999-2004). The records have been arranged in four series to resemble the organization of the previous accessions as closely as possible: Administrative, Community involvement, Topical Files, and Publicity.
The Administrative series (1993-2004) contains organizational materials such as Board agendas and minutes, annual meeting agendas and minutes, correspondence, member lists, and bylaws.
The Community involvement series (1993-2004) contains information on activities sponsored by the League. Materials concerning Election Forums for the elections in 1999-2004 make up the majority of this series. Voter service activities and materials from the Iowa City City Council economic or community development plan of 2000-2002 is also included in this series.
The Topical files series (1999-2004) concerns issues addressed by the League, such as land use, domestic violence, equal rights, and water issues.
The Publicity series (1996-2004) contains the LWV-JC Voter publications, as well as the LWV- Iowa Legislative Newsletter. Some meeting announcements and news clippings are also included.
Alternate Extent Statement: 1 audiocassette (AC215)
4 videocassettes (VC225-228)
2 reel-to-reels in box 22
Photographs in boxes 28 and 31
Artifacts in box 29
Access: The records are open for research.
Use: Copyright has been transferred to the University of Iowa.
Acquisition: The records (donor no. 22) were donated by the League of Women Voters of Johnson County in 1981 with additional accessions to follow.
Preferred Citation: League of Women Voters of Johnson County records, Iowa Women's Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City.