LWV in Delaware

LWV in Delaware

Iconic images from U.S. history by decade - 1050's, 1060's, 1970's, 1980's, 1990's, 2000's, 2010's

The New Castle County League

League activity in Delaware experienced a hiatus from the 1930's until it reappeared in Delaware in 1952 with the formation of the Newark League. Among the charter members who organized Newark's League was Norma Handloff, who also served as first State League president, and later as mayor of Newark.

The League began in the Wilmington area in the spring of 1953 when one hundred thirty-three members began meeting under the dynamic leadership of Evelyn Lord. Until the following January, the League had provisional status while the requirements of a "know your community" study and an initial finance drive were carried out. The first local study item was housing.

Side note: Evelyn Lord succeeded in politics despite family opposition. "When I was elected a state senator in Delaware a few years later, they wouldn't come and see me sworn in," she said. "They did send me a present, though. It was my grandfather's `Vote NO on Woman Suffrage' button. I give courses in communication, and there's a communication for you."
(source: "Evelyn Lord: Breaking the Glass Ceiling", buckner.org Feb 2013)

In the late fifties and early sixties, the Leagues turned their attention to county government, and were instrumental in establishing a merit system in the county and later in supporting the reorganization of the county government. Other topics of study were planning, parks and transportation.

Reflecting the changing emphasis of both its studies and the composition of its membership, the Wilmington League became an area League in 1966 - the LWV of Greater Wilmington, and in the seventies the Newark League became the LWV of Greater Newark.

The seventies were marked by a greater emphasis on action to implement League positions. Board members were appointed to coordinate and initiate testimony at public hearings. The Leagues began lobbying for legislation, cooperating with other groups, writing letters to public officials, and provided help implementing the peaceful desegregation of the New Castle County schools after the federal court decision. Also, during this period a long-felt need was met when the Greater Wilmington League and the state League established a joint office and telephone in Wilmington. This provided greater League visibility and continuity, and enlarged our opportunities for Voters Service.

In the eighties new editions of the publications, Wilmington: Know Your City Government and This is Greater Newark, were printed, as emphasis on Voters Service and public information activities continued. The Wilmington League and the state League together produced a video showing how to register to vote and how to use a voting machine. The issue of the lack of affordable housing was still a top priority, as was a deep concern for the environment.

With similar programs and decreasing memberships, it seemed appropriate, after a study of several months, to join the Leagues of Greater Wilmington and Greater Newark. Therefore, in April of 1994 the League of Women Voters of Greater Wilmington and the League of Women Voters of Greater Newark merged to form the League of Women Voters of New Castle County.

In the nineties, we became increasingly aware of the need to prioritize our commitments and manage our volunteer time to the best advantage. Among other issues, health care, pro-choice, campaign finance reform, school libraries, transportation and land use have been added to our areas of study and action.

Early in the 2010 decade we were fortunate enough to still have in our membership four charter members: Susan Burns, Ella Butler, Betty Devine and Adelaide Tinker. (Susan Burns had become a member of the Kendal, PA League.) 

LWV of Delaware

The League of Women Voters of Delaware was founded in 1921 with members from Dover, Middletown, Milford, Smyrna, Delmar, Georgetown and Newark. The new state League held its first Convention in 1923; its early activities included voters service, work toward abolition of child labor and support of school construction. However, the League disbanded a few years later, then was reestablished in 1953 with the formation of the Newark and Wilmington Leagues. The Laurel League was formed in 1957 and reorganized as the Sussex County League in 1976. The Dover League, recognized in 1966, became the Kent County League in 2008. The Wilmington and Newark Leagues merged in 1994 to become the New Castle County League.
The League of Women Voters of Delaware (LWVDE) was recognized by the League of Women Voters of the United States at Convention March 29, 1958. Its first study, "An Evaluation of the Financial System of the State of Delaware," resulted in a position announced in April 1961, "Support of measures which promote the needs of a growing state." A study of the fiscal aspects of education resulted in a position favoring equalization of school support and increased funding for public schools. The League's Voter's Guide begun in 1960 was a highly respected pre-election supplement in the News Journal until 1998 when the paper began its own version.
The first version of the Delaware Government book was published in 1976 and after many revisions is now available through our website as "The Lobby Handbook." Since the 1970s, LWVDE and its members have worked effectively on educating the public about candidates and elections and advocating for numerous important legislative changes including open government, equal rights for all, renewable energy, recycling, affordable housing, the improvements in the criminal justice system and the quality of health care.