League of Women Voters of Maryland
Closely following the establishment of the League of Women Voters of the United States, Madeleine Ellicott founded the League of Women Voters of Maryland in February 1920. Ellicott served as LWVMD’s President for nearly 20 years and was inducted into the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame in 1996. Her passionate work on women’s suffrage issues continues to shape the legacy of the Maryland League of Women Voters.
In the Maryland League’s early days, Ellicott and other members navigated a challenging, at times even hostile, political landscape. The League worked to find a balance between being nonpartisan, yet still operating within the existing party structure. Rather than viewing women as outside of or adjacent to the American political system, Ellicott felt strongly that the League needed to help create space for women within established parties and institutions.
To learn more about Local League history see below.
Anne Arundel County
Just after the ratification of the 19th Amendment, LWV Anne Arundel County was founded by prominent Maryland suffragette, Maggie Boone Moss. In addition to working tirelessly for women’s suffrage, Moss was the first woman to hold a position on the Anne Arundel County school board.
Anne Arundel County’s League took a brief hiatus before officially being reestablished in 1944. In its early decades, the League was strongly dedicated to passing a Home Rule Charter for Anne Arundel County, which passed in 1962. The passage of the Charter allowed the League to begin actively working on several long-standing issues, namely prison reform within the county. Marion Satterthwaite, known as “Mrs. League of Women Voters,” remains one of Anne Arundel County’s most influential members, even serving as LWVMD’s State President. Satterthwaite is most fondly remembered, however, for her work in the Annapolis community, facilitating outreach towards marginalized communities, and working to break down racial and socioeconomic barriers.
Almost immediately following the passage of the 19th Amendment, Sadie Crockin founded the Baltimore City chapter of the League of Women Voters of Maryland. During her tenure, Sadie advocated for women at the local level, pushing women’s literacy campaigns and fighting for women to serve on juries. Crockin started by organizing local events to spread information about voting, government, and issues of concern. By the 1940s, these events had blossomed into a popular speaker’s bureau. In 1957, the Baltimore City League and the Junior League of Baltimore co-produced a popular TV program called “Look At It This Way,” starring puppets “Whinny Votes” and “Oscar Ostrich.” Written and performed by women, the program aired weekly, highlighting local issues and building interest in voter registration and participation.
Following the 1968 Baltimore Riots sparked by the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. the Baltimore City League worked to facilitate meaningful racial equity progress, sponsoring a study on Police-Community Relations. The Baltimore City League continues to advocate for police reform and accountability.
Planned and founded by Harold Williamson, the Baltimore County League was officially established in 1941. Throughout its history, The Baltimore County League has put particular focus on literacy and education issues, with one of its first campaigns advocating for a county-wide library program. In the 1960s, the League co-founded the School Board Nominating Convention, which allowed the community to have a say in the makeup of the School Board.
Founded by Pat McClain and Grace Parr, the Calvert County League remained a provisional affiliate for nearly two years before officially being established in 1969. The League has had a significant impact on Calvert County since its inception. In 1980, February 10th - 16th was designated as League of Women Voters Week by the county commissioners. In 1996, the League published “Children at Risk: a Wakeup Call for Calvert County,” a report that was instrumental in raising awareness and action on children’s issues.
One of LWV Calvert County’s most notable programs was the Women’s Empowerment Exchange, established in 1998 with the help of federal grant funding. Over four years, several Zambian women came to Baltimore County, and several LWV Calvert County members traveled to Zambia to educate women on democracy. Upon the conclusion of the Exchange in 2002, the League established “Women of the World Luncheons” to celebrate women and girls in Calvert County, and continue the legacy of the Zambia partnership.
The Frederick County League was founded partly by Ruth Hallo Landman, who, as a teenager, fled Nazi Germany with her family in 1939, arriving in America at just 13 years old. After a successful academic career, earning a Ph.D. in anthropology, Landman moved to Fort Detrick in Frederick County with her husband and children. At Fort Detrick, Ruth met several like-minded, civically and politically engaged women, who went on to form the League’s early membership. In addition to its relationship with the military base community of Fort Detrick, the League also has close ties with Hood College, where many League meetings were held in the years following its establishment.
LWV Frederick County has a strong interest in education issues, seen with their involvement in helping Frederick Community College institute an independent board of trustees in 1973. The League has also proved to be a strong advocate for victims of sexual assault and trauma. After a rape victim was denied proper treatment and examination at Frederick Memorial Hospital in 1977, the Frederick League quickly mobilized, engaging the greater community in protests and successfully lobbying the hospital to provide proper care for victims.
Harford County has a long history of working for women’s suffrage. One of their most notable members is Elizabeth Chew Forbes, a prominent Maryland suffragette whose persistent activism notoriously landed her in jail. In March 2021, Forbes was memorialized in Havre de Grace as the highlight of a new historical marker on the National Votes for Women Trail.
The Harford County League has been a long-standing proponent of Home Charter Rule. The League was the first private group in the county with the ability to register voters. Additionally, the Harford County League was the first League in Maryland to host candidate forums
Jeannette Smith was elected the first President of the Howard County League in 1946. In the late 1960s, the League was one of the strongest proponents of the New Town Zoning initiative, which would approve the development of a new planned community. Thanks to the work of President Anita Iribe and the Howard County League, the project was approved, and the town of Columbia, MD was established in 1967. Today, Columbia is home to Maryland’s second-largest population, following Baltimore.
Under the leadership of Pat Hartfield, LWV Kent County’s first President, the League dove head-first into their work on local issues. Feeling the stress of the ongoing oil crisis, the League conducted an energy education study to present to the Kent County Board of Commissioners in 1979.
Established: 1971, 2007
When initially founded by Virginia Henry in 1971, LWV Mid-Shore was known as the Talbot County League. In 2007, Caroline County and Dorchester County were incorporated into the existing Talbot County League, sparking the League to take on the new “Mid-Shore” name.
The Montgomery County League was established in 1920 by Lavinia Margaret Engle, a born and raised Montgomery County suffragette, and her mother, Lavinia Hauke Engle. Engle went on to become the first woman from Montgomery County to be elected to the Maryland House of Delegates and the first woman seated on the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners.
In the League’s early years, they focused on a variety of development, zoning, and urban planning issues in addition to advocating for a Home Rule Charter and school desegregation. In 1938, the Montgomery County League partnered with the Montgomery County Civic Federation in lobbying the County to commission the Brookings Institute to study the County’s government. This study became “one of the most comprehensive studies of county government ever made anywhere,” and was a key factor in the push for Home Rule. Today, the Montgomery County League is one of the largest in the country, with over 500 members.
Prince George’s County
Adele H. Stamp, who any University of Maryland alum would instantly recognize as the namesake of the Stamp Student Union, founded the Prince George’s League in 1921. In 1922, Stamp became the first Dean of Women for the University of Maryland, College Park, a position she would hold for nearly 40 years. While at UMD, Stamp worked to increase female student enrollment and helped female students establish multiple campus organizations and clubs.
In 2007, the PG County League made the decision to disband following a drop in membership and interest in leadership positions. In 2010, PG County re-formed an at-large League, before being officially reinstated as a Local League in 2014.
Queen Anne’s County
Following the buzz around the 2000 General Election, a local group of women realized the need for better, more accessible voting information in Queen Anne’s County. In 2002, these women partnered with the Kent County League to produce a Voters Guide, spurring Queen Anne’s to form its own local league. Aside from producing Voter Guides and hosting issue forums, the Queen Anne’s League continues to host education forums for the greater community, with speakers on issues ranging from hurricane preparedness to affordable housing.
St. Mary’s County
Founded in 1976 by Leslie Vandivere, the St. Mary’s League began with an intense focus on the development of their local positions. The League put special emphasis on ensuring that all members’ voices were heard, putting into practice the important grassroots approach that Leagues across the country have committed to since their inception. Over the years, the St. Mary’s League has devoted enormous energy to advocating for women’s reproductive rights, serving as a strong proponent for personal privacy and the right to choose. The St. Mary’s League also partnered with St. Mary’s College of Maryland to develop an adult education course entitled “Parties, People, Politics - County Faces the Future.”