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LWV of Greater Cleveland
Phone: (216) 694-8108
President@LWVGreaterCleveland.org
2800 Euclid Avenue, Suite 518
Cleveland, OH 44115

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P.O. Box 5310
Cleveland, Ohio 44101
©League of Women Voters ® of Greater Cleveland • League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland is a 501(c)(4) organization • League of Greater Cleveland Education Fund is a 501(c)(3) organization
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HomeOur History

Beginnings of The Cleveland League of Women Voters

 

In a formal ceremony in April 1920, held at Cleveland’s Hotel Hollenden, the Cuyahoga County Woman’s Suffrage Party of Greater Cleveland was retired and the League of Women Voters of Cleveland was formed. Belle Sherwin, a visionary leader, was the first president of the League of Women Voters of Cleveland, which was established in April of 1920. Through her efforts and forward-thinking, the Cleveland League established itself as a nonpartisan organization willing and eager to work with other civic organizations to advance good government through an informed and educated electorate.


Sherwin went on to become the second president of the League of Women Voters of the United States. During her ten-year tenure as national president (1924-34), she strengthened the League’s credibility through her continued insistence on maintaining the organization’s nonpartisanship. The League would endorse no candidates. However, she was a strong proponent of the League’s issue advocacy after intense study.


Spearheading the 1920 efforts of the local League in educating women to use the vote wisely, Sherwin and the Board of Directors of the Cleveland League adopted the slogan, “Every Woman an Intelligent Voter,” and launched a campaign to accomplish this goal. The League of Women Voters of Cleveland was the first in the nation to use objective questionnaires for candidates for public office. Another League of Women Voters of Cleveland innovation was the development and use of voting booth demonstration models. Leagues throughout the United States patterned their voter service/education efforts after the Cleveland prototypes, including “get out the vote” campaigns. These candidate questionnaires and demonstration models remain viable tools in the total program of citizen education, voter information and service offered by the League of Women Voters.


Belle Sherwin

"Study Before Action"

Other Cuyahoga County Leagues and the League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland

 

Throughout Cuyahoga County many other Leagues organized to serve local suburban communities. In 1922 the Lakewood League was founded as a separate League, but by the 1930s groups in several suburbs became branches of the Cleveland League. These branch Leagues became independent groups in 1946, following a national League ruling (later rescinded) that called for no more than one League in a city. To coordinate county-related matters for the independent Leagues, the Cuyahoga County Inter-League Organization was formed in 1967. However, because of the extra layers of organization and resulting inefficiencies, many of the suburban Leagues consolidated in 2003 to form the League of Women Voters of Cuyahoga Area. Several other suburban Leagues chose to become part of the Cleveland Area League and one, Shaker Heights, remained independent. At that there were three independent local Leagues in the county: Cleveland Area, Cuyahoga Area and Shaker Heights.


Not long after the formation of LWV Cuyahoga Area, members of the three Cuyahoga County Leagues saw the need to coordinate their activities to advocate for county government reform and regional issues. Doing so as three separate Leagues was doable but cumbersome. So, in 2013, a three-League task force formed to explore unification and prepare documents for accomplishing it. In May 2014, the memberships of the three Leagues voted to merge—and on July 1, 2014, the League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland was established to serve all of Cuyahoga County. Most of the once independent suburban Leagues and the Cleveland Area League have evolved into chapters of the LWV of Greater Cleveland. The LWV continues to evolve adding new  chapters, including  East Cleveland  established in 2016 and a Southeast Chapter established in 2020. There are now ten current chapters of the LWV of Greater Cleveland.

Cleveland League 1930's


Visit the League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland's Archives at

Western Reserve Historical Society

or in person at 10825 East Blvd. Cleveland, OH 44116.