By Jacquelyn Markham
“You have a voice — a big voice — so you want to vote in every single election,” Catherine Forester, Founding President of the League of Women Voters of Beaufort, told those who gathered at the Centennial Soiree hosted by the League to celebrate the Feb. 14 birthday of the League of Women Voters of the United States.
“That is our privilege; yes, it’s a right, but it’s a privilege,” Forester continued, as she urged the audience to take their right to vote seriously.
Many of the LWVB members and guests at the soiree wore extravagant white hats and white dresses draped with “Votes for Women” sashes or embellished in gold. The women’s costumes called to mind the spirits of their foremothers who fought diligently for the vote in a “century of struggle,” as historian Eleanor Flexner coined it in her 1959 groundbreaking study of the women’s rights movement in the United States.
Held Feb. 15 at the Beaufort Yacht and Sailing Club on Lady’s Island, the Centennial Soiree also celebrated the third anniversary of the local League of Women Voters, recognized for its contributions in a proclamation presented to LWVB by the county and city of Beaufort.
Alice Howard, Beaufort County Councilwoman, read the proclamation at the soiree. Among other resolutions, it honored the founding members, Catherine Forester, Susanna Glattly, and Julie Laney and proclaimed February 15, 2020 as a day in honor of the League of Women Voters of Beaufort Area.
Howard ended her reading by challenging women to run for office, especially the young women who represented the Harriet Keyserling Emerging Leaders Program. This program, also honored in the proclamation, was established in Keyserling’s name to develop and support emerging leaders in our community.
This significant birthday soiree in Beaufort was in sync with the national celebration of the LWV. In a letter published by the Washington Post, the LWV was commended for its 100 years of “empowering voters and defending democracy.”
The League of Women Voters was founded by Carrie Chapman Catt in 1920 during the convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, held just six months before the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified.
As the suffragists knew, women’s right to vote would not end the fight for equality, so in 1923, Alice Paul introduced the Equal Rights Amendment, a priority for today’s LWV nationwide. While the soiree celebrated the victories, it also included a program on the status of the Equal Rights Amendment.
The ERA panel made up of Senators Margie Bright Matthews and Tom Davis, and moderator Maureen Woodlock, informed the audience on ERA both nationally and in the state. Speaker Shirley Perry recited Sojourner Truth’s speech, “Ain’t I a Woman?” and Professor Robert Landrum provided a historical perspective of the League of Women Voters for the program. The young women of Battery Creek High School representing the LWVB Harriet Keyserling Emerging Leaders Program were special guests.
A birthday celebration would not be complete without food and drink, and Debbi Covington catered the party in style.
LWVB would like to identify the committee: Anne Bander, Jane Caffrey, Barbara Childs, Catherine Forester, Irene Goodnight, Tedi Light, Maryellen McManus, Jean Stokes, Lisa Wandrick, Maureen Woodlock and officers Catherine Forester, President; Anne Bander, Secretary; and Lynn Quigley, Treasurer.
The League of Women Voters of Beaufort is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that encourages informed and active participation in the voting process. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.