Local League of Women Voters Celebrates 75 Years

After these seven-and-a-half decades, the mission remains the same: To promote political responsibility through informed and active participation of citizens in government

Published : Thursday, February 17, 2011 | 7:57 PM

[Updated March 7, 2011] Women in California won the right to vote 100 years ago – before the rest of the nation got on board. Civic-minded women in Pasadena banded together 25 years later to form a League of Women Voters chapter – just 16 years after the 19th amendment passed.

The League of Women Voters Pasadena Area marked its 75th anniversary March 6 with a celebration at the Caltech Athenaeum with other civic-minded leaders.

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After these seven-and-a-half decades, the League’s mission remains the same: To promote political responsibility through informed and active participation of citizens in government.

Only the faces have changed since 100 women gathered in the living room of a San Marino home in February 1936 to launch the Pasadena League.

Now there are men, such as Ray Bennett, who has been operations manager for the past 16 years; Sid Galley who writes a historical column for the Pasadena Star-News, and former Los Angeles County Attorney General John Van de Kamp.

There are college students like Shannon Telles leading the charge on innovative formats making the pros and cons of ballot measures palatable if not exciting.

There are entrepreneurs and people of color like Michelle White, executive director of Affordable Housing Services in Pasadena who headed League satellite groups serving 10 communities and is president of ACLU Pasadena/Foothills.

There are professionals such as Irma Strantz, former USC faculty member and public health professional who currently is director of Health Care for All California, a volunteer organization dedicated to achieving a publicly funded, privately delivered health care system for all Californians.

There are young professionals with small children, such as Gina Long, a photographer and marketing specialist who is utilizing her skills for the League.  “I joined the league because I am an ‘issues’ person and the League has an excellent reputation for being an organization that researches and provides non-partisan, unbiased information on political issues.  It’s a place we can meet other concerned people, grow and make a difference.”  History bears that out. Many active Leaguers have gone on to serve on commissions, boards and in public office.

Take Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-CA), who will be the guest speaker at the League’s 75th celebration, as an example. She became a member of the League of Women Voters Pasadena Area in 1985 while she was an educator in psychology at Los Angeles City College and East Los Angeles City College.

She went on to serve on the Garvey School District Board of Education and then the Monterey Park City Council, where she served as mayor for three terms.  From there, she was elected to the California State Assembly and later to the State Board of Equalization. She was elected to the House of Representatives in July 2009.

The 75th anniversary committee itself reads like a list of women of distinction.  For example, Monica Hubbard, chair of the committee, founded the women’s choral music program at Caltech and is editor of  “Altadena Women’s Network” and “Wired Women,” popular local email newsletters; she is known as a community leader with connections in hosts of local non-profit groups.

Other members included Claire Bogaard, renowned historical preservationist and patron chair of the 75th anniversary party; Margaret Mc Austin, Pasadena City Council member; Jan Sanders, director of Pasadena Public Libraries; Dolores Hickambottom, a prominent civic leader and an advocate for Northwest Pasadena; Susan Caldwell, activist in Pasadena arts and on the board of the Armory Center for the Arts; Marge Wyatt, longtime member of the Board of Education in Pasadena and on numerous state task forces on education.

Also on the committee were LWVPA president, Yvonne Pine, citizen of the year in South Pasadena and a three-term member and past president of the South Pasadena school board, and Sharon Mullenix, a former leadership development consultant with IBM who is a past president of LWVPA.

Membership is open to eligible voters, with special memberships available to people under 18 years of age or non-citizens. For further information, call 626-798-0965.

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