Main menu

The League of Women Voters Through the Decades! - The 1940s

The 1944 convention made major changes in the basic structure of the League, proclaiming it an association of members, rather than a federation of state leagues, and abolishing the department system of managing the various facets of the League program. At the 1946 convention, the name was changed to the League of Women Voters of the United States, and the national program was considerably shortened.

This action was based on the League's conviction that if the League was to help democracy succeed by increasing intelligent citizen participation in government, it must choose a restricted program which was suitable to widespread member participation and leave enough time and energy to take such a program to greater numbers. (25 Years of a Great Idea, 1950.)

Members joined the League of Women Voters of the United States by enrolling in local Leagues in their communities. The local League became the basis of organization and representation in the League, while power was vested in the members. It is in and through the local League that members determine, directly and indirectly, what the League does and how it does it. Members influence League decisions either personally or through representatives at state and national levels by electing leaders, determining how money will be spent through adoption of budgets, choosing program, participating in the member agreement process and by deciding the bylaws.

At the same time, a continuing strong role for state Leagues was delineated. They were given responsibility for organizing and developing local Leagues and for promoting finance programs in the local Leagues to further the work of the Leagues as a whole, including transmission of funds adequate to support the national budget.

Later structural changes included the establishment of several Leagues at colleges, between 1948 and­1956, and of the unit system in 1948, which encouraged the development of small neighborhood-based discussion groups to further the opportunity for member input and participation.


During the post World War II period, the League helped lead the effort to establish the United Nations and to ensure U.S. participation. The League was one of the first organizations in the country officially recognized by the United Nations as a non-governmental organization (NGO); it still maintains official observer status today and has special consultative status to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The League also supported the creation of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, as well as NATO, economic aid to less developed countries and the Marshall Plan.

The Overseas Education Fund was established in 1947. (For more detail, see the section titled League of Women Voters Education Fund and Overseas Education Fund.)

Click here to see the entire "The League of Women Voters Through the Decades!" article