This month’s collection spotlight is written by our grant intern Corrine. She has been selecting items from our archive collections suitable for digitization through a grant the North Carolina Room was awarded by the State Library of North Carolina. The grant project involves digitizing items from women and minority collections in order to increase archival diversity in the state. Look for more spotlight posts on the other collections included in the grant. We’ll be sure to update the links when the collections become available online.
We are the League of Women Voters
And we’ve reached maturity.
For twenty-five years we have labored hard
In this community.
We are studious observers
Of politics in this town —
The aldermen and commissioners
Always know that we’re around.
The Board of Education is a prime concern —
Curricula and budgets can really turn us on.
We are the League
Determined to know what’s done.
You may not recognize the lyrics above, but they make up the first verse of “We Are The League,” written for the League of Women Voters of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County by local member Blanche Zimmerman, presumably in or around 1976, the 25th “birthday” of the local League. The full lyrics, along with handwritten sheet music, can be found in the League of Women Voters of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County collection in the North Carolina Room’s archives. And soon they will be available online too.
The League of Women Voters collection is one of five women and minority collections from the North Carolina Room that have had selected materials sent to the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center at UNC Chapel Hill for digitization. These soon-to-be-digitized materials (along with others in the collection) provide some insight into the activities and administrative functions of the League and its reach within the community.
The League of Women Voters of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County was established in 1951. The League was extremely active in the political realm of the county, hosting candidates’ forums for local and state elections, educating voters (women and men) about voting and political issues, publishing pamphlets and flyers about hot button issues, and working hard to educate its members about the latest trends. The League was also pretty faithful in the newsletters it sent to its members every month. While the title of the newsletter may have alternated over the years, variously called League Lines, The Twin City Voter, or simply and straightforwardly The League of Women Voters Bulletin, the bulletin itself was sent out with regularity for several decades during which the local LWV operated. In 1999, the League joined with the Guilford County League to form the League of Women Voters of the Piedmont Triad.
The bulletins give insight into the League’s operations, both internally and externally, in the greater community. Aside from announcing regular functions like unit and topical committee meetings, the newsletters provided summaries of current topics like water conservation, school consolidation, proposed ordinances and resolutions, state and national legislative issues, and budgetary overviews for the League. The September 1952 bulletin announces that then-presidential hopeful Dwight D. Eisenhower will be visiting the city and invites local members to come hear him speak. The October 1954 issue says that the League will be at the Dixie Classic Fair demonstrating a “new” technology: voting machines. In January 1963, the hot topic was consolidation of the Winston-Salem city schools and Forsyth County county schools into one school system – a position the local League was decidedly for; they even produced a special pamphlet about it.
The bulletins were also a forum for League leaders to communicate with members (and occasionally admonish, particularly about fundraising and membership), as well as disseminate local and national positions on key issues for which a consensus had been reached. Bulletins might also include statements on national political and news events, like the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (May 1968) or raise important questions on contemporary issues, like nuclear energy and changes to the Constitution (October 1975). As a whole, what the bulletins seem to illustrate is the breadth and depth to which the League examined its current agenda and program, as well as issues within the organization itself. They also provide interesting impressions of the political climate in Winston-Salem, Forsyth County, North Carolina, and the United States from the 1950s through the 1980s.
A few other highlights include a special bulletin in April 1958 when the Winston-Salem League hosted the state convention:
A flyer about a proposed library referendum included in the April 1965 bulletin:
A call to action in the February 1973 bulletin:
For the Digital NC collection, one bulletin from each year was chosen for the initial digitization project. All of the items mentioned in this article can be found in the League of Women Voters collection in the North Carolina Room and will soon be part of the North Carolina Memory online collection at the Digital Heritage Center. Stay tuned!