SEQUIM — Much of the political landscape — local, statewide and across the nation — has changed in the past five decades.
But members of the nonprofit, non-partisan League of Women Voters of Clallam County say their focus remains unchanged: “To promote informed and active citizen participation in government.”
“There are crops of people who are interested in good government,” said league member Sue Erzen. “I don’t find that’s changed [over the years]. They’re interested in transparency and integrity.”
With about 100 members, the League of Women Voters of Clallam County will celebrate 50 years of encouraging grassroots government via forums, activism and voter registration with a historical exhibit and drama, “Shattered Ceilings,” on Sunday at the Old Dungeness Schoolhouse, 2741 Towne Road.
Directed by Carol Swarbrick Dries, “Shattered Ceilings” is a dramatic performance celebrating women who were directly involved with the Suffrage Movement.
Performances are at 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $20 in advance at lwvcla.brownpapertickets.com or $25 at the door if available.
A historical exhibit of the League of Women Voters’ work in Clallam County during the past 50 years and refreshments are open to the public at no admission cost from 1 p.m. to 5:30 pm.
The League of Women Voters was founded by Carrie Chapman Catt in 1920 during the convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. The convention was held six months before the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, giving women the right to vote after a seven-decade struggle.
National league members say the organization began as “a ‘mighty political experiment’ designed to help 20 million women carry out their new responsibilities as voters,” encouraging them to use their new power to participate in shaping public policy.
The League of Women Voters’ presence in Clallam County dates to early 1967, when a group of women attended a meeting held at Peninsula College. Representatives from the Washington State League attended, providing guidance about how to launch their local branch. Meeting minutes indicate that the new league had 35 members. Initial interest to league members were the subjects of Hollywood Beach development and Dungeness Spit proposals.
The Clallam County league was recognized as an official chapter of the League of Women Voters of the United States in 1968.
In ensuing years, the league has organized local studies and advocated on many issues of significance to the residents of Clallam County; highlights have included opposition to Port Angeles Harbor becoming an oil port, and developing positions on natural resources, growth management, local agriculture and sustainability, Clallam County’s charter government, health care, and local and state taxation.
Clallam’s leadership now includes President Linda Benson, Vice President Paula Barnes, Treasurer Mickie Vail, Secretary Elaine Baker, membership representative Nell Clausen and members-at-large Helga Montgomery and Marcia Radey.
One of the hallmarks of the League of Women Voters, said league member Vicci Rudin, is a level of civility that, in essence negates outlying political agendas.
“Part of the basic tenant of being in the league is your willingness to discuss issues in a civilized manner,” Rudin said. “We have people who want to come together and understand issues.”
“I think it’s one of the most respected non-partisan groups in the U.S.,” saidRudin.
The league has Republican and Democrat members, Erzen said, adding that it focuses on issues affecting all citizens.
“We get consensus because [we focus on] broad-reaching ideas, not the details; it’s definitely a bipartisan effort,” Erzen said.
“We certainly try to have strong positions on election procedures and campaign finance,” Rudin said.
Clallam County’s league has more than a half-dozen active committees, ranging from the Dungeness Watershed Group to the Heath care Committee to a book discussion group.
The League of Women Voters may show support for an issue but they do not back one candidate or another, Erzen said.
Still, the league will host candidate forums for citizens to get information about their potential representatives. The league also produces publications such as TRY (“They Represent You”), providing contact and other information about area government leaders.