History of LWV-Wake

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 just six months before the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, giving women the right to vote after a 72-year struggle. (Learn more about the history of LWV-US.)

The League of Women Voters of Wake County was originally established in 1920. The stated purpose of the organization was to foster citizen education and to support improved legislation. During the early 1930s, the League studied and advocated for a City Manager form of government. The Wake League was inactive in the late 1930’s and into the 1940s. The Raleigh League was reconstituted in 1948 and regained full membership privileges in 1950. This local League of Women Voters has remained active since then and was renamed the League of Women Voters of Wake County in 1975.


In 1954, following the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education, the Raleigh League collaborated with two other local leagues, proposing to LWV-NC that school integration be given priority for study and action. Deemed too controversial, the proposal failed. Undaunted, the Raleigh League continued its efforts and advocated for the merger of the Raleigh and Wake County school systems with the goal of racial integration. At this time the Raleigh League also welcomed its first African-American member.


During the 1960s, the League assisted the Board of Elections in redoing voter registration books and conducted voter registration using a “Vote Mobile”. Advocacy included licensing of day care centers, promoting the planned growth of the city, and studying a greenway system. The League also advocated for distributing public housing units across the city and financial support of public transit. In 1968, the League began speaking out against the Raleigh geographical attendance plan within a “dual school system”. This advocacy was significant to the merger of the City of Raleigh and Wake County school systems eight years later, putting Raleigh into compliance with the 1966 federal ruling for school integration. In the same year, the Raleigh League petitioned the Board of Elections to address issues that kept many Raleigh blacks from registering to vote and participated in the Welfare Mother’s March. Membership stood at 100 in 1965; by 1970 membership peaked at 290.


In the 1970s, the League began publishing the Citizen’s Guide to Raleigh and Wake County and the Directory of Officials for Citizens of Wake County. Land use and environmental issues were significant program areas, including energy conservation, watershed and floodplain zone protection and continued support for the greenway system. The League continued its advocacy for low-income housing, for school integration via busing and scattered-site housing policy, and for increased public school funding. The League advocated for a county-wide library system and the formation of Citizen Advisory Councils. We supported the Equal Rights Amendment with our office serving as the headquarters for the NC ERA campaign. In 1978, Raleigh was designated an All American City due in large part to the application presentation by the League. Finance drives and book sales became fundraising efforts that lasted over 20 years until the Women’s Equality Day event began in 1991.


The 1980s continued the focus on housing, public education, water quality and waste management. The League studied affordable housing. We studied and promoted the effectiveness of magnet schools and continued our support of assignment plans that promote diversity. The League received a grant to study energy use and conservation strategies, producing a public exhibit and slide show "Living Lightly". We held candidates’ fairs and debates, some broadcast on cable TV. 1989 was a year of special activities in celebration of our 40th birthday. Recognizing forty years of service to Raleigh and Wake County, the Raleigh News and Observer wrote an editorial commending the League’s “tenacity and unblinking scrutiny” and calling us “the Conscience of the Community.”


In the 1990s, the League continued to be active in ongoing program areas and added new ones. Student testing and gender equality were studied. We continued to advocate for an adequate supply of affordable housing and studied transitional housing for the homeless. Land use planning and watershed protection remained priorities. In addition, the League focused on transportation and studied elder care. We continued to produce the Citizen’s Guide to Raleigh and Wake County and the Directory of Officials. The League held candidate forums and helped launch Kids Voting in Wake County. The League reported election results and observed the counting of votes at each precinct in Wake County. In 1994, LVW-Wake participated in concurrence to help define the LWV-US position on redistricting. In 1998, we co-sponsored the Study Circle project, a community-wide project focusing on race relations. Our Women’s Equality Day celebration event became a tradition.

21st Century

From 2000-2010, most LWV-Wake program areas continued or expanded. The League had an observer corps at school board meetings and continued to promote diversity through school reassignment. We studied and reached consensus on comprehensive sex education in the public schools. There was continued focus on housing for the homeless. The League’s Environment Committee addressed air and water quality issues. The League published the Directory of Officials and continued support of Kids Voting. We produced candidate surveys on the website, held candidate forums, and staffed election day hotlines at the Wake County Board of Elections. We participated in consensus on a 2008 LWV-US position on immigration. From 2008-2010 we co-sponsored Running and Winning, a program for high school girls. In 2006, LWV-Wake was inducted into the Raleigh Hall of Fame for our community engagement from the early 1960s through the mid-1980s. The notable achievements cited for this honor included racial integration of the membership, addressing environmental issues, promoting programs for the disadvantaged, and serving as a major force in merging the city and county schools.

Since 2010, LWV-Wake has responded to challenges to a robust public school system. These include policy and funding changes that threaten the diversity program and create high-poverty schools. We co-sponsored a forum on Keeping NC Public Schools Strong and conducted study and consensus with LWV-US on the Role of the Federal Government in Public Education. We explored Common Core standards and advocated for early childhood education funding and access. The League established a Redistricting Committee which received a grant to produce a benchmark map balancing the nine districts for the Wake County Board of Education. We examined a range of environmental issues including sustainability, toxic chemicals, recycling, and water protection. LWV-Wake joined an effort to educate the public on the Affordable Care Act and subsequently advocated for expanding Medicaid. We routinely registered voters at Naturalization Ceremonies and partnered with other groups on voting rights. We co-sponsored candidate forums, joined get out the vote efforts, and provided support for an online candidate survey. Members monitored Board of Elections meetings, participated in election night hotlines, and helped provide nursing home residents with an opportunity to cast ballots. A League Book Club and occasional tours of local sites of interest provided new opportunities for members to meet and learn together.

The experience and education that come from being active in the Wake League has launched members to serve on boards, commissions, city councils, and in the NC House and Senate. On any given day, Leaguers may be found at meetings of local government, at the legislature, talking with our representatives, writing letters to the editor, and engaging in a wide range of activities to promote the League's mission. LWV-Wake continues to be committed to active engagement in public policy developments affecting the residents of Wake County.

Past LWV-Wake Presidents

1920-1921       Elsie Riddick

1921-1923       Cornelia Jerman

1923-1925       Frances Doak

1925-1927       Etta Cross Crozier

1928                 May Smillie Handy

1928-1929       Nell Battle Lewis

1929-1934       Kate Highsmith

1948-1950       Mary Anderson

1950-1951       Helen Lehew

1951-1953       Mattie Erma Parker

1953-1955       Adele Covington

1955-1957       Mildred Reynolds

1957-1960       Inez Ray

1960-1961       Virginia Sherril & Inez Ray

1961-1963       JoAnn Kistler

1963-1965       Ruth Cook

1965-1967       Sylvia Ruby

1967-1969       Margot Maddock

1969-1971       Betty Doak

1971-1973       Jane Hamner

1973-1975       Betty Ann Knudsen

1975-1976       Cynthia Wertz

1976-1977       Sylvia Arnold

1977-1978       Patricia Pierce

1978-1979       Ann Mackie

1979-1980       Bonnie Medinger

1980-1982       Sheila Nader

1982-1984       Joan Baron

1984-1986       Patricia Watts

1986-1988       Lucinda Chew

1988-1990       Elizabeth McCrodden

1990-1991       Karen Ferguson

1991-1992       Claire Pratt

1992-1993       Susan Stone

1993-1994       Eve Vitaglione

1994-1995       Ricki Grantmyre

1995-1997       Beth McAllister

1997-1999       Betty Ellerbee

1999-2000       Mary Jane Slipsky

2000-2001       Management Team

2001-2002       Karen Ross

2002-2004       Victoria Gerig

2004-2006       Annemarie Evans

2006-2008       Diana Haskell

2008-2009       Joan Robertson

2009-2011       Lisa Mowat

2011-2013       Mary Martorella

2013-2014       Victoria Gerig

2014-2019       Marian Lewin

2019-present Dianna Wynn