As told to Dale Cousins, Membership Committee Co-Chair
Jan Ramquist has a long and active history with the League of Women Voters (LWV) and as a community activist. In California, friends convinced her to join the fight to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, and then upon moving to Winston-Salem, she found that the LWV was the most effective group working on that issue. She joined the League in 1978 and became Chair of the Women’s Rights Committee in Forsyth County, which effectively conducted a robust letter writing and media campaign. She also worked with the Women’s Political Caucus, a group that fostered political support for the amendment. She went on to serve on the LWVNC Business Council for ERA and as LWVNC Vice President. She was a volunteer lobbyist for League issues from 1978-1985. After divorce she built a career as a lobbyist, continued to volunteer some for the LWVNC, and was then paid by the LWVNC 1990-91. She was the first woman to be ranked in the top 20 lobbyists out of hundreds.
Jan is proud of what was accomplished when she was Chair of the LWVNC Business Council, from 1979-1982. She met and recruited major business leaders to join the effort to promote the ERA to the Governor, Lt. Governor and to members of the General Assembly. More than 100 influential business leaders joined the Council under Jan’s leadership. We gained enough votes to pass the ERA; unfortunately political maneuvering intervened. She was the League representative to NCU-ERA, a coalition of women’s groups that Leaguer Beth McAllister founded. When the Legislature allowed the bill to be defeated (by a single vote), she went on to serve on the Governor’s Council on the Status of Women and the Bar Council.
Jan also worked diligently as a lobbyist concerning Tax Fairness. She obtained a Reynolds Foundation grant for LWVNC to research tax law and fairness; the group succeeded in protecting the poorest people of the state from budget cutbacks in the face of a $1.2 billion state deficit. Instead, the legislature made up half of the shortfall by raising $600 million, primarily from taxes on corporations, high-income people, and cigarette purchases. For her work on the Tax Fairness effort, the News and Observer named her Tar Heel of the Week.
More recently Jan founded a coalition called Friends of Dorothea Dix Park when Dix Hospital closed. She also helped form the Dix Visionaries. The City of Raleigh purchased the land; park planning is proceeding. She has also been involved in the efforts for redistricting reform and chaired the LWV-Wake Election Laws Committee (now called the Election Protection Committee). This committee studied the election system and recommended the following to the NC State Board of Elections:
· Use of the Electronic Registration Information System (ERIC) for voter data security
· Use of hand-marked paper ballots rather than touch-screen voting machines with a paper receipt
Jan started her career as an elementary school teacher. She is both a mother and grandmother of three each. She has owned sailboats since 1987 and has captained sailboats in the Caribbean. She is enrolled in art classes, likes dancing, and enjoys spending time with her family.
For “League Future,” Jan would like to see the League be more proactive in anticipating issues 1-2 years in advance in order for more thorough research and for a more strategic focus to take action. For new League members, Jan advises to become engaged with a committee’s work and to attend social events. To be in the company of such an outstanding and interesting group of (mostly) women is the way to feel connected and to become involved.
When you see Jan at an upcoming event, introduce yourself, learn from her experience, and make a friend!