Beginnings of The Cleveland League of Women Voters
In a formal ceremony in April 1920, held at Cleveland’s Hotel Hollenden, the Cuyahoga County Woman’s Suffrage Party of Greater Cleveland was retired and the League of Women Voters of Cleveland was formed. Belle Sherwin, a visionary leader, was the first president of the League of Women Voters of Cleveland, which was established in April of 1920. Through her efforts and forward-thinking, the Cleveland League established itself as a nonpartisan organization willing and eager to work with other civic organizations to advance good government through an informed and educated electorate.
Sherwin went on to become the second president of the League of Women Voters of the United States. During her ten-year tenure as national president (1924-34), she strengthened the League’s credibility through her continued insistence on maintaining the organization’s nonpartisanship. The League would endorse no candidates. However, she was a strong proponent of the League’s issue advocacy after intense study.
Spearheading the 1920 efforts of the local League in educating women to use the vote wisely, Sherwin and the Board of Directors of the Cleveland League adopted the slogan, “Every Woman an Intelligent Voter,” and launched a campaign to accomplish this goal. The League of Women Voters of Cleveland was the first in the nation to use objective questionnaires for candidates for public office. Another League of Women Voters of Cleveland innovation was the development and use of voting booth demonstration models. Leagues throughout the United States patterned their voter service/education efforts after the Cleveland prototypes, including “get out the vote” campaigns. These candidate questionnaires and demonstration models remain viable tools in the total program of citizen education, voter information and service offered by the League of Women Voters.