Legacy of Women Voters in Leelanau County, MI.

Let us reflect on the fact that a mere 100 years ago, women did not have the right to vote. On August 19th, 1920 the 19th Amendment was ratified and on August 26th, 1920 the amendment granting women the right to vote was certified into the Constitution of the United States of America.

As we celebrate this 100th anniversary, the Leelanau Historical Society is researching what occurred locally during this historic time. While most of the local newspapers mainly covered national suffrage events and people, there is evidence of an increase in Women’s Clubs during and shortly after the 19th Amendment went into affect.

Oct. 27th, 1932

The “Women’s Club Hall at Leland”, is referring to what we now know as the Old Art Building. Based on this news clipping, we can discern that these groups intentions were to educate and inform their communities about current political events. Sounds very similar to the League of Women Voters, right?

With a recent artifact donation, LHS discovered that The League of Women Voters came to the Leelanau Peninsula in the 1960’s via a group of Leland ladies. In an oral history interview conducted by Mary Ellen Hadjisky in 1991 with Dorothy F. LaCamera of Leland reveals that the local chapter began in Leland and later moved to Traverse City.

Listen to a portion of the interview here:

Dorothy F. LaCamera 
Membership Chairman
League of Women Voters
Leelanau County.
B. 1899 D. 1995 

The recent donation of artifacts came from a relative of Dorothy’s who found them in the process of sorting through Dorothy’s house. Included was a stack of newsletters, envelopes, letterhead, manuals, and meeting minutes. Names of other women and their positions are included, ideas for community outreach, and the current topics of national and world politics of that time.

This donation is a wonderful glimpse into a piece of Leelanau history that is vital for future generations to be able to access and interpret the role of women voters not just in America, but in our small corner of the world.

There are many years in between the creation of the local chapter of the League of Women Voters here in Leelanau (1960) and when the 19th Amendment was passed granting women the right to vote in America (1920). Those 40 years hold a lot of untold stories and histories of a monumental moment in our nation and more specifically our region.

We cannot say it any better than Kate Clark Lemay, of the National Portrait Gallery,

“You can’t be a good historian in 2015, 2019, 2020, and not take an intersectional approach to history and not to wonder what has the archive honored and what has the archive forgotten and who has been paying attention to that archive, and if things are not there and they should be, how are you going to fill in those gaps of that story.”

If you have a story or artifact that tells you or your ancestor’s story regarding life and the right to vote pre/post ratification of the 19th Amendment, we encourage you to share it with your own family, friends, community, and the Leelanau Historical Society, so that it is preserved and shared for future generations. info@leelanauhistory.org

The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages the informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. Learn more here: https://my.lwv.org/michigan/leelanau-county