The LWV of the Cooperstown Area Officers & Board of Directors
Co-presidents: Julie Sorensen and Liane Hirabayashi
Board Members and Their Roles
- LWVNYS Liaison: Leslie Berliant
- Treasurer: Deb Dalton
- Membership: Pat Dietz
- Environment/Natural Resources: Dottie Hudson
- Students Inside Albany: Maria Kaltenbach
- Community Event Planning: Lucinda Levene and Ellen Spencer
- Communications and VOTE411: Patty MacLeish
- Annual Membership Meeting: Lynne Mebust
- Census 2020/Get out the Vote: Hudi Podolsky
- Voters Service: Tom Pullyblank and Liane Hirabayashi
The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.
What Does the League Do Now?
The League of Women Voters is a peoples' organization that has fought since 1920 to improve our government and engage all Americans in the decisions that impact their lives. We operate at national, state and local levels through more than 800 state and local Leagues, in all 50 states as well in DC, the Virgin Islands and Hong Kong. We never endorse or oppose political parties or candidates, but we are political.
Formed from the movement that secured the right to vote for women, the centerpiece of the League’s efforts remain to expand participation and give a voice to all Americans. We do this at all three levels of government, engaging in both broad educational efforts as well as advocacy. Our issues are grounded in our respected history of making democracy work for all Americans.
"The League of Women Voters is not to dissolve any present organization but to unite all existing organizations of women who believe in its principles. It is not to lure women from partisanship but to combine them in an effort for legislation which will protect coming movements, which we cannot even foretell, from suffering the untoward conditions which have hindered for so long the coming of equal suffrage. Are the women of the United States big enough to see their opportunity?"
Maud Wood Park became the first national president of the League and thus the first League leader to rise to the challenge. She had steered the women's suffrage amendment through Congress in the last two years before ratification and liked nothing better than legislative work. From the very beginning, however, it was apparent that the legislative goals of the League were not exclusively focused on women's issues and that citizen education aimed at all of the electorate was in order.
Since its inception, the League has helped millions of women and men become informed participants in government. In fact, the first league convention voted 69 separate items as statements of principle and recommendations for legislation. Among them were protection for women and children, right of working women, food supply and demand, social hygiene, the legal status of women, and American citizenship.The League's first major national legislative success was the passage of the Sheppard-Towner Act providing federal aid for maternal and child care programs. In the 1930's, League members worked successfully for enactment of the Social Security and Food and Drug Acts. Due at least in part to League efforts, legislation passed in 1938 and 1940 removed hundreds of federal jobs from the spoils system and placed them under Civil Service.
During the postwar period, the League helped lead the effort to establish the United Nations and to ensure U.S. Participation. The League was one of the first organizations in the country officially recognized by the United Nations as a non-governmental organization; it still maintains official observer status today.
The History of the LWV of the Cooperstown Area
We think we are living in turbulent times today, but I, and perhaps many of you, well remember the turmoil of the 1960s. Riots in major cities, the assassinations of revered leaders, families torn apart by a questionable war and an environment that was plagued by oil spills, air pollution (remember acid rain?) and the threat of a Silent Spring.
The world did indeed seem in crisis even here in the quiet village of Cooperstown. there were those who feared for our future. What could be done? Hoping to be part of the solution, the Cooperstown Women's Club in the fall of 1969 invited Alice Gordon of the LWV Oneonta to speak to them about the League. Shortly after that meeting, two of those in attendance approached Ann Rath, whom they knew had belonged to the League in Alexandria, Virginia, to get her take on forming a League here?
And so it began, a group of women concerned about the current state of affairs and the outlook for the future took matters into their own hands. Sound familiar? They saw the League as an agent of change and plunged right in.
Because Cooperstown is a small community, the state League couldn’t quite imagine that the League could garner the required 40 members to become a full-fledge League and thought the best approach would be for the League to become a unit of the LWVNYS. As a unit, however members here could not take action on issues. As time went on, members were not happy about this status—they wanted to be active and in February 1972, the decision was made to become Provisional League. By April 1972 at the third Annual Meeting, there were 54 members. The geographical area for the LWV Cooperstown had been chosen—the Towns of Hartwick, Middlefield, Otsego, and Springfield and the village of Cooperstown. The founding group felt that these communities were connected by two important factors--the Cooperstown School District and Otsego Lake, the centerpiece of the area. Thus in the beginning the “Cooperstown Area” would be these four towns and a village. By the end of the annual meeting, Ann Rath had been elected president and , the group was officially the Provisional LWV of the Cooperstown Area.
The first Earth Day in the United States was held in April 1970, and that cause was dear to the hearts of many of those building this new League. That legacy would be a driving force behind League projects for years to come, continuing to the present. At the time of the LWVCA’s founding, recycling was unheard of. New York did not enact its bottle deposit system until 1983, so all no-deposit bottles and the new plastic and aluminum containers simply became part of the waste stream.
This issue was the primary reason that early League members chose to become a full-fledge Leagues. Members, eager to make a difference, organized a glass recycling project. Wanting to proceed with the project League approached the Otsego County Conservation Association (OCCA), who agreed to act as a co-sponsor. Perhaps some of you will remember the freight car on Railroad Avenue by the old Agway where we would bring our bottles to be recycled. The project was a great success.
Our geographic area is small and, in fact, is losing population. Currently, these four towns and a village have a population of approximately 9,500—1,800 in the village—but throughout the years, the League remained respected in the community and collaborated with other local good government groups. The community looked to the League as the provider of candidates’ forums and voter registration drives. Beginning in 2020, the League has been participating in VOTE411 for local elections. As part of the LWVNYS’s 100th anniversary the LWV of the Cooperstown Area wrote a detailed history of its first 25 years.
Notwithstanding difficult times, the League maintained its leadership role as an advocate for the environment and continued to meet with school officials to discuss the school budget, and other issues. And each year—even in the darkest years—members gathered for the Winter Doldrums party.
Times may have been tough, but the League was always too important to these “Four Towns and a Village” to simply fade away.
Why Should I Support the League of Women Voters?
The League is different from many organizations in that what it accomplishes comes directly from the involvement of its members. It is a grassroots organization providing every member with opportunities to learn and educate others about government, and take action on public policy. We walk our talk: we believe that we need everyone to participate in order for our community to be strong, safe and vibrant. Whether you contribute your time, your money, or both you can feel confident that your investment in democracy goes further in the League.
Groups of League members meet to discuss topics in a respectful setting. They learn effective techniques for public discussion, how to advocate on specific policies, and what the issues beneath the rhetoric are. Our study and consensus process ensures that we are fully informed on issues before we take a stand. We also host public forums and debates which are well known for being fair, transparent and civil. This approach has earned the League a global reputation for integrity and thoroughness.
Your participation in League will expose you to a breadth of experiences and issues that will not only inform you but create greater possibilities for civic engagement than you might imagine. You can spend as much or as little time as you wish. Whether you aspire to leadership or are keen to follow the lead of experienced members, the League will excite, use, and nurture your civic curiosity, ideals, or desire for action. We offer our members webinars, conference calls, workshops, other events and mentorship opportunities throughout the year, at the local, regional, state and national levels.
- Attend an event on our calendar
- Contact us to get involved