In the move of our local League office from the now-sold Unitarian Universalist Church of Yakima to space graciously offered by the Yakima YWCA, a typed ten-page document was salvaged. “A History of the League of Women Voters of Yakima County,” indicates seven co-authors: Kara Kondo, Geneve Bowden, Marge Van Scoy, Laura Hopp, Pat Ball, Charlotte Kendrick, Marilyn Lane. The document is not dated, but the last information is for 1985.
Editor’s Note: Direct quotes from “A History of the League…” will be indicated by quotation marks. Some details and names will be omitted in these articles. At the conclusion of the newsletter series, the entire document will be made available to interested members.
“On March 14, 1950, a group of women, brought together by Charlotte Kendrick, met at the Y.W.C.A. (We come full circle! – Ed.) for an organizational meeting to form a Provisional League of Women Voters of Yakima… A constitution and by-laws committee was formed…. At a meeting in April, the constitution was adopted. Looking for guidance in forming a new League, several members attended a workshop put on by Richland for the Yakima and Walla Walla Provisional Leagues on May 4, 1950.
“The KNOW YOUR TOWN survey of city government (A precursor to our current They Represent Us directory?—Ed.)… to be conducted during the summer months… was a requirement for becoming a full fledged League. We were not to drop provisional status until two years later. The first dues of $3.00 were paid at the June meeting. Charlotte Kendrick served as temporary chairman until the September 18th meeting at the Y.W.C.A.” President Ann Gilbert Ulrich (Mrs. Louis) was joined in leadership by two vice presidents, a secretary, a treasurer, three elected directors, and three appointed directors. Membership was rounded out with three additional women, for a total membership of 14.
“At each meeting during our first year, two or three reports were given by members on the information gather for the KNOW YOUR TOWN study.” Meeting topics included the Fire and Police Departments and Ann Ulrich’s visit to the National Headquarters in Washington, D. C.
“Plans were completed for the candidates meeting, October 16, (Our first candidates’ forum – Ed.) and the distribution of questionnaires, provided by the State League, to each candidate in October. The third Monday of each month was chosen for the regular general membership meeting night. In addition, an executive board meeting was held monthly for board assignments and future plans.
The State Organization Chair spoke “on the subject, ‘The League of Women Voters and You.’ She encouraged individual members, but not board members, to be active in the party of their choice as well as in the League. We do not support candidates, but we do study issues of concern to both major political parties. The state study items were: juvenile protection, KNOW YOUR STATE study, constitutional revision and the state tax structure.”
The first Annual Meeting held on April 16, 1951, at the Yakima Valley Junior College featured election of officers. Laura Hopp (Mrs. Blaine) became president. The first vice president was also Historian and Program Chair; the second vice president was also Finance Drive Chair. Most of the three elected and 7 appointed board members also carried assignments such as Action, Unit Organization, Publications, Public Relations, Bulletin, Membership, Voters Service, and Librarian. It was noted that “Mrs. Marilyn Longbottom Lane filled out the term for Mrs. Ann Ingham (date with the stork).”
Yakima County League Advances from Provisional Status
Developing as a Local League
Barely a year after the first organizational meeting to form a Provisional League, the Yakima President, Laura Hopp, was delegate to the 1951 State Convention in Spokane. Around this time “was our first finance drive…resulting in $230 collected in the community.”
The “Know Your Town” survey was typed “and 200 copies were mimeographed [and] distributed to schools, libraries, public officials, and State and U. S. Leagues of Women Voters as requested.”
Two study units met twice monthly in members’ homes, one on Monday evenings and the other Thursday mornings. “A better understanding of political issues developed through lively discussions.” The League also held “open meetings, with knowledgeable outside speakers,” on topics including juvenile protection and international trade. “Perhaps our greatest satisfaction in this busy period came in meeting goals required for official League status,” confirmed in May, 1952, by a letter from the National President of LWV. This was followed by hosting the State Convention in June, 1953, “assisted by all members of the League.”
“We learned a lot in two years. We learned that the LWV existed on three levels: national, state and local, and that we were members of all three. Our purpose in the beginning was to learn about government through a non-partisan approach. It is still our purpose but we discovered that, in addition to studying, we were to become an action group. We actively supported issues on which we had studied and reached consensus, and this we call Program Action. We also provided information to the community on elections, and we call this part of our endeavor Voters Service.”
Yakima County League Improves Library Services
Areas in Need of Solutions
The “Know Your Town” study, the first project of the new League, brought members’ attentions to “areas that were in need of solution,” including the Carnegie City Library. They launched into an extensive campaign to improve library services.
“In 1951, the City Library was too small and deteriorating. The proposal to join with the County Library to form a Regional Library System was made. A local realtor had a large department store corporation interested in building a multi-storie retail store on the library site with library facilities on the top floor of the building.
“The League, with the Friends of the Library, sponsored a series of open meetings to standing-room only crowds with panel presentations on these issues. These open, even handed (sic) discussions provided much needed direction. The library boards employed Helen Gilbert as their librarian to administer a building program for a 2 story library on the Carnegie site, to be financed by simultaneous bond issues in the city and the county. The League formed a speakers bureau, held coffee hours, and assisted in many ways with an educational program that secured passage of both bond issues.
“The building was completed in 1957 and League members were hostesses for the Open House, which went on for several days. “The League continued to monitor the library operation and its funding for a number of years. We also studied school libraries to determine their adequacy, and worked to improve their libraries and services, and helped them to cooperate with the Regional Library System.”
Yakima County League Focuses on Government Structures
“The League studied the structure of city government and established criteria for good administration.” They found that the City Commission Form, with three elected officials that headed the departments of administration, finance, and engineering, provided an arena of continuing conflict. The election of new commissioners did not change the underlying problems.” The League advocated for a Council-Manager structure, and League president, Dorothy Ledbetter, was appointed to a citizens committee to “secure community acceptance for a change.” The Council-Manager form was approved at the November, 1958, election but disqualified for a legal technicality. With League support, the measure was passed again a year later.
“The League continued its interest in city government and in 1966 published a financial survey, ‘Making Dollars Out of Sense.’”
Reaching Out to the County
“In 1958, because of increased membership and the number of members outside of the city area, the League became the League of Women Voters of Yakima County, and began a ‘Know Your County’ study. “Forms of County Government” became an on-going project, and an information pamphlet was published in 1960s and updated in the 1970s. “The League studied and was an early supporter of county zoning, urban renewal, metropolitan development plans, park and recreation administration and land acquisition, and solid waste management.
State and National Issues
Beginning in 1952, our Local and State Leagues “continuously worked for a state tax structure that is adequate, fair and based on the ability to pay.” These early years also saw the Yakima League supporting positions of the “League of Women Voters of the United States on the United Nations, world trade and international development for third world countries. We have made local trade surveys, sponsored national speakers, cooperated with other organizations with similar aims, and promoted issues on civil rights for women and minorities.”
Reapportionment and Redistricting
In 1954, the State League began studying reapportionment and redistricting, which had last been done by initiative in 1932! With no action from the legislature following the 1950 census, the State League sponsored Initiative 199 in November, 1957. “The Yakima League believed in the ‘one man – one vote’ premise and worked vigorously for this initiative, even though it meant reduced representation for Yakima County and it was a very unpopular position locally.” Although passed in the election, “the legislature in 1958 and the courts severely reduced its effectiveness.” The legislature declined again to act following the 1960 census. The history continues:
We continued to press for action through the courts and for the legislature to enact legislation to establish a commission that would automatically reapportion and redistrict the state following each national census, provided the legislature did not act. The political climate was not conducive to such legislation until after the 1980 census, when the 1982 session established such a commission. (The State League will continue to monitor this process through the 1990 census, covering nearly 40 years of active work on this issue.)
Editor’s note: Attention and advocacy continue through the present, currently totaling nearly 70 years “of active work on this issue” of fair reapportionment and redistricting.
Voter Services Encourage Participation
“A key cornerstone in the League of Women Voters’ concern for citizen participation in the political process is its Voters Services, placing special emphasis on solid nonpartisan information on candidates and providing information on registering and voting.”
“The fledgling League” conducted candidate questionnaires in 1952 with the Herald-Republic publishing the responses for State Legislature and County Commission candidates. “The other questionnaire for candidates for state offices and U. S. Congress was mimeographed and distributed at its pre-primary candidates meeting.” This meeting attracted “200 or so”. The meeting before the general election featured candidates for state legislature, county commissioner, constable and coroner, and 4th District of U.S. Congress. “This meeting drew 100.” A January 23, 1953, meeting included “pro and con speakers on the garbage fee proposal” as well as city and school board candidates. “About 100 were present.”
Various activities around this time included: members demonstrating use of voting machines; giving out “small gold feathers to each voter at the polls in keeping with the state ‘gold feather’ campaign”; providing upon request to several organizations pro and con speakers on the state ballot issues; and “thirty league members each called 300 names from the phone book to remind respondents about the last day for registering, the election date, and to vote.”
From 1955 to 1957, “members interviewed local people on issues such as the city charter, water department, probation office, and others, not necessarily League programs” for a 30 minute program every other Sunday on Radio Station KYAK.
“Voters Service activities have continued unabated over the years. Some remain in similar forms; others have evolved.” Candidates meetings “moved from indoors to enormous affairs on a closed-off city block on North 2nd Street…attended by notable candidates…who have, or are making marks in the political arena.” Henry Jackson, Dan Evans and Slade Gorton are among the notable attendees identified in this history. “It then moved indoors again to more predictable weather of the Yakima and Valley Malls.”
One Voters Services activity tried out was a “Candidates Caravan that stopped at strategic towns throughout the county.” Beginning in 1980, the League “co-produced a yearly live candidates meeting on KYVE-TV, a two to three hour Sunday afternoon program” for candidates in the station’s viewing area of Yakima and parts of Kittitas, Chelan and Benton Counties.
Locally created candidates questionnaires “to provide compact written information on candidates” gave way to inclusion of information in the State Voters Pamphlet. A special effort undertaken by the local League was “a local version of the State Voters Pamphlet…in cooperation with Davis High School. The students interviewed candidates for Yakima City Council and Yakima School District Board of Directors and researched local ballot measures. The League secured funding, provided direction and edited the useful, attractive pamphlet.”
“Liberalizing the registration of voters progressed through the years until registration drives are now commonplace with deputy registrars able to sign up potential voters in all kinds of locations.” The League made special efforts in the “Civil Rights and Community Action program movements of the ‘60’s and 70’s” to provide voter education to Hispanic and low income people. In addition, League members have observed, monitored or supervised elections with attention to “voting accessibility, layout of election sites election workers’ performances, flow of voting process, etc.”
LWVYC Busy Through 1984 and 1985
This section recounts local League activities during the “centennial year” of 1984-1985. I am, however, uncertain as to what “centennial” was being marked. My research shows that Washington became an official territory in 1853 and a state in 1889. Yakima County was organized by the territorial legislature in 1865. Yakima City was incorporated in 1883 at the site now known as Union Gap. In 1884 the Northern Pacific Railway Company responded to a dispute with land owners by moving over 100 buildings 4 miles north to establish a new town dubbed, “North Yakima,” which was incorporated in 1886. In 1918 the state legislature officially designated the city as “Yakima.” Concerning our organization, The League of Women Voters of Washington was founded in 1920, the same year as the national League. The League of Women Voters of Yakima County was initiated in 1950 and graduated from provisional to official status in 1952.
Out of all of these dates, it seems most likely that the “84-85” centennial was marking the establishment of the city of Yakima. But if any readers know better, please pass the information on to me.– Susan Kaphammer
Major Activities During Centennial Year
The League of Women Voters of Yakima County’s major activities during this centennial year (84-85) have included:
- A major pre-election registration drive which resulted in over 100 new voters in Yakima County.
- Caucus and election night reporting for ABC. (primary and general)
- Produced 4th Annual Candidates Close Up on KYVE involving most of the candidates for contested positions, including all statewide office except the governor – a question and answer format.
- Organized Community celebration of U. N. Day.
- Participated in TARGET WASHINGTON, day-long conference.
- Arranged for printing and distribution of “They Represent You,” a free citizens directory listing all elected officials in Yakima County.
- Hosted “Luncheons With the Legislators” through the summer.
- Provided facilitators for spring-fall public education meetings sponsored by Citizens Education Center N.W.
- Answered phones for KYVE pledge week.
- Sponsored “Women Judges of Washington State” program during the Fair.
- Studied in depth National Security topics, Arms Control, the Federal Budget and Promoting Peace.
- Studied Campaign Financing in Washington State.
- Participated in Legislative Lobbying Workshop in December, attended state and national conventions and State Council meeting.
- Lobbied state representatives and senators on issues of voting rights for D.C. Members participated in National Study on Financing the Federal Government.
- Celebrated League of Women Voters of U. S. 65th Birthday by bringing Dr. Giovanni Costigan to Yakima to speak on Susan B. Anthony – as a community education project.
- Testified twice in support of the Urban Area Regional Plan.
- Interviewed and lobbied our member of congress.
- Toured Wastewater Treatment Plan.
|Charlotte Kendrick (Mrs. Leo)*||Organizational Chairman|
|Ann Gilbert Ulrich (Mrs. Louis)||1950-1951|
|Laura Hopp (Mrs. Blaine)*||1951-1953|
|Sybil Wadekamper (Mrs. C.C.)||1953-1955|
|Dorothy Ledbetter (Mrs. Coleman)*||1955-1957|
|Marge Van Scoy (Mrs. Hale)*||1957-1959|
|Geneve Bowden (Mrs. Paul)*||1959-1961|
|Marilyn Lane (Mrs. James)||1961-1963|
|Louise Patterson (Mrs. William)*||1965-1966|
|Marilyn Hudson (Mrs. Bruce)||1966-1967|
|Kara Kondo (Mrs. Tak)*||1969-1971|
|Dorothy Plath (Mrs. Fred)*||1971-1973|
|Bert Jose (Mrs. Robert)||1973-1975|
|Ruth Coffin (Mrs. Stanley)||1975-1977|
|Fran Dew (Mrs. Robert)||1977-1979|
|Linda Frazer (Mrs. Dallas)||1981-1983|
|Pat Ball (Mrs. Jack)*||1983-1985|
|Linda Eakin Johnson||1990|
|Deborah Severtson, Kara Kondo*, Kay Gempler* (Steering Committee)||1993-1994|
|Becky Scholl, Trixanna Koch (co-Presidents)||1998-2001|
|Cynthia Garrick, Criss Bardill (co-Presidents)||2016-2017|