Making Democracy Work

History of the League of Women Voters of the Bay Area

LWVBA was organized to address areawide or regional problems

The League of Women Voters of the Bay Area, first organized in 1959, is one of the oldest organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area dedicated to the concept of regional solutions to areawide problems.

In the 1940s, concern about the overlapping problems between city and county services resulted in formation of League county councils. In 1953, as urban dwellers moved to the ever-expanding suburbs, the League of Women Voters of the United States (LWVUS) issued a study outline, A Guide to a Metropolitan Area Study, calling attention to the new political and social problems related to economic regions, rather than to existing governmental jurisdictions.

First steps toward an areawide or regional League in the San Francisco Bay Area came in 1956 and 1957. Enough interest was generated among local League members that a study of Bay Area problems and possible governmental solutions was adopted by 8 local leagues in 1959. In 1960 a follow up study evaluating proposals relating to metropolitan government in the Bay Area was adopted by 10 Leagues. In addition to the steering committee which had formed to guide the studies, an executive committee was created to carry out administrative duties.

April 1961, saw the formal establishment of a permanent organization, the LEAGUES OF WOMEN VOTERS OF THE BAY AREA (LWVBA). An "Inter-League Organization," an ILO, was the official title given to such a group of Leagues organized to address areawide or regional problems.

In 1970, standards developed by the League of Women Voters of California (LWVC) were used to prepare new bylaws. The major change was that LWVBA program would be adopted at annual conventions, similar to state and national programs and each League would be expected to participate in the program. Local League representation at conventions would be on a proportional basis, and delegates would come informed, not instructed. Funding would be provided by a per member dues assessment, paid by local Leagues. At the LWVBA annual meeting in May 1970, delegates adopted the new bylaws, and the LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS OF THE BAY AREA, a League, not a group of Leagues, was established.

During the early development of LWVBA, the state and national League boards were permissive and interested observers, allowing the organizers of LWVBA to pioneer and make their own rules. After early attempts to gain voting status for ILOs had failed, state bylaws were amended in 1971 to permit each ILO to send one voting delegate to state convention and council; LWVUS bylaws were similarly amended in 1972 to allow ILOs a voting delegate at national convention and council. Recognition standards for ILOs were adopted by both LWVC and LWVUS.

In 1974, LWVBA bylaws were amended to provide for a biennial convention, with a council meeting of board and local League presidents in alternate years.

Thus, the LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS OF THE BAY AREA emerged, not as a directive from state and national Leagues, but at the instigation of local Leagues and their members, seeking to form a level of League structure to manage studies of regional problems and to take action at the regional level of government to attain the goals of League program, adopted through traditional procedures.

See also League History from the League of Women Voters of the US.