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League History

The League of Women Voters was established in 1920, the year that women’s suffrage was finally incorporated into the Constitution, to help newly enfranchised women become informed voters.  Mrs. Lavinia Hauke Engle and her daughter Miss Lavinia Engle, organized the League of Women Voters of Montgomery County (LWVMC) in 1920.

Mrs. Engle was the first President of the Montgomery County League. Although written records prior to l938 have been lost, we have been told that the LWVMC helped to rewrite a number of state laws relating to basic good government and social programs during its first 15 years.  A Constitution and Bylaws for the Montgomery County League were adopted in 1939.  

“Having been dormant during the Depression years, the LWVMC was reactivated in 1938 and announced its support for a proposed change to a county manager form of county government and the adoption of a home rule charter.  The County Commissioners (then in charge of county government) reluctantly agreed to contract with Brookings Institution for a study which led to a 1941 report.  After studying the report, the LWVMC endorsed its major recommendations. When a charter committee was organized in 1942 about half of its members came from the League.  League members gathered petition signatures, staffed a Speakers Bureau, produced and distributed fliers – and helped to win the first election (in which the League President was chosen as a member of the charter writing board).” (from A History of the Montgomery County League of Women Voters”, compiled by Bill Offutt).  

The LWVMC has been active in supporting governmental programs to meet the needs identified by our members through a study and consensus process.  Our current positions, developed over the past 40 years and reaffirmed annually, enable us to bring a multi-issue, countywide perspective to our testimony.
For a detailed history of the LWVMC see the League of Women Voters of Montgomery County April 1995 Fact Sheet:  "Suffrage and History of the League". 

League Lavinia Engle Award
In honor of our founder the League has established the Lavinia Engle award that is presented every three years to outstanding League members, community members or organizations for outstanding civic engagement in Montgomery County.

Lavinia Margaret Engle

On March 3, 1913, Lavinia was among the throngs of women marching down Pennsylvania Avenue demanding women’s suffrage. The family’s Quaker beliefs supported the equality of all humans, male and female. When Jeanette Rankin left her field organizing position to run for a Congressional seat representing Montana, Lavinia was chosen as her successor. She began traveling the nation in support of women gaining the legal right to vote. 

Once the 19th Amendment was ratified Lavinia’s energies shifted to the new League of Women Voters.  Lavinia became the Executive Secretary of the Maryland League of Women Voters and worked at the office in Baltimore. On the weekends she commuted back to the family home in Forest Glen. 

Lavinia was inducted into the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame.  In 1931, she became the first woman to represent the county in the House of Delegates in Annapolis. Lavinia was known as an advocate for social insurance legislation including the passage of the state’s first compulsory unemployment insurance compensation bill. She was appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933 to the Social Security Board and served as Chief of Field Operations in the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the Social Security Administration until her retirement in 1966. In the following years, Lavinia was a member of the State Committee on Health and Medical Services for the Aged and the Montgomery County Commission on Aging and a delegate to the 1972 White House Conference on Aging. 

In May 1979, this lifelong resident of Montgomery County passed away. Members of the League have been inspired by her intellect, persistence, and courage. LWVMC recognizes members of today’s community who build on the foundation Lavinia established years ago.

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LWV of Montgomery County, MD
27 Wood Lane
Rockville, MD 20850
PHONE:  301-984-9585