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League of Women Voters of Greater Newark, Delaware, records

Identifier: MSS 0448

Scope and Contents

The League of Women Voters of Greater Newark, Delaware, records consists of material separated into three series, spanning the dates 1949-1998. Comprising correspondence, calendars, financial papers, minutes and agendas, reports, slides, photographs, audio cassette, records, press releases, flyers, voter registration cards, books, pamphlets, brochures, clippings, maps, bylaws, position statements, membership directories, and ephemera, this collection details the organization and community efforts of this non-partisan citizens’ group.

Series I consists of material directly related to the Newark League, including founding papers and the history of the League. Series II contains papers of the League of Women Voters of Delaware, many of which were sent to local Leagues as guidelines and reports from the state Board. Series III encompasses the papers that the Newark League received from the League of Women Voters of the United States. Though a considerably smaller amount of material, state and national information found in Series II and III reflects the organizational aspects of the League, as well as the issues being studied at the time.

Although the Newark League was involved in study areas that encompassed national issues, most of their work concentrated on those issues at the local level. The group’s Action Committee followed the issues of the day, assuring that any results from League study were publicized through letter-writing, public position statements, news articles, and radio spots. The LWVGN had a Government Study Committee that considered and produced position statements on the city charter, reapportionment, and city revenue structure. The group also produced informative guides to the city and its services, such as This Is Greater Newark, published between 1969 and 1987.

The Newark League’s involvement in community issues is also apparent through its committee work on land use issues. Study issues included planning and zoning changes, transportation proposals, and environmental preservation concerns. The LWVGN was concerned about park areas in the city of Newark as well as development of safe bicycling areas. It conducted a survey of local businesses in order to gauge support for changes in Newark traffic patterns and parking needs. The LWVGN combined with other citizens and groups in its support for library resources.

The archive documents the creation of an “Observer Corps” that monitored court cases in Family Court. The work of the observers led to League position statements on Family Court, court procedures, and Community Legal Aid. The Newark League also produced documents concerning desegregation of schools in Wilmington, Delaware, and after-school child care.

The LWVGN’s Voter Services Committee produced and collected information on candidates and elected officials. This material was presented to citizens in several formats, including the local publication of Newark candidate information in They Want to Represent You and statewide information published by the Wilmington News Journal.

In addition to the information available in this collection regarding the Newark League and the state’s work on issues, the archive documents the organizational structure of the League of Women Voters of Greater Newark. Membership recruitment and fundraising activities reflect the concerns about the longevity of the organization. The membership newsletter, The Voter, provided information concerning social events for members and their families, and updated members on issue study areas.

The documents from both the state and national Leagues available in this collection demonstrate how Newark’s committee structure mirrors national guidelines. These documents also highlight the issues of greatest importance to citizens, and particularly women at the time. Because the Newark League was active in the local community, the archive is a source of information about Newark and the state of Delaware, particularly with regard to government response to social issues. Local and national concerns are further documented by the League’s collection of clippings and printed information for study areas.

The archive also demonstrates how the organization developed and changed. For the League of Women Voters of Newark, the changes, including the merger with the Wilmington League, reflected the realities of more women working, less volunteer time, and a growing complexity of issues. Its willingness to change has allowed the Newark League to continue its commitment to community involvement.


  • Creation: 1949-1998


Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Access Information

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections Department, University of Delaware Library,

Historical Note

The League of Women Voters of Greater Newark (LWVGN) was established in Newark, Delaware, in 1952 as the local branch of the national, non-partisan women’s organization which promotes citizen education and encourages participation in government. The Newark League participated in programs at the local, state, and national levels. Members selected issues, studied them, reached consensus on the effectiveness of legislation on the issue, and then lobbied in order to get specific legislation passed. Its national counterpart, The League of Women Voters of the United States (LWVUS) was founded in 1920, six months before the 19th Amendment to the Constitution guaranteed women the right to vote. Early League statements on the aims of the organization still hold true today: “The organization has three purposes: to foster education in citizenship, to promote forums and public discussions of civic reforms and to support needed legislation.” In addition to guiding the organizational structure of the state and local Leagues, the national League has its own “program,” or agenda of issues and study topics.

At a convention held on March 29, 1958, the League of Women Voters of Delaware (LWVD) was officially recognized by the national League. Having met minimum standards regarding by-laws, local participation, policy, procedures, and finance factors, the state League was allowed to use both the name and insignia of the League of Women Voters. The group soon undertook its first study, An Evaluation of the Financial System of the State of Delaware. In April of 1961, the LWVD announced its position on the financial system of the state, asserting “support of measures that promote sound fiscal administration and provide revenue adequate to meet the needs of a growing state.” An earlier version of the LWVD existed during the early 1920s. Specific information about these early years is unavailable in this collection, except for reports that their activities included work toward the abolition of child labor and support for school and highway construction projects. Delaware board members were listed from all three state counties, including members from Newark and Wilmington. After 1926, this LWVD faded away, with no indication in this collection as to why it disbanded. The League reappeared in Delaware with the formation of the Newark League in 1952. Norma Handloff, a founding member of the Newark League, went on to become the first president of the LWVD as well as mayor of Newark. During the six years between its founding and the national League's recognition of the state League, other local Leagues were established throughout the state. Each reflected the organization and issue focus of the national League.

The organizational structure of the local League followed the national guidelines, which also shaped state League organization. A board of directors consisting of a president, vice president/s (optional upon the size of membership), secretary, treasurer, and committee chairpersons ran the League. The board could propose changes to the bylaws as well as make suggestions for program study areas. The resource chairperson and her committee performed intense, if brief, studies on selected issues and then presented each issue to the membership as a program study area to adopt into their official League program. The LWVGN determined its local program at its annual meeting, at which time the calendar for program study was also adopted.

According to the state League bylaws, in even-numbered years local members gathered to give suggestions for a two-year National Program. The opinions of local Leagues were often collected in the form of a consensus that was reported to the national League for consideration. Also during the even-numbered years, the League’s state council met in order to judge the organization’s progress. The first state council meeting was held on April 1, 1960, during which the aforementioned study of the state financial system was undertaken. The program handouts from the state council meetings of 1960 and 1962 are included in this collection. It appears that the tradition of state council meetings faded with the third and final council meeting held in 1964. A state convention was held annually to elect officers, adopt the state program and budget, and to consider bylaw amendments. The number of local League members determined representation at the convention. State program items considered at the convention were those issues requiring state legislative action or issues that affected all three counties in Delaware. The state convention was originally convened during the odd-number years, but after the elimination of the council meetings, the convention began to be held annually.

Though the organization originally targeted women in an effort to encourage their participation in government, membership and participation were not limited to women or women’s issues. The League was a non-partisan organization; however, members were encouraged to be active in party politics. Only League board members and lobbyists were prohibited from running for office or taking any visible role in city, county, state, federal, or school board elections.

All members were expected to join a committee of their choice and to attend unit discussion meetings pertaining to study topics. Because of the LWVGN’s constant community involvement and concern, many issue areas evolved into “continuing responsibilities.” The responsibilities included areas such as voter services, government study, land use, and social policy. While the committee members continued to follow current events in each issue area, it also adopted its study to programs suggested by the state and national League. Members of the Newark branch actively participated in deciding their local program, which usually involved several different areas of community interest. A membership newsletter, The Voter, was published several times a year. The newsletter highlighted programs, reported position statements, and outlined future activities and studies. Membership dues supported such publications and financed community committee work. Fundraising was an ongoing concern for the League as members appealed to both private citizens and businesses for financial support. National and state-level education funds were established. The education funds allowed local Leagues, such as Newark, to provide donors with a tax deductible giving option. For a small fee, the local Leagues could then use the money they raised through the education fund to conduct community education projects.

At all levels, the League of Women Voters is probably best known for its work in, and devotion to, voter services. The LWVGN lobbied for simplified single registration procedures and its members volunteered in the community to register citizens to vote. An early voter registration program used a “Voter Wagon” to travel to different neighborhoods in Newark making registration more convenient. At the city the Newark’s annual Community Day, the League and other sponsors provided a voting machine to allow citizens an opportunity to practice voting. The Newark League also held receptions for local elected officials and independently published They Represent You, a guide to local officials. The Newark League also presented educational programs and sponsored candidate debates. They published local election information in They Want to Represent You and gathered information for the "Voter’s Guide", which was published by the LWVD in the Wilmington News Journal during elections years. The Newark and Wilmington Leagues often combined forces for voter services projects, as well as for land use issues that were specific to New Castle County, Delaware. Candidates meetings and debates were often co-sponsored by the Leagues in order to pool resources and to avoid over-burdening the campaigns, candidates, and public.

League members were concerned with the large-scale functioning of government, a process they examined at the local, state, and national levels. At the local level, the Newark League concentrated on issues such as the city charter, the rights and representation of all citizens, and the city revenue structure. The LWVGN was a supporter of home rule for the city of Newark, which the city achieved in 1965. It conducted community education programs about the city, such as a “Know Your Newark” tour in 1960. It has published This Is Greater Newark, a guide containing information about the city and its services. The guide was distributed to citizens, government officials, and businesses, often as an example of fundraising dollars put to good use. Joining with the Greater Wilmington League (LWVGW), the two Leagues conducted a study of county finance, considering alternative possibilities. The LWVGN often supported reorganization efforts for New Castle County government, including programs for more efficient and effective government. The Newark and Wilmington groups supported a revenue structure in New Castle County based on property taxes and income, with user fees for measurable services. They campaigned for reforms such as a shorter voting ballot, an employment system based upon merit, and a comprehensive plan for the county. The League also supported the creation of the New Castle County Ethics Commission in 1988.

At the state government level, the LWVGN participated in a study of Delaware’s constitution (1966-1968) as well as a consensus on the state’s General Assembly (1973). Throughout this same time period, League studies on government structure and services included studies of election laws. A sunshine law passed the Delaware legislature with the full support of the Newark and state Leagues. The Newark League also participated in a national program on international relations, which included such topics as trade, foreign assistance, military policies, and the United Nations.

The LWVGN maintained a Land Use Committee that focused on city planning and zoning, transportation, land preservation, and agriculture. The League offered numerous position statements on proposed legislation and collected issue information at all governmental levels. The state League reached consensus in 1977 on policies regarding floodplains, watersheds, and aquifer recharge areas. In 1987 and 1988 the LWVGN participated in a national consensus study on the role of federal government in agriculture.

The LWVGN Social Policy Committee was active on many issues, though its main focus at the local and state levels was on criminal justice, education, and housing. Newark and Wilmington Leagues studied after-school childcare and all local Leagues participated in a statewide study and consensus on the Family Court in Delaware. In 1987, the LWVGN participated in the LWVUS consensus study, Meeting Basic Human Needs. This study focused on evaluation of public and private responsibilities for providing food, shelter, basic income, and access to health care

Continued commitment to national program studies, the increasing complexity of issues and the competition for League members’ time led to serious questions about the future of the Newark League. In 1994, after careful consideration, the Wilmington and Newark Leagues officially merged. Their history of collaboration on county issues, as well as state programs, facilitated the merger. On April 13, 1994, with the passage of their official bylaws and with a vote of support from members of both Leagues, the League of Women Voters of New Castle County (LWVNCC) was formed. Since that time, the LWVNCC has continued in its service to members and citizens alike. Under the guidance of both the state and national Leagues, it continues to actively lobby the Delaware legislature and study contemporary issues.

Information derived from the contetnts of the collection.


12.3 linear foot (12 boxes)

1 oversize box (32 inches)

2 oversize removal


The League of Women Voters of Greater Newark (LWVGN) was established in Newark, Delaware, in 1952 as the local branch of the national, non-partisan women’s organization which promotes citizen education and encourages participation in government. This archive, spanning the dates 1949-1998, highlights local and national issues, as well as providing information about the organization itself.


The collection is organized into three series: I. League of Women Voters of Greater Newark, II. League of Women Voters of Delaware, and III. League of Women Voters of the United States of America. Each of these series has three subseries, A. Organization, B. Intra-League Committees, and C. League Community Committees. Series II. adds a fourth subseries: D. Papers of Other Delaware Leagues.

Within each subseries the material is organized by committee or function, for example material in subseries A. Organization is grouped by Board of Directors, Annual Reports, Budgets, etc. Within each of these groups the material is arranged in chronological order. Folder numbering begins anew with each series.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of League of Women Voters of Greater Newark, Delaware, 1993-2001

Related Material in this Repository

MSS 0477, Women Suffrage collection

MSS 0529, American Association of University Women Delaware Division records

MSS 0530, American Association of University Women Newark Branch (Del.) records

MSS 0531, American Association of University Women Mill Creek Hundred Branch (Del.) records

MSS 0532, Woman's Club of Claymont (Del.) records

MSS 0622, American Association of University Women Wilmington Branch (Del.) records

MSS 0637, Junior League of Wilmington records

MSS 0677, Delaware Women's Conference records

MSS 0733, Delaware ephemera collection related to politics, policy, and government

MSS 0744, University of Delaware Library collection of Delaware politics, policy, and government websites. This web archive collection contains one or more websites relating to tthe League of Women's Voters' work.

MSS 0839, Betty Lee Hutchinson papers

Items from the collection appeared in the exhibition “Trail to the Voting Booth: An Exploration of Political Ephemera,” lauched online September 2020, University of Delaware – Morris Library. The exhibition can be viewed online at

Shelving Summary

  1. Boxes 1-12: Shelved in SPEC MSS record center cartons
  2. Oversize: Shelved in MSS oversize boxes (32 inches)
  3. Oversize removals: Shelved in MSS oversize mapcases

Processing Information

Processed by Dianne K. Pledgie, 1999-2000, completed by Anita A. Wellner, August 2002. Finding aid encoded by Anna Nuzzolese, September 2018.

Finding aid for the League of Women Voters of Greater Newark, Delaware, records
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
2018 September 12
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections Repository

181 South College Avenue
Newark DE 19717-5267 USA