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Suffrage - PA] League of Women Voters of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

ARCHIVE: Archive of letters, documents and clippings, bulking to 1920s-50s.


[Suffrage - PA] League of Women Voters - Pennsylvania. Allegheny County Archive: Letters,
Documents, and Clippings. 1921-1980.
An archive of documents and printed matter relating to the history and activities of the
Allegheny County League of Women Voters, one of the first women's political advocacy groups
formed following the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. The archive includes news
clippings, correspondence, internal memoranda and printed materials, spanning the period 1921
to approximately 1980, with the bulk of materials dating to the 1930s - '50s. The archive is
broken down as follows:
34 printed items (booklets, brochures, directories, etc);
Approximately 100 pieces of incoming and outgoing correspondence (some being carbon
file copies);
35 internal documents, including memoranda, minutes, drafts, etc;
and several hundred contemporary news clippings.
Under the 40-year leadership of its founding President, Eliza Kennedy Smith (aka Mrs. Robert
Templeton Smith), the Allegheny County League of Women Voters became a major force in
women's political advocacy, not only in Western Pennsylvania but on the national stage as well.
In the late 1940s, this local chapter was expelled from the National organization over its refusal
(under Mrs. Templeton-Smith's leadership) to adopt the National organization's strongly liberal,
internationalist political agenda. A highly-publicized lawsuit followed over the right of
the Allegheny County chapter to retain its name. Once it became clear that the Allegheny Chapter
had incorporated several months prior to the establishment of the national organization, a federal
judge ruled that it could keep its name - resulting in a split in Pittsburgh-area organization that
lasted until the mid-1970s, and also precipitating a national "mutiny" of similarly conservative
women's groups who were disillusioned with the national organization's liberal leanings.
Much material relating to the case is included in this archive, including correspondence between
the local and national chapters as well as portions of the original legal brief outlining the
defendants' case.
Of particular note are an early minute book (covering the years 1926 - 1933), giving a detailed
account of the League's monthly meetings; extensive correspondence from and to the League's
long-time President Eliza Kennedy Smith (1889-1964); and a number of rare printed documents,
including the League's first Membership Directory, dated 1921, and a draft Membership Manual
incorporating the organization's by-laws and constitution, dated 194. Also present is an extensive
collection of contemporary news clippings, documenting the group's political and social
The archive presents valuable picture of the growth of a women's political organization following
passage of Women's Suffrage. From a small, civically-minded organization to a major regional
force in women's politics, the growth of the Allegheny County League of Women Voters
mirrored the growing influence of women in the civic arena following the First World War. It
provides detailed documentation of the group's involvement in urban renewal and civic reform in
the Pittsburgh metropolitan area. And it reveals much biographical information on Eliza Kennedy
Smith, a suffrage pioneer (and, in later years, a major force in conservative politics in the post
New-Deal era) of whom relatively little has heretofore been written.

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