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From ESL to League of Women Voters.

The ESL's road was never easy nor straightforward. After the General Assembly defeated a state suffrage resolution for the second time in 1916, and the ESL’s focus shifted to passage of a federal amendment, ESL membership increased from 9,662 to 16,000 in 1917, reaching 30,000 by 1920. Yet the league found it very hard to gain the local public support it needed to wield real political impact. In the face of conservative politics and embedded racial tensions gripping the state in the early 20th century, the ESL failed to turn public opinion far enough to win women's suffrage—that win was ensured only by passage of the federal amendment. But even without General Assembly support, the ESL's previous decade of work served to educate many women (and men) on the importance of the vote. It also spurred its members and supporters to broaden their traditional roles and horizons by engaging the political system and campaigning for progressive reforms. Women were encouraged to seek and accept leadership roles in areas from where they had previously been rejected.
   The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution passed in 1920 after it was ratified by three quarters of all states—but notably without Virginia and eight other southern states. All the same, Virginia women registered to vote in large numbers (over 13,000 women registered for the 1920 elections in Richmond alone). After the amendment passed, the ESL soon disbanded but re-formed as the League of Women Voters of Virginia (LWV). The league’s convention delegates are shown here in Norfolk in an undated photo. The LWV refocused its efforts on Virginia's ratification of the 19th Amendmentenacted 1952and progressive reforms. Only three years after the passage of the 19th Amendment, two women in 1923, Helen Timmons Henderson of Buchanan County and Sarah Lee Fain of Norfolk (where she was a member of the LWV's Norfolk Chapter), were elected to the General Assembly. As the descendant of the ESL, the LWV remains an active, non-partisan organization today, and in 2010, the House of Delegates and Senate of Virginia passed joint resolutions commending the LWV on 90 years of service and the “tireless efforts” of the ESL and the LWV to win women the vote.