League of Women Voters celebration. (Heather Spaulding/staff photo)

League of Women Voters celebration. (Heather Spaulding/staff photo)

League of Women Voters celebrates 100 years

In honor of the 100th birthday of the National League of Women Voters, approximately 80 San Juan Islanders gathered at the Mullis Senior Center on Feb. 12 to celebrate with members of the local chapter.

“Suffrage activists were sometimes beaten and jailed, force-fed when they engaged in hunger strikes. Many did not survive to see their dream fulfilled,” Barbara Sharp, president of the League of Women Voters of the San Juans, said. “We stand on the shoulders of these courageous women.”

The center was decorated with stars and stripes. The league’s actual birthday is on Valentines Day, however, Sharp told the Journal, the League wanted to celebrate early since many people have plans.

The crowd mingled while enjoying refreshments, including a red, white and blue frosted cake. The Mayor of the town of Friday Harbor, Farhad Ghatan, led the crowd singing “God Bless America,” and “This Land is Your Land,” before the cake was cut.

Many took in the array of historical information about the suffrage movement that the league had set out. Boards with articles that were originally published in the Journal from 1910, were on display. That was the year Washington state amended its constitution giving women the right to vote. Washington was the fifth state in the United States to adopt such an amendment.

Necia Quast, vice president of the San Juan league, provided a history of the group, noting that it had hosted the presidential debates until the 1980s. The candidates at that time, she said, decided they wanted more control over the questions.

Quast also pointed out that the fight to preserve the right to vote continues. The league is embattled in several lawsuits across the country regarding gerrymandering and voter suppression.

“In honesty, these rights were only granted to white women, excluding women of color and Native Americans,” Sharp told the crowd.