Special Collections & University Archives | UMass Amherst Libraries

Abstract

First founded as a chapter for Pittsfield and later for all of central Berkshire county, this local league is one of many Massachusetts chapters of the national non-partisan political organization, League of Women Voters, that influences public policy through education and advocacy by registering voters, organizing candidate forums, publishing voting guides, and disseminating general information on the legislative process and the functioning of government on the local, state, and federal levels.

The bulk of the collection documents the activities and topics of interest to members of the League of Women Voters of Central Berkshire during the last three decades of their work before disbanding in 2001. The chapter consistently served to educate the public on voter registration, the voting process, and on the functioning of local and state government. Other issues of importance included child care and rights, prison reform, clean water, and health care.

Access

The collection is open for research.

Language:

English
SCUA: the archive of social change
League of Women Voters of Central Berkshire Records
1959-2001
9 boxes (4 linear ft.)
Call no.: MS 478
Background on League of Women Voters of Central Berkshire
LWVCB brochure

LWVCB brochure

Established during the early 1960s, the League of Women Voters of Central Berkshire started out as a league chapter for the town of Pittsfield. Meeting with members of the Boston League of Women Voters in 1927 at the Tally Ho Inn, Mrs. George W. Edman and Mrs. Sheridan R. Cate paved the way to create a local league in Pittsfield. Three years later the group nominated its first slate of leaders, electing Mrs. Brace W. Paddock as president, Mrs. Norman C. Hull as vice-president in charge of finance, and Mrs. Edman as vice-president of publicity on January 19, 1931. By the time the league held its first annual meeting members had already identified issues to focus their initial educational efforts and advocacy on including efficiency in government, child welfare, education, legal status, international relations to prevent war and legislation.

Throughout the 1940s the League targeted housing problems in Pittsfield; their 1941 housing study committee reported: "Pittsfield has no slum clearance project ... no housing authority to condemn dangerous and indecent slum dwellings, no factual survey of local housing conditions, no organized citizens' housing association." The League's interest in housing did not waver and together with residents of the city and Mayor James Fallon a preliminary committee was formed which later resulted in the formation of a permanent citizen's housing association. During the 1950s-1960s the LWV of Pittsfield continued to study and inform the public on issues ranging from the impact of foreign trade on the local economy to the operation of Massachusetts state government.

By the 1960s membership in the LWV of Pittsfield expanded beyond the city lines reaching out in every direction to towns in the surrounding area. Instead of sponsoring a fourth league in the county (chapters existed already in Williamstown and North Adams) Leaguers decided to expand the Pittsfield chapter to encompass all of central Berkshire. During the next few decades the newly expanded League led significant campaigns on a number of key issues: voter registration, prison reform, child care, and clean drinking water.

After decades of successfully fulfilling the League's mission as a nonpartisan political organization dedicated to encouraging active participation of citizens in government and influencing public policy through education and advocacy, the Central Berkshire chapter disbanded in 2001.

Contents of Collection

The records of the central Berkshire county League of Women document the group's efforts to encourage the public to participate in government as well as their efforts to educate the community about key issues of local importance from the 1970s until the chapter disbanded in 2001. Through a variety of media, including newspaper articles, meeting minutes, and newsletters, this collection provides a rich body of materials useful for evaluating the various issues of significance to Leaguers over the course of three decades and the resulting public policy that helped shape the social and political climate of central Berkshire.

An example of one local issue in which the support of the LWVCB played an important role was the Washington Mountain Brook watershed project. As the demand for a new supply of clean water for the towns of Lee and Lenox increased it became clear that drilling for new wells would not be the answer, since the possibility of PCB contamination was high. The towns endorsed the Washington Mountain Brook watershed project as the best solution for the water shortage. Concerned about the potential environmental impact of the watershed project, the LWVCB examined the case carefully and determined that given the likelihood of contaminated ground water sources the WMB project was the only viable alternative for a new water supply. The Massachusetts Audubon Society reviewed the same data and concurred; the Conservation Law Foundation of New England, Inc., however, disagreed and filed a lawsuit to stop construction. The LWVCB teamed up with the We Need Water Now Committee, formed by concerned citizens of Lee and Lenox, to intervene in the lawsuit in an effort to have it withdrawn altogether. Ultimately, the groups' combined efforts played a critical role in achieving the approval necessary to move forward with the construction.

Series descriptions

This series contains materials associated with the LWVBC's daily activities, including meeting minutes, membership files, financial records, and newsletters. Together these materials offer insight into the chapter's structure and function as well as its methods for reaching the public. Also included are printed materials and correspondence from the state and national Leagues that convey the broader agendas proposed by the parent organization.

Subject files within this series identify the political, social, and cultural issues in which members of the League were involved. Topics of primary focus include voter registration drives, prison and election reform, elder health care, children's rights, clean water, and education.

Collection inventory
Series 1: Administration
1959-2001
Annual reports
1985-1989
Box 1: 1
Berkshire Voter
1988-1989
Box 1: 2
Berkshire Voter
1990-1991
Box 1: 3
Berkshire Voter
1992-1993
Box 1: 4
Berkshire Voter
1994-1995
Box 1: 5
Berskhire Voter
1996-1997
Box 1: 6
Berkshire Voter
1998-2001
Box 1: 7
Board meeting minutes
1985-1988
Box 1: 8
Board meeting minutes
1989-1990
Box 1: 9
Board meeting minutes
1991-1993
Box 1: 10
Board meeting minutes
1994-1996
Box 1: 11
Board meeting minutes
1997-2001
Box 1: 12
Board meeting minutes
undated
Box 1: 13
Brochures: letter writing
1989-1995
Box 1: 14
Bumper sticker
ca. 1990
Box 1: 15
Bylaws
1972-1986
Box 1: 16
Correspondence
1995, undated
Box 1: 17
Events
1996
Box 1: 18
Events: luncheons and potlucks
1987-1996
Box 1: 19
Fundraising
1959-1984
Box 1: 20
Fundraising
1985-1989
Box 2: 1
Fundraising
1990-1996
Box 2: 2
Guest book
1986-1990
Box 2: 3
History: 50th anniversary
1981
Box 2: 4
Items: LWVCB newsletter
1978-1981
Box 2: 5
Items: LWVCB newsletter
1982-1983
Box 2: 6
Items: LWVCB newsletter
1984-1985
Box 2: 7
Items: LWVCB newsletter
1986-1987
Box 2: 8
Items: LWVCB newsletter
1988-1989
Box 2: 9
League of Women Voters of Massachusetts: campaigns
1988
Box 2: 10
League of Women Voters of Massachusetts: correspondence
1981-1988
Box 2: 11
League of Women Voters of Massachusetts: committees
1979-1987
Box 2: 12
League of Women Voters of Massachusetts: legalized casino gambling
1979-1982
Box 2: 13
League of Women Voters of Massachusetts: memos and reports
1985-1989
Box 2: 14
League of Women Voters of the United States: printed material
1982-1988
Box 2: 14
Lobbying
1965-1982
Box 2: 15
Lobbying
1982-1984
Box 3: 1
Lobbying
1987-1988
Box 3: 2
Media and ephemera
ca. 1994-1996
Box 8
Membership
1985-1992
Box 3: 3
Membership cards
1971-2000
Box 9
Membership dues
1995-1996
Box 3: 4
Membership lists
1983-1987
Box 3: 5
Membership lists
1987-1988
Box 3: 6
Membership lists
1989
Box 3: 7
Membership lists
1991-2000
Box 3: 8
Newspaper clippings
1982-1988
Box 3: 9
Non-partisanship policy
1970-1986
Box 3: 10
Pamphlets: Know Your Town
1963-1969
Box 3: 11
Pamphlets: Know Your Town
1982-1983, 1992
Box 3: 12
Pittsfield (Mass.): Certificate of Recognition
1995
Box 3: 13
Pittsfield (Mass.): map
1977
Box 3: 14
Press releases
1980-1984
Box 3: 15
Publicity
1976-1982
Box 3: 16
Publicity
1988-1991
Box 3: 17
Publicity
1994-1996
Box 3: 18
Publicity
1997
Box 3: 19
Publicity
1998
Box 3: 20
Script: Lucy Leaguer Goes to Washington
ca. 1985
Box 3: 21
Treasurer's reports
1983-1988
Box 3: 22
Treasurer's reports
1989-1993
Box 4: 1
Treasurer's reports
1994-1997
Box 4: 2
Treasurer's reports
1998-2001
Box 4: 3
Series 2: Issue Campaigns
1968-2000
Campaign finance reform
1995-1996
Box 4: 4
Campaign finance reform
1996-1997
Box 4: 5
Candidates forum
1984
Box 4: 6
Candidates forum
1984
Box 4: 7
Central Berkshire housing project
1976-1980
Box 4: 8
Children's rights
1980-1984
Box 4: 9
Children's rights
1985
Box 4: 10
Children's rights issue campaign
1985
Box 4: 11
County government
1968-1981
Box 4: 12
County government
1982-1984
Box 4: 13
County government
1986
Box 4: 14
County government
1987-1990
Box 4: 15
Economic conversion
1985-1990
Box 5: 1
Elder care
1984-1985
Box 5: 2
Election education
1980, 2000
Box 5: 3
Election educational for schools
1980
Box 5: 4
Election educational for schools
1984, 1989
Box 5: 5
Financing federal goovernment
1985-1986
Box 5: 6
Financing state government
1979-1981
Box 5: 7
Flouridation of water
1988
Box 5: 8
Health Care
1975-1998
Box 5: 9
Land use
1989
Box 5: 10
Legislative action
1985-1989
Box 5: 11
Mental health
1985
Box 5: 12
National security
1985-1988
Box 5: 13
Nuclear waste
1979-1988
Box 5: 14
Pittsfield mayorial election forum
1989
Box 5: 15
Poverty
1981-1988
Box 5: 16
Presidential debates
1988
Box 5: 17
Prison reform
1972-1984
Box 5: 18
Prison reform
1985
Box 5: 19
Prison reform
1985
Box 6: 1
Prison reform
1985
Box 6: 2
Prison reform
1986-1987
Box 6: 3
Prison reform:articles
1972-1985
Box 6: 4
Prison reform
1986
Box 6: 5
Prison reform:articles
1987
Box 6: 6
Proposition 2 1/2
1980
Box 6: 7
Recycling
1988-1989
Box 6: 8
Right to Know legislation
1984
Box 6: 9
Schools
1991
Box 6: 10
Taxes
1989
Box 6: 11
Voter registration
1988-1989
Box 6: 12
Voter registration
1994
Box 6: 13
Voter service
1971-1978
Box 6: 14
Voter service
1980
Box 6: 15
Voter service
1982
Box 6: 16
Voter service
1983
Box 6: 17
Voter service
1984
Box 6: 18
Voter service
1985
Box 7: 1
Voter service
1987-1988
Box 7: 2
Voter service
1989-1990
Box 7: 3
Voter service
1992
Box 7: 4
Voter service
1992
Box 7: 5
Voter service
1994-1995
Box 7: 6
Voter service
1996
Box 7: 7
Voter service
1996
Box 7: 8
Voter service
1996
Box 7: 9
Voter service
1997-1998
Box 7: 10
Voter service
2000
Box 7: 11
Washington Mountain Brook
1982
Box 7: 12
Water
1979-1987
Box 7: 12
Water conservation
1975-1987
Box 7: 13
Women
1982-1998
Box 7: 14
Zoning: Lenox Green
1988
Box 7: 15
Administrative information
Provenance

Acquired in November 2004.

Processing Information

Processed by Lori Satter, 2008.

For materials related to the history of the League of Women Voters, see:

Copyright and Use (More informationConnect to publication information)

Cite as: League of Women Voters of Berkshire County (MS 478). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.

Search terms
Subjects
  • Berkshire County (Mass.)--Politics and government.
  • Drinking water--Massachusetts
  • Education--Massachusetts
  • Massachusetts--Politics and government--1951-
  • Prisons--Massachusetts
  • Water--Pollution--Massachusetts
Names
  • League of Women Voters of Central Berkshire.