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
Special Collections & University Archives
UMass Amherst Libraries
154 Hicks Way
Amherst, Mass. 01003-9275
413-545-2780
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
2.5 linear ft.

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.

1.5 linear ft.

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.