Beyond Supply & Demand: Duke Economics Students Present 100 Years of American Women’s Suffrage

Local Lives

Beginning in the late nineteenth century, North Carolina suffragists and their supporters sought a state amendment extending the vote to women through local as well as national organizing efforts. After the Nineteenth Amendment passed in 1920, the League of Women Voters North Carolina was formed to educate and encourage active participation by new women voters in public policy issues. Faculty and students at Duke, which was the site of one of the first four North Carolina League of Women Voters chapters, continued to work on behalf of women voters. The items in this section illustrate moments in this decades-long history.

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Sepia-toned photograph of 15 women, members of the Duke League of Women Voters chapter, wearing coats standing in front of a brick building

Photograph of League of Women Voters Duke

In 1926 the Athena and Brooks Literary Societies at Duke unified as the Duke League of Women Voters chapter. Supported by Mary Octavine Cowper, the regional leader of the National League of Women Voters, the group worked to educate and inform their peers about voting and local, state, and national government. Though the federal amendment was passed in 1920, it took decades of persistent advocacy by this group and successor organizations to finally convince North Carolina’s legislature to endorse women’s suffrage—in 1971.

Front-side of a light blue League of Women Voters of Durham brochure with their shooting star-shaped logo and an image of a ballot box

What We Are: a short profile

Katharine Banham, a pioneering professor of psychology at Duke and a leader in the League of Women Voters of Durham, may have helped to produce this brochure which was used to promote the League of Women Voters’ advocacy efforts and to recruit new members in Durham. It provides a brief profile of the mission and work of the local chapter, which is still active today as the League of Women Voters Orange, Durham, and Chatham Counties Inc.

Hand-drawn map in black of North Carolina divided into education districts and counties to illustrate where League of Women Voter chapters are active

Map of North Carolina

This map highlights the League of Women Voters’ membership across North Carolina. Chapters are mostly clustered around large metropolitan areas, leaving much of the rural and coastal areas unaccounted for. The League used this information to align educational efforts to specific locations in order to further their mission.

Local Suffrage Leaders