Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst
League of Women Voters of Central Berkshire Records
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.