Making Democracy Work

League of Women Voters of Providence

What's New

Providence: Planning Priorities

Guest Speaker: Bonnie Nickerson, Director, Department of Planning, City of Providence

The city is changing. You can see the changes in downtown, in the neighborhoods, in the tax base. What is the City Planning Division involved with? - Just about everything - Downtown Development, Livable Neighborhoods, Climate Change, Emergency Planning, Bicycle Lanes, Historic Preservation...

Come explore with Bonnie Nickerson the City's planning priorities for the next decade, over tea and cookies.

Date: Wednesday, February 19, 2020
Place: 133 Dexterdale Rd, home of Barbara Riter
Time: 7 pm - 8:30 pm

RSVP 401-272-0422

2020 Community Discussion Series - In partnership with the Lippitt House Museum The (Unfinished) Legacy of the Women's Suffrage Movement: The Vote, Equity & Reform Mondays, March 16th, 23rd, & 30th - Reception 6:30 p.m.; Discussion 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Free. Registration encouraged.

This year is the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment which made it illegal to prevent a woman from voting based on her sex. But in the last 100 years, what progress has been made on the issues promoted by suffragists--not only voting access but also criminal justice reform and equal pay? The 2020 community discussion series, in partnership with the Providence League of Women Voters, addresses issues suffragists fought for and how we can take action and promote change on matters still important 100 years later. The suffragists' activist legacy is still relevant for America today. The work isn't done--we're still at!
See Calendar for topics and speakers

For the latest issue of our newsletter, The Providence Leaguer, go here. This edition offers updates on the upcoming Blithewold tea, a message from the President, and the ongoing Library Study.

100th Anniversary Commemorative Activities
Watch this space! To celebrate the 100th anniversary of this chapter, we will be creating a book of interviews, planning various events and celebrations, and selling items to celebrate the occasion.


Medicare for All: Behind the Slogans
Wednesday, October 30th
Guest Speakers: Drs. J. Mark Ryan and James Cowan leaders of the RI Chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP).


League of Women Voters of Providence fourth annual fundraising tea celebrating 100 years promoting issues and voter information. September 23, 2019, Blithewold. More photos on Facebook

Photos: Allan Millora Photography


Library Funding
Study Updates:
August 2019
After Labor Day the library funding formula committee will again be working with legislators to find a more equitable solution to distributing state aid, and we warmly welcome any Leaguer interested in helping on this issue. If you would like to schedule a meeting with your representative, please contact Maureen Romans at:

May 2019
Several members of the Providence League met with Senator Maryellen Goodwin, Majority Whip, at the State House. She was deeply interested in the League's statistics showing that the current formula for distributing library funds discriminates against poorer urban communities. At her suggestion, League members talked with two legislative staffers - Kate Bramson, Policy Director, and David Tremblay, Deputy Fiscal Advisor - about the League's concerns. Currently much number crunching is underway as the staff attempts to craft a solution that can win enough votes to pass in both chambers. League members should contact their representatives and senators to build more support for a new formula if they want to assist with this initiative.

February 2019
Joan Retsinas and Maureen Romans met with newly-elected state senator Sam Bell about the Providence League's study of library financing. Senator Bell showed great interest in the subject as he thought libraries were both important and very underfunded community institutions. He also volunteered to begin discussions with other members of the Providence delegation.

Another meeting is scheduled with Maryellen Goodwin later this month.

Study Report
Full Position
The League of Women Voters of Rhode Island adopted this position at its 2017 Convention on June 1, 2017.

At the State House, Maureen Romans, Joan Retsinas, Judy Dorian, and Liz Head presented Senate President Dominick Ruggerio with a copy of the League of Women Voters' consensus study on state funding for libraries. October 2017.

Funding for School Building Repair
Back in 2014, the Providence League became alarmed at the condition of Providence's public schools and declared it an Issue of Interest. We then scheduled a Conversation with Joseph Da Silva, School Construction Coordinator for the RI Department of Education and learned that the problem had been building for years. In fact the problem had grown so large that in 2011 the State had enacted a 3 year moratorium on school construction approvals, with the exception of those necessitated by immediate health and safety needs. In June 2014, the moratorium was extended to May 2015.

Besides the huge numbers, Mr. Da Silva pointed out structural problems in the way the State funded new school buildings and repairs. The reimbursement formula and process were both costly and complex. A 2014 report released by the Senate in laid out the numbers and the problems, but not much changed.

As a result, in 2017 the Governor commissioned another study, and then created a Task Force spearheaded by the Treasurer and Education Commissioner "charged with recommending specific actions to address Rhode Island's school facilities deficiencies." Although the Task Force did not succeed in finding a workable "designated funding stream," it did manage to come up with a plan to fix the other structural problems in the funding process and help municipalities manage projects in such a way that all municipalities should benefit. The Task Force's recommendations were included in the 2019 Budget Bill.

The amendments to funding law were passed with the State Budget. The School Bond issue passed, as did a Providence School Building Bond.
The Providence League will continue to monitor the condition of Providence school buildings. For more information on the new processes governing how the bond money will be spent.

How Providence plans to spend $20M for school repairs this summer By Dan McGowan Globe Staff,July 9, 2019,

Amid reports of mice and crumbling ceilings, councilman demands update on Providence school repairs by: WPRI Nancy Krause, Julianne Lima Posted: Jul 30, 2019 / 05:02 PM EDT / Updated: Aug 1, 2019 / 02:01 PM EDT

What Does $20M For Providence School Buildings Get You? Mostly Roof Repairs Sofia Rudin The Public's Radio Morning Producer / Reporter, September 3, 2019

About Us

The League of Women Voters Providence is one of the oldest chapters in the country, chartering in 1919, one year before the national organization.

For more information on the chapter, including bylaws, meeting minutes, and program details, see our shared documents.

The Providence League leadership works as a loosely organized group rather than as a formal board, and call themselves "Conveners."

Liz Head

I first joined the LWV in DC as a young mother. As we were moving in to our house in DC, my next door neighbor came to welcome me and immediately asked me if I was interested in the LWV. I was (while at Brown, Linda Kushner, a League member, talked to the grad student wives group about the League.). As a history and poli-sci student, this sounded great. In DC I was immediately drafted by the committee working for D.C. voting representation (still unachieved after nearly 50 years.) to stand in front of the Washington monument in fake handcuffs handing out flyers advocating Voting Representation for D.C. For our effort my picture along with other League members was in the Evening Star, a major D.C. newspaper.
I participated in a more successful advocacy to help Rhode Islanders understand the importance of clean water in Narragansett Bay. We came up with the idea to get as many Rhode Islanders as possible to see the bay and learn about the importance of the Bay to RI. So we rented one of Blount's large boats (300 people) contacted Salty Brine (most listened to host of a WPRO morning show), sold $3.00 tickets for 2 (or 4) cruises, filled the boat with government and environmental groups for whom a cleaner bay was important and set sail. The following November, the bond issue establishing the Narragansett Bay Commission and providing $80 million in funds to upgrade sewage treatment plants was passed with a resounding yes vote.
Contact: or 401-351-2269

Hollie Courage

Forty years ago I was a young mother with a 3 year old and a newborn (who is now 40) when the other mothers at the nursery school talked me into going to a League meeting,- a bag lunch with a speaker and a baby sitter for the kids. It was an easy sell even if I didn't really care much about politics.
I didn't realize it at the time, but what I found was a connection to a much larger world than I had expected to be involved in. I started slowly,- a newsletter here, a voter registration drive there, and things added up. I've now done pretty much every job in the book. Eventually I spent 8 years as the Providence League president, 12 years as the State League president, and have friends all over the country who I met through online discussion groups about League interests. This is a group that cares about issues, ideas, and facts - and wants the world to be a good place to be.
Currently I am Treasurer of the LWVRI Education Fund and Chair of the LWVUS Clearinghouse committee, a group that maintains a website of Studies done by Leagues around the country. For more information, see

Joan Retsinas

I joined the Pawtucket LWV 40+ years ago when I was a stay-at-home mom with young children. The big issue for that LWV: the city contracted all emergency services to a private ambulance company. While I don't remember whether we nudged the city to reconsider, eventually the city did. I edited the local LWV newsletter, as well as chaired a state LWV study on Conflict of Interest legislation. The LWV study did nudge the state into enacting the first ethics laws. At one point, a few LWV members, dangling my two year-old on different knees, met with Governor Noel, when we presented our official report. That LWV involvement led to appointment to a state legislative commission on pay for day care workers, as well as to a city board studying the water supply system + which led me to enroll in a PhD program at Brown + all of which led me away from LWV activities, and into an academic job. In 2 years in Washington DC I joined that LWV, to learn about the District. Back in Providence, I rejoined the Providence LWV. The exciting LWV accomplishments: voter service, of course + we were registering voters long before "motor voter" laws; and putting a telescope on local concerns, most recently, the skewed state funding for libraries.
Contact: or 401-272-0422

Barbara Feldman

Judith Dorian

I am one of the more recent members of the Providence League, having joined only 5 years ago. During that time, I instituted an annual fund raiser and initiated the quarterly newsletter, The Leaguer, for the Providence League. I serve on and have served as president of the Education Fund.
Contact: or 401/447-7006

Maureen Romas
As for my best League experience, it was probably registering my son to vote when he was a senior at Classical. As a political science professor, I had always stressed the importance of voting in my classes, and at home I talked a lot about candidates and elections, so it was satisfying to register one of my children.
Contact: 401-351-4180

Nicole Tillery

I am one of the more recent members, joining in early 2017 after moving to Providence from Indianapolis. Since then, I have represented North Providence, along with Judy, and supported website renovations. If there are changes or additional information you would like to see on the website, please share!
Contact: or 812-89-8328