Making Democracy Work

League of Women Voters of Providence


Tea at Blithewold

This woman started the Suffrage Movement with a tea party.

The Road to Seneca Falls Started Here
On the surface, it was just another tea party-a well behaved group of women passing cups of brewed beverages around the genteel table of Jane Hunt, a well-to-do New York woman who had invited four others to dine with her. But this tea party was not for shrinking violets. Hunt's guests were about to air their grievances about the world's injustices toward women-and to give birth to the convention on women's rights that resulted in the formation of the American women's movement. The fateful meal took place on July 9, 1848, when Jane Hunt invited Elizabeth Cady Stanton to her house for tea. Hunt was a Quaker, and she invited three other Quakers-Lucretia Mott and her sister, Martha Wright, and Mary Ann McCiintock-to the gathering, too. All five women started the afternoon as individuals. But by the end of the day, they were at the helm of a collective movement that would change women's lives forever.

Erin Blakemore,

Help the Providence League Celebrate 100 Years with another one.

On September 23, 2019, Blithewold will be open exclusively for the League of Women Voters of Providence and its guests. You are invited to join us for our fourth annual fundraising tea.
Time: 12:30 PM Place: Bliethwold, Bristol Cost: $45.00 per person

Please RSVP. For more information:

Seating is limited, so early registration is recommended.

The Response Form can be found here.

What's New

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.

Upcoming Events

Government: How the Game is Played

March 11, 2019: Impeachment, Recall, and Removal How can an elected official, on the local or national stage, be removed from office?

Panelists: Joseph Cammarano, Associate Professor, Public and Community Service, Providence College; Rob Rock, Director of the Elections Division, RI Department of State; Robert Whitcomb, former Editorial Page Editor, Providence Journal and current weekly columnist, GoLocalRI

Mar 18, 2019: The U.S. Supreme Court and Rhode Island The 2018+2019 Supreme Court term will render decisions on issues from endangered species to federal powers to immigration. What impact can we expect for Rhode Islanders?

Panelists: Steven Brown, Executive Director, American Civil Liberties Union of RI; Robert Flanders, former RI Supreme Court Justice, currently legal commentator for WPRO radio

Mar 25, 2019: Redistricting and Gerrymandering Following the 2020 Census, redistricting will take place in 2022 at state and national levels. What will be the outcome for Rhode Islanders?

Panelists: Marcela Betancur, Executive Director, Latino Policy Institute, Roger Williams University; Kimball Brace, President, Election Data Services; Richard Holtzman, Associate Professor of Political Science and Coordinator of the Political Science Program, Bryant University

Site: Lippitt House Museum, 199 Hope Street, Providence. Doors open at 6:30 PM with a short reception, followed by a facilitated discussion at 7:00 PM. Admission is free. Facility is wheelchair-accessible.

Mayoral Forum
The Providence League of Women Voters, in conjunction with URI's MPA Program at the Alan Shawn Feinstein College of Education and Professional Studies hosted a Providence Mayoral Forum on September 4 at URI's Paff Auditorium on the Providence Campus. It was an informative night moderated by Scott MacKay a commentator for RIPR's (now the Public's Radio) Political Roundtable. Candidates shared their views on the proposed skyscraper in the city's jewelry district, how to solve billions of dollars in unfunded pension liabilities, how to improve public schools, and more.

Candidates: ROBERT A DEROBBIO, Democrat: JEFFREY E LEMIRE, Independent (present but not participating); JORGE O ELORZA, Democrat; KOBI JASON DENNIS, Democrat; and DIANNE S WITMAN, Independent

Thanks to RIPR you can listen to the full discussion here:

Thanks also to Aaron Ley, URI Director of the Master of Public Administration program at the Providence Campus, who pushed for the forum and arranged the all the many URI resources needed to make the event happen, the hardworking committee (especially Liz Head, Joan Gelch and Molly Clark), and the volunteers greeting the candidates and audience the night of the event.

Committee: Hollie Courage (chair), Liz Head, Joan Gelch, Molly Clark, Joan Retsinas, Judy Dorian URI: Aaron Ley, Jane Fusco LWV Volunteers: Colleen Degroot, Barbara Feldman, Judith Durham, Robin Halpren-Ruder, Rochelle Lee

Providence represented at the LWV-US National Convention
The National Convention was held June 28 + July 1 in Chicago, a block away from the Congress Hotel, where Carrie Chapman Catt declared victory for the women's suffrage movement and the LWV was born. As at all LWV-US conventions, the agenda was packed with caucuses, plenary sessions and a 3 hour training on diversity and inclusion. There are 4 main convention jobs: pass a budget and program, amend the by-laws and elect a board. All were accomplished by the nearly 900 voting delegates from 49 states (no Hawaii). There were over 1000 attendees.

The proposed program includes all our current national positions with an emphasis on Making Democracy Work. It was amended to include national popular vote for president and vice president as a listed item under the general heading. We also added working on getting a 38th state to ratify the ERA amendment as the first step before removing the deadline for ratification. This passed as a unanimous cheering voice vote.

Complete information about the convention is available on .

I was able to go because the LWV-RI Education Fund paid mine and Jane Koster's $450 registration fee and the Providence Convener's voted to pay some expense money. Thank You ! Liz Head

The budget passed amid concerns that too much fund-raising is done by expensive direct mail campaigns. In fact the Board has hired a development director to help the League with alternative fund-raising.

The by-laws passed with the recommended changes which are designed to make the Leagues more flexible while maintaining core League values of non-partisanship. One controversy arose over the new mission statement that does not include men in the wording. The explanation is that the thrust of the empowering women is that they still have not reached equality with men in many aspects of our culture. AS Aretha Franklin sang R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Workshops included, Ohio's work with Girl Scouts to earn citizenship badges (brought back information about their age appropriate curricula to the GSA here), reaching voters where they are (see voter registration article)) and the by-laws Q & A. The diversity training session was talk about reaching people with different views by listening effectively which we practiced.

The League in Action!

At a recent event, League Members Barbara Feldman, on left, and Sarah Morenon, on right, registered local voters at Mt Pleasant High School.

Recent Events

Pictured: Rev. Ebony Grisom, Marian Styles-McClintock and Nori Duncan

Providence LWV Annual Meeting
June 6, Wednesday, 2018
Home of Liz Head
Guest Speaker, Rev Ebony Grisom
Tri-Chair, Rhode Island Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival
This December faith leaders gathered in Washington, DC, to revive, nationally, the Poor People's Campaign, which Dr. Martin Luther King had launched. Rev Ebony Grisom shared her story and the work of the campaign at our recent annual meeting.

The League of Women Voters Providence recently held our second annual LWV/Lippitt Conversations series, partnering with the Lippitt House to hold three different panels on the topic of corruption in Rhode Island. Below is a description of each event.

Thank you to all of the panelists for their discussion and expertise, to the attendees for their time and excellent questions, and to Lippitt House and Carrie Taylor for their collaboration and support.

Monday, March 12 Corruption in Rhode Island: Reality and Perception
Monday, March 19 I know a Guy: Ethics in RI
Monday, March 26 Threats to Elections: Should We Worry?

In addition the series with Lippitt House, the Providence LWV holds regular "Providence Conversations," where guests are invited to chat informally, over dessert, with Leaguers. Recent conversations have included "Clearing the Streets of the City" with Michael Borg, Executive Director, Department of Public Works City of Providence; "Ethics: Closer to Home", with Susann Mark, Esq. Chair of Providence Ethics Commission; "DACA: From Dream to Limbo with Deportation?" with Kathy Cloutier, executive director, Dorcas International Institute; and "Revisiting State Assistance to RI Libraries" with Karen Mellor, Director, RI Office of Information and Library Services.

For more information on future conversations, contact

The LWV Oversees the Providence Housing Authority Elections

When buildings in the Providence Housing Authority elect their officers, the Authority calls upon the Providence League of Women Voters to oversee the elections. On April 12 Nori Duncan, Maureen Romans, Liz Head, and Robin Halpren-Ruder went to Carroll Towers. (The photo shows the president, Lawruence d'Alfonso, with Robin Halpren-Ruderand Liz Head).
Upcoming: June election of officers at Hartford Park.

For more information on previous and upcoming events, see the Providence Calendar.


Library Funding
Article XII of the RI Constitution states that "it shall be the duty of the general assembly to promote public schools and public libraries, and to adopt all means which it may deem necessary and proper to secure to the people the advantages and opportunities of education and public library services." Further, state law says that "it is the responsibility of government at all levels to provide adequate financial support for all free libraries."

Concerned that the money provided by the City and State is currently inadequate, the Providence League of Women Voters decided to study the state library funding formula at its annual meeting June 2014.

At the February 11, 2016 consensus meeting, League members came to consensus on:
    • Crucial Niche of Public Libraries
    • Funding sources
    • Need for Additional Money to Support Public Libraries
    • Key Principles for Distribution of State Funds to Public Libraries

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.

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.


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

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.

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