Making Democracy Work

League of Women Voters of Providence

What's New

2020 Community Discussion Series - In partnership with the Lippitt House Museum The (Unfinished) Legacy of the Women's Suffrage Movement: The Vote, Equity & Reform
   March 16th - Equity in Voting
   March 23rd - Criminal Justice Reform
   March 30th - Equal Pay for Equal Work
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 speakers

Please come join an Education Observer Corps. The Providence School Board meets the second Wednesday of the month. For more information, contact Sarah Gleason at

For the latest issue of our newsletter, The Providence Leaguer, go here. This edition offers updates on the upcoming meetings, a recap of the Centennial Gala, and a report on the Providence School Board.

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.
RI Suffragists featured at the Centennial Celebration


Planning Priorities
Guest Speaker: Bonnie Nickerson, Director, Department of Planning, City of Providence
Date: Wednesday, February 19, 2020
A lively crowd discussed the City's vision for Great Streets, transportation, the "Superman Building", the new pedestrian bridge, and a lot more.

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).

Library Funding

Library Funding
Study Report
Full Position
The position was adopted by the LWV Providence in June 2016.
The League of Women Voters of Rhode Island adopted this position by concurrence at its 2017 Convention on June 1, 2017.

In the spring of 2014, the Providence League of Women Voters moderated a series of mayoral debates sponsored by the Providence Community Library. Not surprisingly, the Providence Community Library wanted to know where the candidates stood on library funding. Although all the candidates indicated that they thought libraries played a valuable role in Providence, they were vague about increased funding. In fact, one of the candidates, Brett Smiley, said that realistically there was no additional money for libraries given Providence's serious financial woes, but he did make an interesting suggestion: examine the state funding formula to see if more money could be raised in that way.

In June 2014 at its annual meeting, the Providence League of Women Voters decided to accept the challenge of studying the state library funding formula. We interviewed members of the state library network as well as examined whatever statistics and financial records we could find. When our research was finished, we prepared a report that showed that the state's distribution of library money on a per capita basis favored wealthy suburban communities over poorer cities like Providence and Woonsocket. This pattern seemed especially disturbing given that some of these poorer areas had both higher rates of childhood poverty and lower reading scores than the richer towns that benefited from the formula.

Since then, the League has met with aides to the governor, the House Speaker and Senate President, legislative staffers, and senators and representatives to make them aware of our findings. What we have discovered is very few public officials know how the formula works or what its impact is. Although no solution that can pass both chambers has yet been found, the League continues to advocate for a formula that will include population and the taxable wealth of a locality in awarding funds rather than simply matching approximately 25% of whatever a town or city appropriates on its libraries. If you would like to help us find a more equitable solution, we welcome your participation.

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.

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 (which meant that a municipality had to show what they had already spent on a completed project before getting any State funds) 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


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

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