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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Eulalie Salley, September 15, 1973. Interview G-0054. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Why the League of Women Voters stagnated

Salley believes that the downfall of the League of Women Voters was the organization's refusal to participate in partisanship.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Eulalie Salley, September 15, 1973. Interview G-0054. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

CONSTANCE MYERS:
Why do you think that the League of Women Voters never got off to a strong and successful start?
EULALIE SALLEY:
Because when the women were given the vote they were all anxious to go to the polls and cast their vote, butLeague of Women Voters would not permit candidate endorsement. They were told that the League was a non-partisan organization, that they could not take part in any party politics. Most of the women had favorite candidates they wanted to promote and they couldn't do that under the rules of the League.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
You believe that this was a mistake?
EULALIE SALLEY:
I think that was a flaw in the first constitution of the League of Women Voters.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
There was no one special cause that it promoted then as the suffrage organization had promoted a cause?
EULALIE SALLEY:
No. The suffrage organization had the one and sole purpose of gaining the votes for women. [Mrs. Frank] Leslie's idea was when they got the vote, she should educate the women in the intelligent use of the ballot. Well, that was all right but there's no such thing as non-partisanship, do you think? I was a red hot Democrat.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
We all have our specific interests.
EULALIE SALLEY:
I didn't stay one but that's how I started out. I said if the devil himself ran against Jesus Christ and one was a Democrat, I'd vote for the Democrat.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
(laughing) Very good Mrs. Salley.
EULALIE SALLEY:
Anyway, that was what made a lot of women lose interest in that League of Women Voters. Now they started studying the different branches of government. You're a typical League of Women Voters woman. You are a highly educated sensitive woman. You are way over the heads of the rabble. You don't see from the voting box. I can get down on the level with the common voter and I don't say you've got to stick to one party or the other. I'll say, you vote as your conscience tells you. This is non-partisan. You can't take sides. I think that one-time non-partisanship was what destroyed a lot of the efficency of the League.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
I think that they've modified this position somewhat in today's League of Women Voters. They don't endorse candidates but they support issues. They take a position on issues and support them.
EULALIE SALLEY:
Yes. Well, that's beating the devil around the bush.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
That's a cute expression.
EULALIE SALLEY:
Don't you think it is? Don't commit yourself.