Grassroots at the water's edge: The League of Women Voters and the struggle to save Lake Erie, 1956--1970
Schulte, Terrianne K
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The League of Women Voters played an important role in restoring and preserving the natural environment for present and future generations throughout the twentieth century. In the Lake Erie region in particular, the League adopted a leadership role in cleaning up the lake and its tributaries from the 1950s to the 1970s. By focusing on educating the public, building grassroots activism, and lobbying officials in the area of water resources, the League not only helped to redefine national water policy in the postwar era, but more importantly they helped communities around the Lake Erie Basin and throughout the country understand the problems they faced from industrial and municipal pollution, and provided them with the tools and assistance to do something about it. Therefore, this dissertation argues that the League of Women Voters played a central role in the cleanup of Lake Erie during the pollution crises of the 1950s to the 1970s, and ultimately helped contribute to the rise of the modern environmental movement in the United States by fueling public awareness of environmental issues---specifically water resources---and creating a solid base of informed citizens that later environmental activists could build upon and turn to for needed assistance. The League also helped to pave the way for second wave feminists, despite the fact that they did not identify themselves as feminists, by providing political training and skills, by providing access to the corridors of power, and by providing a political identity and sense of civic empowerment that women needed to negotiate the political system in the postwar era.