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League of Women Voters turns 40

"The world is run by those who show up, and the League of Women Voters has shown up on so many occasions."

Those were the words of Woodbury Mayor Bill Hargis, speaking at the 40th anniversary celebration of the Woodbury and Cottage Grove branch of the League of Women Voters (LWV).

The party, at which a fair few slices of birthday cake were consumed, was held at Woodbury City Hall on Monday, Sept. 22.

Founding members, county representatives and the executive director of the Minnesota LWV were all invited to the celebration.

"We are non-partisan and we are political, so we study issues," explained Ann Marshall, who said she had been a member of the group for "only" 34 years.

"We don't support a person but if a person has a stance that we really admire, we will approve of that.

"We do studies so, for example, we might study transportation to reach a consensus and come up with a position, then we can lobby the Washington County commissioners or our own city."

Keesha Gaskins, the executive director of the Minnesota League of Women Voters which has been in existence for 90 years, was invited to give a speech at the anniversary event.

"Even as we stand here 90 years later, there's no one else who does the same grass roots work that we do," she said.

"The league started right about the time of the success of women's suffrage and the initial goal was that women weren't just voters, but were informed voters...

"Our mission has not changed; it has just expanded to everyone who wants to be an informed voter, who has an interest in the government, and everyone who wants to stay connected with their local officials has a place here at the league."

With that in mind, then, members say despite the group's name, men are also welcome to join the league, although only a minority have yet taken the opportunity.

"Ann is a familiar face around city hall," said Hargis, addressing Ann Marshall of the league.

"We know we are going to be educated when Ann and her colleagues [from the league] show up...

"If you are a believer in freedom and we want freedom 40 years from now and 400 years from now, we are going to have to insist that people remain informed."