Newton’s branch of the League of Women Voters was first formed in 1934 by E.L. Gladys Nelson, a transplant from Grinnell, according to an article provided to the Daily News in 2010.
Jeanne Bridenstine has been a part of the organization since 1954 and next year will celebrate almost six decades as a member.
“A friend invited me and I (just) liked it so well,” Bridenstine said. “It’s been a great experience.”
The entire LWV has a rich history and was formed with the ideals of improving government and engaging all citizens on issues that impact their lives. It’s website lists some current issues, including environment, the Keystone XL pipeline, and protecting and engaging voters as issues it has taken on.
“With the League of Women Voters, we are not political,” Bridenstine said. “Issues are our thing.”
Here in Newton, the LWV has done many studies, some of which Bridenstine took part in.
“We were studying clean water and, of course, the United Nations was another study,” Bridenstine said.
According to the LWV article: “Newton has benefited from many local Studies of the League: Support for a school counseling program, support for a community mental health center, help with a vote to extend natural gas to Newton (members called everyone in the phone book to remind them to vote), help in bringing voter registration books up to date at City Hall, and education of the citizenry concerning the need for voting machines.”
Bridenstine said she is very proud of the LWV, especially for the work they did in establishing what is currently known as Capstone Behavioral HealthCare in Newton.
“The League did it as far as I’m concerned,” Bridenstine said. “The League of Women voters did a study. We did this by walking at the beat and talking to doctors and health care people about the need for a mental health center. After much work and investigation, we got one.”
According to the LWV article:
“A mental health study was first proposed in 1948, but the League did not get serious until 1960 when Gladys Otto co-chaired a committee to survey Jasper County. Capstone is a vital part of the community as a result.”
The article also sites that league studies have helped create the current local ban on leaf burning, help establish Willowbrook Adult Day Center, and helped convince the Jasper County Board of Supervisors to increase rural library funding.
“There was a time when almost everyone in league was involved in a study, investigating, or interviewing people. It was quite a thing.” Bridenstine said.
Bridenstine said that there are few organizations like the LWV.
“We are proud of the fact they we are non-political, because we have members of both parties,” Bridenstine said. “Really, the goal is to be better informed on issues.”
As Bridenstine gets closer to celebrating 60 years of investigating, studying, and staying informed with the league, she reflected on her time with them.
“I was the president (of LWV) in 1960, just a couple of years ago,” Bridenstine said jokingly.
Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641)-792-3121, ext. 426, or firstname.lastname@example.org