LWV’s Exhibit ‘Women’s Votes, Voter’s Voices’ Runs Through Sept. 21

A doll wearing a Quaker dress typical of the 1800s to early 1900s is part of the ‘Women’s Votes, Voters’ Voices’ exhibit as well as a Quaker bonnet . The doll was a family gift to League of Women Voters of Los Alamos co-president Rebecca Shankland from her family. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com

A certificate of appreciation to the League of Women Voters of Los Alamos for their work on Constitutional Amendment No. 4 which led to Los Alamos becoming an incorporated county by referendum. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com

Part of a collection of political campaign buttons on display in the ‘Women’s Votes, Voters’ Voices’ exhibit. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com

The exhibit includes a suffragist-themed puzzle and a quiet spot to sit and place some pieces. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com

The box itself for this hat on display at the exhibit, is a work of art. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com


The League of Women Voters has had a strong presence in Los Alamos since 1947 when a provisional LWV group registered voters for the first town council election held in Los Alamos. In 1948, the group became a bona fide LWV chapter and was one of only three in the state in 1949. For all those years since then, the LWV of Los Alamos has been an integral part of government in the County, encouraging active participation in government itself, hosting candidate forums and producing a comprehensive election guide.

Becky Shankland and Barbara Calef have been co-presidents since 2017-2018, but in fact Calef has been in the president’s or co-presidents 16 times and Shankland a total of 7 times. The list of presidents is like a “Who’s Who” of Los Alamos women down through the years and you can see it for yourself at an exhibit called “Women’s Votes, Voters’ Voices” now showing at the Step Up Gallery at Mesa Public Library and continuing until Sept. 21.

Calef told the Los Alamos Reporter that the LWV of Los Alamos decided in 2019 to prepare an exhibit for the library to celebrate in 2019 the centennial of women’s right to vote.   Shankland, Calef and  Adelaide Jacobson, spent hours in the Historical Society Archives poring over League scrapbooks and records. 

“We were amazed to learn how much impact the League had on the development of the Los Alamos County government and amenities,” Calef said. In fact the League has studied and given its input to Council after Council as well as the State Legislature on such issues as pollution, sustainability, taxation, recycling, transportation, housing and more.

Calef said JJ Mortensen, Jody Benson, and Ellen Mills also researched suffrage in America from early days up to the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment and beyond.  

 Shankland noted that besides panels with historical photos and drawings, the exhibit features numerous three-dimensional displays. 

“A favorite is Alice Paul in her jail cell–where visitors can be photographed standing beside her,” she said. “The elegant dresses and hats on display all reflect the suffragist period.”

Visitors to the exhibit have delighted in posing with Alice Paul who was was jailed for seven months in 1917 for “obstructing traffic” while peacefully picketing the White House for women’s rights. She organized a hunger strike, and was force-fed through a hose to prevent her starving to death. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com

There is a suffragist jigsaw puzzle along with some coloring book pages next to a window overlooking Los Alamos where visitors can ponder life in another time in a quiet setting. There are even two ballot boxes ready for voting on current issues.

“Hedy Dunn and JJ Mortensen led the team that created a colorful time line to organize the historical events.  Akkana Peck, Dave North, and Amy Birnbaum rounded out the group that mounted the exhibit,” Shankland said.

Step Up Gallery is located on the upper level of Mesa Public Library, 2400 Central Ave., Los  Alamos. Current hours are: Monday – Thursday, 10 a.m. – 8 p.m., Friday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., and Saturday 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. Closed Sundays. Masks are required for admission. 

A wedding dress inherited by LWVLA member Adelaide Jacobson from her grandmother. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com

An impressive and detailed timeline of the human rights and women’s suffrage extends along a wall of the Step Up Gallery as part of the exhibit. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com

A list of charter members of the League of Women Voters of Los Alamos. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com

‘Women You Didn’t Know Were LWV Members’ are included in the exhibit. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com