Helen Gibbin’s Story

Helen Gibbins is no stranger to the political process.

Lori Wolfe/The Herald-Dispatch Helen Gibbins is the president of the Huntington Chapter of the league of Women Voters.

For more than 50 years, she’s been active in the Huntington Area League of Women Voters, and she’s a known entity among local and even state legislators through her work in advocating for environmental issues, voter law reform and education, to name a few.

She’s also not a stranger to the perspectives and results women can bring when they’re elected into public office, and this year’s presidential election is one that she said will go a long way in progressing the conversation about what women can bring to the table in running the United States of America.

“For so long we haven’t considered voting for women,” Gibbins said Monday. “Just like when women didn’t have the right to vote, it can be the same attitude sometimes that a woman’s place is not in being the President of the United States. Women have come a long way, kind of working up the system in our local political scene in Huntington and the county level elected offices. Women have been in our state legislature and up to the national levels. Now, people are ready to at least vote for a woman for president.”

No woman has ever held the office of President of the United States, and even today, 19 percent of the U.S. House of Representatives and 20 percent of the U.S. Senate is comprised of women, even though 50.8 percent the U.S. population is female, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

As of the 2016 regular legislative session of the West Virginia Legislature, 18 of the 100 House of Delegates members were women, and two women served in the 34-member state Senate.

Of the 104 women members of Congress, 31.7 percent (33) are women of color, according to Catalyst.org, a nonprofit organization that promotes inclusive workplaces for women.

In 2015, the U.S. was ranked 72nd in terms of women’s representation in national legislatures or parliaments by Inter-Parliamentary Union.

While Gibbins, who is known for being an unbiased voter’s advocate, wouldn’t say whether she voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton, Republican Donald Trump or a third-party candidate for president, she said the fact that there is a woman who could become president is a sign of the changing attitudes about the roles of men and women in U.S. society.

“There might be experiences women have had that men haven’t, and women bring that to the table,” Gibbins said. “I still think it falls on women to be the major caretakers for children, even though more men are taking that on. I believe the future of the country depends on how we treat our children. I think women and more men are interested in the idea that we are all responsible for our children, and we can’t just look at them as someone else’s problem – they’re part of the best interest of our society.”

All in all, Gibbins said she hoped voters were focused on issues than the personalities of the candidates and gave their full attention to state and local issues as much as national ones.

“We do put so much concentration on the head of the ballot, saying people can vote for ‘either-or,’ but there’s a whole ballot that includes state offices and local offices,” Gibbins said. “(Local races) are so important with our decentralized government. It always has been sad to me that the number of people who get out and vote is always highest when there’s a presidential run. Every election is important. I think we have this right to vote, and we all should use it.”

By Lacie Pierson, The Herald Dispatch, Election Day 2016

Shirley Rosenbaum’s Story

I joined the LWV when I first arrived in Morgantown with a one-year old baby. I learned that there was a monthly morning meeting with baby-sitting services. Attending this morning meeting was a pleasant experience. My baby was taken care of and I could get involved with other members interested in local issues in our community.

As a member, I have been involved in many local and state issues and have improved my skills and knowledge. Membership can make a difference!

LWVUS convention a wonderful experience

By Linda Yoder, LWV of Morgantown/Monongalia County

Never in my dreams, in my forty years of passion for the League of Women Voters, did I imagine myself holding up a huge “West Virginia” sign and speaking for sixty brief seconds about the West Virginia League I am proud of. But it happened in June in Washington, DC at the LWVUS convention, and I will be forever grateful to members for sending me as a delegate.

I still had so much to learn about the way the League works: makes decisions, apportions its money, chooses issues for study, lobbies on the hill. The way it tries to listen to every voice. The way it is trying to grow the League. The trust in the voter. The vision for the future.

I was lucky to be invited by Diana Haskell, our Ruth Shur Fellow who keeps track of activities in West Virginia, to stay in her home in Bethesda, along with a Member at Large from Hampton, Virginia. The three of us talked League morning and evening. Diana’s heart for the League, and the way she devoted her energies to mentoring other members, impressed me deeply. As did her husband’s willingness to drive us into DC early every morning. I found out that caucuses are the way to learn a lot about an issue in a short amount of time, and caucuses sometimes started at 7:30 am or went on to 10:30 pm. I chose caucuses on health care reform, actions in response to the Citizens United decision, and a proposed Department of Peace, for example. I got in on workshops for newcomers to convention, on using social media, and on growing the League. As a coach, I was able to attend a lunch in honor of coaches where we learned to know other coaches and gain a wealth of new ideas. As a delegate, I was able to vote, and one of our proposed studies failed by only THREE votes, proving what we all know, that every vote is important.

I got to laugh through the Capitol Steps, listen to Eric Holder let us know how it felt to be under attack, be encouraged by Kathleen Hall Jamieson and her flackcheck.org (go there and learn how you can combat false advertising on behalf of political candidates), be in awe of Eleanor Holmes Norton who has long been a hero for me.

I felt genuinely fortunate to have this responsibility, and I only hope that many of you can go to convention in Texas in 2014. There will be many more battles to be won!

Phyllis Marshall’s Story

Back in 1972, I was a relative newcomer to Morgantown.  My husband had taken a position as an Assistant Professor at WVU.  I was home with our two small children playing an additional role as chauffer, cook and bottle washer.  I needed relief.

Reading a LWV article in the local newspaper inspired me.  I located the President of the local league.  I was pleased to hear from her and my LWV adventure began.  No longer did I just have “pots and pans” discussions with my husband and friends.  It was exciting!  I found my league experiences to be rewarding and exciting.  I still do!

Giovanna Deveny’s Story

Giovanna Deveny, Huntington Area League, shares her League story:

As I lay in a hospital bed after the delivery of our seventh child (of nine), listening to the new President’s inauguration speech, I began to think. His words, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” would not leave my mind. When my husband came at evening visitation, I shared the experience with him, adding that we must get involved. His comment: “You do whatever you feel you need to and I will support you.”

I had recently attended a community meeting where LWV presentations had presented the pros and cons of ballot issues. Something clicked in my mind. Here was where I could make a difference — the League studied issues, presented programs and provided non-partisan information to the public. What better way to “do something for my country?” My precious moments spent doing League study would be magnified many times as the information circulated through the public.

I know that the education skill set developed through the League equaled or surpassed any college degree that I earned subsequent to joining the League.

I joined the League over fifty years ago. At various times, I have served as secretary; Chair of Education, Immigration Committees; and as President of the Sarasota County, Florida LWV.

Thank you League of Women Voters for the profound influence that you have had on my life.
doc iconstory bank. Giovanna Deveny.doc