The Danbury/Bethel chapter of the League of Women Voters disbanded in June, following a trend in the state of lower memberships, merging chapters and, in some cases, reducing local organizations to members-at-large.
"We were tired people. People weren't joining like they used to," said Lynn Taborsak of Danbury, who said she has been a member for 55 years. She and Danbury resident Carol Elder, the group's last two leaders, closed it in June, but stayed members of the statewide organization.
Taborsak wasn't happy about closing the Danbury/Bethel chapter but steadily decreasing membership made it inevitable.
"It goes along with the very severe lack of interest in civic life,” she said. “People just don't see how it relates to them."
The organization has been active in Connecticut for over 90 years and was most known more recently for hosting political debates. The Danbury Area League of Women Voters sponsored a Fifth District congressional debate before every election for decades.
"They were considered the unbiased referee for people who wanted to debate on an even keel," said Alice Hutchinson, a former First Selectman in Bethel, former candidate for state senate and a 16-year member of the Planning and Zoning Commission. "It amazes me that people won't get involved, even in an election. That's their biggest problem: who will volunteer any more?"
That is a question being asked throughout the ranks of the League, according to state co-president Judy Dolphin.
“The reason the League was organized was not only to get people out to vote but to have informed voters,” Dolphin said, which includes reaching consensus opinions on important issues and advocating for those stances.
Advocacy was a big draw for the League when it was first established, however it might be the reason it’s shrinking now.
“Back when many of us joined the League it was the only
place to be activists and speak our minds,” she said. “Over the years, as women
got out of the home more they started to find issues and organizations specific
to things close to them. Rather than go to an organization that is so broad,
they chose to focus their time and efforts on things near and dear to their
The trend has been “fewer numbers of leagues and fewer numbers of members,” Dolphin said, though most local chapters merge rather than disbanding altogether. As of September, there are currently 27 chapters operating in Connecticut.As a member-at-large, Taborsak said she can still ask the statewide League to sponsor debates in Danbury or sponsor voter registration drives. The main difference will be the debate or drive will be sponsored by the statewide league and not by a local chapter.