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Lavinia Margaret Engle


photo of Lavinia Engle

Lavinia Margaret Engle, suffragist, politician and social activist, was born in Montgomery County, Maryland. She was a major contributor to the early twentieth-century suffrage movement in Maryland and in the nation. She served as field secretary of the National American Woman Suffrage Association from 1913 until the passage of the Women's Suffrage Amendment - the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

Engle was one of the founders of the League of Women Voters of Montgomery County in 1920, and served as the first Executive Secretary from 1920 to 1936. During this time she lobbied on legislation concerning women and children. She supported the establishment of a state department of infant and maternal Hygiene, the Juvenile Court Act, a law providing compensation for minors injured when illegally employed, establishment of a Commission on Almshouses, and the reorganization of the Board of State Aid to Charities.

In 1929, she became the first woman from Montgomery County to be elected to the Maryland House of Delegates. She also was the first woman to serve on the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners.

During her tenure in the Maryland House of Delegates, she was a successful advocate and lobbyist for social insurance legislation including passage of the first compulsory unemployment insurance compensation bill in Maryland. Her work in this area thrust her into national policy making, where she made an enduring contribution to the U.S. Social Security Administration. Appointed to the Social Security Board by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933, she served as Chief of Field Operations in the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the Social Security Administration. She was responsible for developing the plan for the regional organization of the Department to include regional and district offices. She remained there until she retired in 1966.

Engle's public career spanned a fifty-year period in American history (1914-1966). This was a period that was filled with many changes in the status of women. She was responsible for the initiation and passage of social legislation. She was a successful advocate in the effort to improve not only the fate of women and children, but of all people.

Biography courtesy of the Maryland Commission for Women, 1989.

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