On July 9, 2014
League of Women Voters of Ashland & Bayfield Counties
lost a beloved leader.
First elected LWV/ABC President in 1963, Eleanor Bussey continued her vibrant leadership until two years before her death at age 97. For most of those 50 years she served on the League Board, volunteering to be an officer of the organization a number of times. She was recruited to join the League by her mother-in-law who helped found the Minnesota LWV in 1920. In 2012, in recognition of her 50 years of LWV leadership, Eleanor was honored with a citation from the Wisconsin State Senate.
Eleanor was a strong voice for a well organized League. For many years she took responsibility for lining up the speakers and locations for the monthly Unit meetings. Her special interests were soil, forest, and water issues and international affairs. She would also make sure that the LWV observed and publicized United Nations Day on October 24.
She was always an enthusiastic promoter of League studies and public education events, and was proud that the LWV/ABC took leadership on key community issues. Devoted to the League process of studying issues in depth and then arriving at membership consensus on policy positions, she recalled in a 2012 interview that “Our meetings are like a graduate class in political science and we have an awfully good time”.
Eleanor was also a proud defender of the League’s nonpartisan policy, but once local, state or national League positions were arrived at, she was a fearless advocate for those policies. She fondly related the story of when, in her first year in Ashland, she encountered the Ashland County Board Chair at a community picnic. He welcomed her to Ashland County, but advised against her participation in the LWV of Ashland & Bayfield Counties because “you know, they are all a bunch of communists”. She sweetly responded to him that she was currently the president of the LWV/ABC. She knew that in liberal times the LWV might seem too conservative, while in conservative times its positions might seem too liberal.
Most of all, Eleanor loved the League because of the people she met. Eleanor joined the League as a young mother of four in 1962, when she and her husband Jim first moved to Ashland. She looked forward to League meetings she said, because the women were “intelligent and thoughtful” and they talked about community and national and world issues, as well as ideas about homemaking and child rearing. “I made my best friends in the League” she said, and she ardently recruited new people to the League every year.