League Legacy Spotlight on EJ Stephens
Today’s LWVGB is rooted in the work of exceptional women who
filled leadership roles in past years. This month we are spotlighting
one of those women, EJ Stephens.
EJ Stephens was president-elect of the Wichita, Kansas LWV when she
moved to Birmingham in 1977. She quickly joined the Birmingham League
because, with seven kids at home, she knew it was important to stay
involved with the community. “I didn’t want to get squash rot,” she
explains. The League was not as well known here and EJ helped raise its
profile and grow membership to a level not equaled since. The League
maintained an office downtown and EJ showed up most every day.
When asked what the major issues were during her most active years,
which included stints as Voter Service chair and President of LWVGB, EJ
can’t help but sigh. The primary issues were Constitutional Reform,
Home Rule and a move toward regional government in Jefferson County.
She made countless trips to Montgomery and lobbied legislators for
change. She recalls pointing to a particular passage on a paper to a
legislator when he responded, “That’s a purty ring you’re wearing.”
Another suggested she “Go home and fix your husband’s dinner.”
Don Siegleman led the movement for Constitutional Reform while serving
as Secretary of State. EJ was disappointed when he dropped the issue
after becoming governor.
During this time the LWVGB was awarded special recognition from
National for membership growth and its work on constitutional reform.
The LWVGB was the only organization Nell Hunter, head of the Jefferson
County Board of Registrars, allowed to register voters. Voter Services
went to every high school in the county, managed SGA elections at UAB
and conducted debates at the state and local levels. League
publications on local school systems and fingertips were well known and
widely used by real estate agents and bank newcomer departments.
In addition to her League work, EJ has worked with outreach programs at
her church, the Birmingham Symphony Women’s Association, Southside
Ministries and the State Mental Health Board. Since her husband’s
retirement they take time for travel and spend July to November each
year at their second home in Colorado.
Government is too big and too
important to be left to the politicians...Chester Bowles